Jeff Petry is the reason the Red Wings defense rotation needs to stop

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

This rotation on Detroit’s backend needs to halt. Detroit Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde has been rotating Detroit’s bottom three defenders all year long, and it’s not only tough to watch, but nothing good about it is translating to the ice.

Thursday night, Lalonde elected to sit Shayne Gostisbehere in favor of Jeff Petry, which, yes, is a little odd. Before the game, Detroit’s head coach mentioned that it was to give Gostisbehere a breather and a chance to hit the reset button following a rough outing earlier in the week against the New York Rangers. Usually, the healthy scratch rotation is between Olli Maatta, Justin Holl, and Jeff Petry, but that philosophy needs to be fired to the moon.

First off, who didn’t need a breather following that monstrosity in New York? Second, why wasn’t Petry being shelved and banished to the press box where he could do limited damage to the organization? I say limited damage because even being in the press box means Detroit’s top defense prospect, Simon Edvinsson, will remain in Grand Rapids with the Griffins.

Jeff Petry has become a liability to the Detroit Red Wings.

I hate to say it because we all know Jeff’s father: Detroit Tigers legend Dan Petry. I know you are irritated by the observation; it was a joke because it’s seemingly mentioned in every single telecast. Sometimes brute honesty is needed, and the fact of the matter is, Jeff hasn’t done much good for the Detroit Red Wings in recent weeks. I wasn’t thrilled when the Red Wings acquired Petry, but I wasn’t disappointed either; it was more just meh. I initially thought that Petry would provide Detroit with some much-needed depth on their backend, and I expected that he’d play his fair share of games, but I didn’t anticipate that he’d be a complete liability.

I immediately penciled Petry in as Detroit’s sixth or seventh defenseman, whichever number newly acquired Holl wasn’t. Well, as it turns out, Holl has been efficient and a lot better than advertised, coming from Toronto, where he found himself a scapegoat or a punching bag for Leafs fans, so to speak. A punching bag is usually what Red Wings defenseman Ben Chiarot is on a nightly basis, especially from the online Detroit fans, but that role is being filled by Petry these days. Lalonde likes to pair Petry with Chiarot, and as odd as it sounds, Chiarot carries that pairing. I understand the idea of pairing the two because they are familiar with each other, dating back to their days together in Montreal. However, playing Holl, who is excellent defensively with Chiarot, is a better situation. Also, playing with the same partner each night will help build continuity and familiarity; rotating the group night in and night out stunts the growth and comfort of knowing where your partner is on the ice in every situation.

Chiarot is a pretty good skater and, like Holl, plays a physical game but needs a defensive-minded partner to mask some of his defensive deficiencies. And that should be followed with a Maatta and Gostisbehere pairing. Maatta has struggled a bit this season but is still defensive sound and compliments Gostisbehere’s offensive tendencies well, similar to how he meshed with Filip Hronek last season before he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks.

Petry, 35, is a 6-foot-3 mobile defender but, despite his mobility, often finds himself out of position during his first season with the Red Wings, anyway. He’s played in nine games for the Red Wings this season, totaling four assists, and is a plus-1 while averaging just over 18 minutes of work. He’s played to a Corsi For Percentage of just 44.8%, a far cry from his career average of 51.5%. Taking a bit of a deeper dive into his analytics, Petry is posting a Relative Corsi For Percentage of -5.2 during even strength situations, the second-worst rating of his career. Ironically, Petry’s 1.7 points per 60 minutes are his second-best average to date.

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The veteran defenseman struggled with his defensive coverage in the defensive zone on Thursday night, often being out of position or not being strong enough on the wall, leading to turnovers and high-quality chances for Montreal. The Red Wings have now lost two in a row, the latest Thursday night 3-2 to the Habs in overtime. Lalonde needs to fire this rotation in the garbage and roll with the same six defensemen until someone suffers an injury and leave Petry in the press box.

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