The Detroit Red Wings enter the new year on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, eight points out of a wild card spot, but just six points behind the Boston Bruins. It’s been a struggle for the team this season, as they have battled against injuries, inconsistency and an inability to produce offense.
If the Wings hope to slip into the postseason for the 26th consecutive year, they are going to have to work through the issues that have plagued them since the start of the season.
Get Healthy, Stay Healthy
Stop me if you have heard this one before – the injury bug has bitten the Red Wings. Currently sidelined are Riley Sheahan, Justin Abdelkder, Darren Helm, Mike Green, Alexey Marchenko and Jimmy Howard. Not only do the Red Wings miss their individual contributions (I’m looking at you, Jimmy), but it has been incredibly difficult for the team to develop any kind of chemistry within the lineup with the roster in a constant state of flux.
Fellow THW contributor Tony Wolak mentioned the team’s need to get healthy in our Red Wings Christmas List article, but it appears as if we might have to wait a little longer for the injured players to make their return to the lineup. According to Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, Justin Abdelkader could potentially start to practice next week, but the statuses of Helm, Green and Marchenko remain uncertain, and Howard is more than a month away from returning.
Perhaps even more important than the Red Wings getting healthy again is for those currently skating with the team to stay healthy.
Shoot the Puck
This one is self-explanatory. The team ranks 23rd in the league with 28.9 shots/GP. Consequently, the Red Wings sit at 25th in the league (2.33) in goals for per game. Sure, their lack of success on the power play is part of the problem, but the team has been far too passive for the majority of the season.
It appears as if they are taking steps in the right direction, though. Although they continued to struggle offensively, the team improved to 30.9 shots/GP during the month of December.
Noticeably, Thomas Vanek has stepped up in this area. While the Austrian forward averaged just 1.9 S/GP during his first 12 games, his total jumped to 3.4 S/GP through his next 13 games.
If the Red Wings can continue to generate more shots on net, it will go a long way in helping to solve their offensive issues.
Fix the Power Play
Last season, assistant coach Pat Ferschweiler took most of the blame for the Red Wings’ paltry power play. The team converted on 18.8% of their attempts, finishing 13th in the league with the man advantage. In retrospect, it’s probably fair to say the blame was a bit misdirected.
Currently, the Red Wings sit in dead last in the league on the power play, scoring on just 15 of their 125 (12.0%) opportunities. In particular, the team has really struggled on the road, where they have scored just twice on 50 attempts with the man advantage.
Fifth power play for Red Wings, 0-for-infinity on the road…..
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) December 30, 2016
Blame it on coaching, a lack of offensive creativity, injuries, or even a combination of all three. Either way, if the Red Wings want to start generating offense more regularly, they need to fix their power play.