Snakebit; Isles: 3 – Wings: 0


Dec 23, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Islanders center

Casey Cizikas

(53) receives congratulations from teammates after scoring in the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

What else could go wrong?

A 3-0 loss to the basement-dwelling Islanders, on home ice, right before Christmas. Plus the little added holiday bonus of losing Ericsson midway through the game, and almost losing Bertuzzi and Smith. Ya know, in addition to missing almost the entire forward corps.

It doesn’t seem like things could get worse right now in Hockeytown. Being shutout at home to one of the worst teams in the league is embarrassing. But the worst part is the Wings didn’t deserve to lose that game. I would almost rather they stunk up the joint, because at least you can blame that on the plethora of injuries the team faces. It’s so much more frustrating to watch a game that should have resulted in two points for the home team go the complete opposite way.

Detroit played 40 minutes of solid ice hockey, including one of the best third periods I’ve ever seen. Despite giving up three goals in the first period, they held the Islanders to just seven shots in that same span. Three goals on seven shots sounds like a goaltender’s mistake, but Petr Mrazek played admirably. Honestly, you couldn’t fault him on any of those goals. One of them came from a fluky deflection off the stick of Brendan Smith, and the other two came from awful, awful net-front coverage, which has been a pattern in recent games…and THAT pisses me off more than anything. I’ve played my fair share of defense, and I will tell you right now that it’s NOT HARD to cover the front of the net. Seriously. All you have to do is keep your head on a swivel, keep your body and stick in the shooting and passing lanes, respectively, and stand there. It’s that easy. So why, all of a sudden, is it so hard for our defense corps to grasp that idea?

I get that games can’t be completely blamed on defense, and yes, the Wings failed to put a goal past one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They only registered six shots in the first period, and most of them were perimeter chances, easily handled by veteran netminder Evgeni Nabokov. But once the second period rolled around, Detroit completely controlled the game. The play was almost constantly in the Islanders’ zone, and Detroit outshot their opponents 17-12 during that span. If it wasn’t for some bad post luck and some unbelievable play by Evgeni Nabokov, Detroit probably would have walked away with a victory.

I also get that Detroit’s felt the injury bug pretty heavily. But bad play isn’t coming from fill-in players – it’s coming from veterans making boneheaded plays or looking like they don’t care. Quincey was a -3 on the night and was directly responsible for the first and third goals, and Brendan Smith’s dumb pinch on the first one didn’t help anything. I can’t remember the last time Bertuzzi actually moved his feet, and Dan Cleary has been relegated to the fourth line recently – he hasn’t been doing bad, but he hasn’t done anything to convince anyone that he should be moved back up.

So what’s the solution? Obviously Babcock isn’t going to play youth over veterans – we know he plays favorites with guys like Bertuzzi and Cleary. Also, once everyone returns from injuries, the young guys are going to be moved down to play bottom six minutes – and it’s far more beneficial for guys like Sheahan and Jurco to play 20+ minutes on the top line with the Griffins than less than 10 with the big club. So seriously – how do we save this season?

We need to shake things up. We need some trades.

Here’s who needs to go: Cleary, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson, Quincey, Smith (he’s had enough of a chance)

Obvious untouchables are Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Kronwall, and Helm. I doubt the organization will move Franzen or Ericsson (awful, awful contracts) and it would be counter-intuitive to move any prospects at this time. But anyone else should be fair game.

What kind of return could we get for these players? Cleary, Bert, and Sammy aren’t going to net us more than conditional picks. They just need to go. Quincey could be a good rental for a playoff team in need of defensive depth (Pittsburgh, perhaps?) but I doubt we get more than a 2nd rounder for him. Smith is where things get interesting. Once a highly touted prospect, he impressed until he was given full-time duty, where his penchant for mental lapses and defensive breakdowns completely overshadowed his skating ability and offensive flair. The fact is, he still has some upside, but there might not be enough mutual respect between him and the organization for him to reach it in red and white. Smith could net a low-mid first round pick, or maybe even a center prospect, a position in which Detroit is really lacking. Let’s say we find a way to move Smith + picks or prospects for someone like Vladislav Namestikov out of Tampa. Unlikely, but hey, it could happen.

With all these moves, what does Detroit look like next season? (assuming alfie retires)

Zetterberg – Datsyuk – Franzen

Abdelkader – Helm – Nyquist

Tatar – Weiss – Jurco

Miller – Andersson – Eaves

Kronwall – Ericssson

Dekeyser – Sproul

Kindl – Lashoff

I like this a lot better than the current lineup.

Thanks for reading! @rollin_on_D