Detroit Red Wings: In Need Of Open Heart Surgery

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 16: Gustav Nyquist
ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 16: Gustav Nyquist /

Last season it felt the Detroit Red Wings were missing something.  Not just the lack of Defence.  Not the inconsistent goaltending.  It felt different, during games a lack of energy.  Looking back now midway through the offseason, the Red Wings missed a regular “heartbeat” player in 2017-18.

Tomas Holmstrom was a heartbeat guy for the Detroit Red Wings.  Tomas would do anything necessary to win.  “Homer” as we like to call him would willingly go to the dirty areas on the ice.  Homer would take a regular beating in front of the net.  His ankle skating style was often comical to watch.  At times Homer would barely get himself back onside after the play left the offensive zone.

The play had been gone for an opponent rush,  Detroit would already be counter-attacking waiting for Homer to tag up.   Holmstrom served a valuable purpose, did his job well and I consider him one of the most under-appreciated Red Wings of all time.  A player willing to go into the dirty areas is much-needed on the Detroit Red Wings.

Dallas Drake a heartbeat guy. Everybody loves the drake (courtesy of Seinfeld)  Drake was originally drafted by Detroit in the 6th round in 1989.  Drake didn’t play in Detroit very long but his career ended up going circle.  He played one in a half seasons early on to start his NHL career and circled back to play his final year in Detroit.  You may wonder why I would bring up someone with so little time in the organization.

In 07/08 Detroit needed an energy guy.  Every time Dallas was on the ice the glass was shaking.  The man sought out puck carriers and delivered a shoulder.  Too much of the crowds’ pleasure.  Drake often back to the bench before the glass stopped moving. Joe Louis Arena often chanting ” Dallas Drake” ever so often during the Stanley Cup run.  Dallas Drake at this time wasn’t a double-digit scoring threat he once was.  Drake still had a role.  Heartbeat.

Darren McCarty a heartbeat guy.  His brightest moment if you’re a Wings fan you remember the date.  It’s etched in your brain.  March 26th, 1997.  Often remembered as “Bloody Wednesday” or “Fight Night At The Joe”.  Darren McCarty would get some payback on Claude…. I refuse to write his last name.

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McCarty would go on to score the Overtime winner that night.  Therefore often overlooked because of the events which took place prior.  It took the weight off Detroit being able to beat Colorado who’d in a way owned them to that point.  The confidence grew.  McCarty in his prime wasn’t just a tough guy, he would chip in with some timely goals.

In 1997 he had that beautiful goal that would clinch the Cup.  First around Janne Niinimaa & then Ron Hextall, sliding the puck into the gaping net.  McCarty would bang the body one shift, fight the next, maybe chip in with a goal. A fan favorite.  High energy.  A heartbeat.

The Detroit Red Wings must fill this need.  They don’t need to make a trade or sign someone else because  Detroit already has regulars who fit the bill.  Currently, a logjam at forward the wings can get this production within.

Justin Abdelkader is the first that comes to mind.  He’s built sturdy like a power forward.  Abdelkader needs to commit to an energy role every night, with the ability to score 15 goals he can continue to be a huge asset to this team.

Anthony Mantha has a scoring touch, a beautiful shot,  to go along with his power forward frame.  You know that feeling in the morning, you just poured yourself a fresh cup of coffee and set it in your cup holder.  You’re on your way to work or off to start your day.  You reach over for something and knock over your coffee. We’ve all done it.  It doesn’t exactly put you in a great mood.  That mood.

That intensity is what I hope Anthony Mantha decides to show up to the rink with nightly.  He has 30 goal potential year in and year out.   Do you know who had that nasty streak and also scored 30 or more on the regular.  Brendan Shanahan,  fingers crossed the same style of play translates.

Darren Helm who early on was Kris Draper 2.0.  I hope Darren can build on a nice season he had last year.  He scored 13 times and added 18 helpers.  Helm with his speed and willingness to check opponents can be a valuable bottom 6 forward.  Along with Abdelkader, Helm could pair up on a checking line to create energy and make it tough on others to play against.

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I know what your thinking, what about Luke Witkowski.  Luke is a tough guy but he finds himself scratched more often than he plays.  I like Witkowski not only because he’s tough and loves to rattle the boards. Also brings “OTH”  (Old Time Hockey) back into the game. His flexibility being able to play a 4th line wing or 3rd pair D when called upon may keep him restorable in 2019.