Last week, I wrote about Adam Almqvist, Riley Sheahan, Cory Emmerton, and Teemu Pulkkinen being called up to the Red Wings. I absolutely love seeing new guys on the lineup, and I geeked out a bit hard over their arrival. It was a big mistake because they were sent down the next day.
It turns out that they were only brought to the Joe to help practice with the non-Olympians still in town, like Johan Franzen and Stephen Weiss. I almost made the same mistake today, with the news that Ryan Sproul was called up, and as I was cautious of, it was rumored that he too would only be in Detroit for some practice, and was to be sent down later. However, a picture on the Red Wings’ instagram feed (@detroitredwings) was posted along with a quote from Ryan himself today at practice. When asked about being called up, he said:
“I was pretty surprised. I didn’t know what was going on up here. Just expected to come to this practice and head back to Milwaukee. But I’m real expected to be up here.”
From the looks of it, Sproul may see some time on the Red Wings’ roster, and what a wonderful thing it is, because the team needs help.
The Red Wings have lost Henrik Zetterberg for the rest of the regular season. He is one of the most crucial pieces to the team, and is ann offensive machine, having collected 16 goals and 48 points this season in 45 games. He seems to never miss a beat when fighting through injuries; he’s always quick to make a presence. Beyond lighting up the score sheet, the captain transforms the team when he’s on the ice. He’s impossible to knock off of the puck, and can corkscrew around an opposing defense with ease, allowing his team to set up for a play. He’s also a great back checker, and his defensive play should earn him in any discussion about the best two-way forwards in the game. If you looked up ‘difference-maker’ in the dictionary, I would be surprised if Hank’s face didn’t appear on the page.
Now, the Wings are in search of their 23rd playoff appearance in a row, and their biggest offensive power is unable to help. A proper solution would seem to try to fill his hole when play resumes, either by a call-up or by a move at the deadline, but these moves are probably unnecessary. The Wings have had no shortage of goal-scoring as of late. You can usually find the team scoring several goals a game, sometimes four or five, and although Zetterberg is a goner, Stephen Weiss, Johan Franzen, and Pavel Datsyuk look to return to fill part of the gap. Zetterberg’s absence is drawing attention from a bigger problem: they’re losing games because they’re giving up more goals than they’re getting- and don’t blame the offense, or the goaltending. The defense will likely be, from this point on, the deciding factor of whether the Red Wings make the playoffs or not, after digging most of this hole themselves.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and the offense ain’t broke. The defense, even though it is filled with big names like Kronwall, Ericsson, and now Dekeyser, seems to be transparent so far. Less-than-stellar play by Jakub Kindl, Brian Lashoff, and even the vets at times have been the cause of far too many easy opposition goals this season, and stats are unnecessary for regular viewers of the team. The Red Wings have been in rebuild mode (especially in the back-end) since all-stars like Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, and Brad Stuart have departed the team. Forwards like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Miller seem to be playing too much defense, usually being the best penalty killers especially. The Wings need a more reliable defense first and foremost, and while more work can be done in the core they have, bringing in a new player may provide a spark they need to give the forwards and goaltenders more support, and the team has been called upon young defenseman Ryan Sproul.
He’s an AHL rookie this season, and although it sounds like a stretch for an NHL emergence this soon, his talent is definitely promising enough to give him a shot. At nearly six-and-a-half feet tall, the big-bodied 2012-13 CHL Defenseman of the Year is a strong skater with a great mind at both ends of the ice. He plays a strong, physical game, which a passive Wings’ defense will very much appreciate. Not only does he play strong defense, he’s slick skater, a wiz of a playmaker, and he holds an absolute rocket of a right-handed shot, which will help a power play that has slumped as well. The Wings have sought out a right-hander for a while, failing with Mikael Samuelsson, but succeeding with Daniel Alfredsson, and Sproul’s arrival will begin the foundation of repertoire of dangerous blue-liners. With his offensive capabilities and strong, physical defensive play, Ryan Sproul could be a very helpful asset to a battling Red Wings team.
The next several weeks will be crucial to keep the Wings’ legendary playoff streak alive. If the defense can step up their game, the team will have a great chance of clinching a seed in the finals. Ryan Sproul, for as long as he is on the ice for the team this season, will need to make an impact immediately, and it is promising he will do so. The task is not only on his shoulders, however, every player on the roster will need to join him in the most important two months they’ve experienced in a long time, if not ever. Can Sproul and his winged-wheel allies keep the streak alive? Keep your fingers crossed.