On February 27th, also known as NHL trade deadline day, Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland set the media world ablaze after sending veteran defenseman Mike Commodore to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a conditional 7th round draft pick. The move, which came early in the day, was widely thought to be a precursor to more moves by the team. As the 3 o’clock deadline came and went, Detroit stood pat having given up a valuable asset for as close to nothing as you can come.
I was vocal about my befuddlement at the time of the move; “Why would you trade something for nothing, especially when you’re making a run at the Cup?”
Over the last several games, we’ve seen exactly why.
Since February 25th Detroit has been swarmed with injuries, and many of them have come on the blue line. The newly acquired Kyle Quincey missed a game with a groin injury, while team captain and future hall-of-famer Nicklas Lidstrom has missed three games with a bone bruise/ankle injury. Jonathan Ericsson is also expected to be out for at least four weeks with a broken wrist, and Sunday afternoon Jakub Kindl left the game with an upper-body injury that he’d apparently been dealing with prior the contest.
For those counting at home, that’s four defensemen afflicted with injuries in the last four games, and while only one of them has been confirmed as a major injury (Ericsson), it’s enough reason for at least marginal concern for a club fighting for a divisional title.
A rash of injuries can often lead to more, and that’s likely what we’re seeing with Kindl.
“Obviously, we didn’t make a very good decision,” Babcock said in regards to Kindl’s known injury. “I don’t know if we pressured him or what it was. We should have called someone up, in hindsight.”
Pressure is exactly why Kindl played with a nagging issue, but that pressure was likely more self-inflicted than anything. Put yourself in Kindl’s shoes for a moment. You’ve found yourself expendable this season, and increasingly so with the addition of Kyle Quincey. On top of that you know your team is already going to be struggling a bit, down two of its key defenders. You begin to think, “My team needs me, this is my shot to prove myself, this is my chance to make myself irreplaceable.” Those thoughts help you push through an injury that would have been better addressed with a bit of rest.
That mentality is ingrained in NHL players. They’re bred and trained to give their all for the team, to be tough, and rugged. To play through pain. That sense is only heightened when your team is facing a lineup shortage.
Don’t think for a second that Lidstrom wont return as soon as he can bear to skate on his injured ankle, even though he’d be better served to rest a bit more. Don’t forget that Jimmy Howard came back well before doctors suggested he should, and had his equipment altered in order to accommodate his injury. It’s the life of a hockey player. It’s expected.
That “hockey player toughness” often leads to injuries that don’t fully heal until the summer months, and to nagging difficulties that have the potential to become much worse in the face of not being handled with the utmost care.
To carry so many of these ailments into the postseason is, to say the least, less-than desirable. The potential for any of these injuries to flare up is significant, and specifically in the case of Lidstrom , could be detrimental to the team’s performance.
Those facts are well-known. Injuries and their nature are expected to take their toll down the stretch. That’s why depth is a key component all playoff bound teams are looking for at the deadline. It was thought to be why Detroit added Quincey to their defensive ranks just prior to that. It’s why trading Mike Commodore, a key component to that depth, made no sense then, and makes even less sense now.
Is Commodore the best defenseman in the world? Absolutely not, but he was a valuable depth piece whose value would have increased exponentially had the team held onto him after the deadline.
Do I believe I’m better suited for the job of General Manager than Ken Holland, architect of the most dominant franchise in recent memory? No, however I do believe he’s capable of making mistakes, just like me and everyone else.
Commodore would have been useful at a time like this. Inserting someone into the lineup that has been with the team the entire season helps to keep confidence high around the locker room, and stop players from making poor decisions about their injuries.
That asset (an extra experienced defenseman/Commodore) would stop the revolving door of injuries, or at least help to, before the team reaches the playoffs. It would provide security and hope if such a problem arose during the playoffs. Instead, it’s an asset Detroit no longer has as a result of doing a man a favor.