The Detroit Red Wings Seek Their New Brand of Magic

2004 Season: Player Brett Hull of the Detroit Red Wings. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
2004 Season: Player Brett Hull of the Detroit Red Wings. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images) /

Last year’s scoring frustration has carried over to this year with the Detroit Red Wings and it already distresses the fans.

Not just the lack of scoring, but also the mindset and approach.  On a team no longer noted for matchless skill and finesse, our players want to score goals in the most exquisitely delicate ways, like Fancy Dans. Two players on the Toronto Maple Leafs have as many or more goals than our entire Detroit Red Wings.

To recite the obvious, instead of seizing on the briefest, smallest openings they get in today’s NHL, instead of taking what they’re given and blasting away, the default setting is making extra passes, looking for better angles, and setting up teammates.  Whatever happened to rocking the goalie on his heels, creating lovely chaos, scrambling after rebounds, and cleaning up the goalmouth slop?

Inexperienced players prefer Fancy Dan scoring for a variety of reasons. One, we have unselfish players who are more about the team than individual glory.  And that is a good thing, right?  But do yourself a favor and watch some Brett Hull videos sometime.

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He scored goals by the gunny sack. No one was hungrier for the net.  No one was greedier to make the twine sing.  Why did Brett Hull refuse the spontaneous celebrations after scoring a goal?  Because he was already focused upon scoring his next goal.  This singularity in scoring goals in every way possible is what we now need.

Two, our fresh new crop of players is skilled and wants others to know it.  They see their NHL elite peers–the Panarins, the Tavares, the Kanes–and want to rub shoulders with them, naturally so. This means scoring goals a certain way.  It is the hockey equivalent of Nuke LaLoosh lamely telling Crash Davis, “I want to announce my presence with authority.”  But nothing generates respect like winning. Go after that respect. Figure skating scores for technique and artistry.  The NHL does not.

Three, scoring in amazing ways–like the marvelous Russian Five–brings intimidation to games.  Athletes love dispiriting an opponent.  It creates advantage even before stepping on the ice.  But fellas, if your magic worked in college, major junior, or AHL hockey, you’re not in Kansas anymore.  You’re in the Show, where everything is different.  Showing up with results is the magic you want.

Detroit Red Wings fans will recall skating pirouettes around the entire league only to flop in the Stanley Cup Final against the New Jersey Devils, losing four straight.  Still, that piercing pain taught us valuable lessons.  We piled up 62 regular season wins led by Paul Coffey‘s end-to-end rushes.  Our offense put on a clinic. But what happens as the checking tightens, the physical pounding wears you down, the ice room and time disappear, and you find yourself playing against the very best NHL goalies?

It changed our mindset. The new attitude arrived in the moment Brendan Shanahan first stepped on the ice wearing a Red Wing jersey.  Shanahan was skilled enough to saucer passes teammates.  But his first priority was doing whatever it took to win the game. Driving the net as a power forward and blasting shots, Shanny never chose pretty over gritty.  His attitude helped changed this team.

Next. Where are the tipping points in a new season?. dark

A new Red Wing team seeks a new style and identity to advance the Red Wing cause.  I say, grip it, rip it, forget the style, shun wasted motion, and drive the puck straight forward.  That is where the team’s fortunes lie.