The Detroit Red Wings have a glaring need to address this summer

If it sounds like a broken record, that's because it is. The Detroit Red Wings have a glaring need that needs to be addressed this summer.

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This seems like a common theme over the past few years, but here we are again. The Detroit Red Wings must address their lack of depth at the center position again over the summer. Say what you'd like about captain Dylan Larkin. 'He's not an elite center, he's not a No. 1 center' and so on, but it's become quite unmistakable what Larkin means to this team. Both comments might be true, but on this current team, he's both. Larkin is Detroit's most productive and consistent contributor on offense, plus he's their best 200-foot player. He's the clear leader of this group, and the team struggles mightily when he's not in the lineup. Without Larkin anchoring Detroit's top line this year, the Red Wings are 2-9. Yikes.

The Red Wings are in the midst of a five-game losing streak and conclude their disastrous road trip on Tuesday night in Buffalo. It's a must-win game for Detroit, who has fallen out of the wild card position in which they had an eight-point lead just a week or so ago. Suddenly, the Red Wings are on the outside looking in with 72 points in 64 games.

The Tampa Bay Lightning currently control the first wild card position with 74 points in 65 games, and the red-hot New York Islanders, who have surged up the standings over the past week-plus and won six games in a row, sit in the second wild card spot in the East with 72 points in 63 games.

The Detroit Red Wings need to find a more productive Robin for their Batman.

This is not a knock on J.T. Compher, whom general manager Steve Yzerman brought in last summer via free agency to fill in between Larkin and Andrew Copp down the middle of Detroit's lineup. Compher has been excellent for the Red Wings in his first season with the club, and although he's a good two-way, 200-foot center, he lacks high-end scoring ability. Head coach Derek Lalonde has tried speedy Joe Veleno on the top line between Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat in Larkin's absence to no avail. The combination is something the Red Wings have struggled to find since Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk left the organization.

Compher is a nice complimentary player who would be best suited as a No. 3 center on a Stanley Cup contender, which also moves Andrew Copp down to the fourth line in a role where he'd excel. Not to mention, Copp has the ability to play the wing, and if the Red Wings had enough scoring depth among their top two lines, playing Michael Rasmussen and Copp on the wings with Compher down the middle on a third line would make for a tremendous shut-down unit. This specific scenario could also open the door for Marco Kasper to slowly break into the NHL, centering the fourth line next fall.

Compher has totaled 16 goals and 37 points this season with the Red Wings and has skated to an even rating through 59 games. His Corsi For Percentage of 43.8 is a career-worst and well below his career average of 48.5. Compher is providing the Red Wings with 1.9 points per 60/minutes of play, matching a career-best of last season, but it's just not enough production for a second-line center. When you look around the league, his offensive production in that role is well below the league average.

Just look at a couple of the playoff teams in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins No. 2 center is Charlie Coyle, who has provided the Bruins with 21 goals and 52 points. The Maple Leafs deployed John Tavares as their second center; he's achieved 20 goals and 46 points. The Panthers are a bit of an anomaly as they have Sam Bennett (15G, 31P) between two high-scoring wingers in Matthew Tkachuk (21G, 72P) and Carter Verhaeghe (30G, 64P)—finally, the Lightning roll with Steven Stamkos after Brayden Point in their lineup. Stamkos has recorded 24 goals and 55 points this season.

Copp is having a better second season with the Red Wings, but as I mentioned earlier, he's still not a second-line player. He's a valuable penalty killer, and I can see him excelling in the abovementioned roles. The 29-year-old has notched ten goals and 28 points this season while maintaining a Corsi For Percentage of 45.6 over 63 games.

I was holding out hope that the Vancouver Canucks would be unable to come to terms with star center Elias Pettersson and that Yzerman would be able to swing a blockbuster deal for the pending free agent this upcoming summer. Adding a player like Pettersson would have given the Detroit Red Wings a tremendous one-two punch at the top of their lineup for years to come. Unfortunately, that was a pipedream and quickly became just that after the star center signed an eight-year $92.8 million extension. The idea wasn't as ludicrous as you make think, as rumors suggested that the Canucks had been talking to the Carolina Hurricanes regarding a Pettersson trade leading up to the trade deadline, but the extension eventually got done.

I still hold out hope that Yzerman addresses this glaring need this summer, and it might come via trade rather than in free agency. Detroit's pipeline is strong, in fact, one of the strongest in the league, but Kasper and Nate Danielson, the Red Wings top two center prospects are a few years away from being the impactful NHL players we expect. With the Red Wings finally climbing over the hump of their rebuild, adding a quality performer down the middle needs to be a top priority this summer.

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