The Grind Line: Red Wings’ Biggest Concern for 2019-20 Season

What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. Rachel AndersonRaymond HarrisonJake Rivard, and Tony Wolak are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

After an unexpectedly thrilling first week of the Red Wings’ season, the team has fallen on hard times. Following Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, the Red Wings have dropped each of their last four games. Unsurprisingly, many of the preseason concerns about the team have reared their ugly heads during the slump.

Dylan Larkin - Red Wings
Even though the Red Wings have struggled lately, Dylan Larkin remains the team’s undisputed leader. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While some signs of positivity remain, the Red Wings’ hot start to the season seems like a distant memory. Now sitting with a 3-5-0 record, The Grind Line decided to take a look at the biggest concern for the team going forward.

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Rachel Anderson — Managing Injury Woes

The Red Wings have a few issues hot on their heels already this season. The one that’ll take them down before anything else will be their inability to remain healthy. Every year, it seems their biggest hurdle is the overall health of the players — young and old. Despite only being eight games into the season, they are not off to a good start. The Red Wings have already put 13 guys on injured status since Oct. 2. Thankfully, a few have returned to the lineup.

Andreas Athanasiou
Forward Andreas Athanasiou is one of the many Red Wings who have already suffered an injury this season. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

In the closing weeks of the 2018-19 season, nine players from the Grand Rapids Griffins had a stint with the big club. The increase of injuries practically destroyed the Griffins’ roster and hampered the Red Wings’ ability to produce. The Griffins parroted their parent team by finishing the regular season on a losing streak.

It’s hockey — you can’t baby guys. However, the Red Wings seem exceptionally prone to odd injuries regardless of circumstances. For example, in 2018-19, Mike Green had a virus that kept him out over a month, Evgeny Svechnikov had to reconstruct his knee after a preseason injury that caused him to miss the whole season, and the list keeps going.

Injuries happen to every team, but Detroit’s luck seems to be on the losing end when it comes to unhealthy scratches. It’ll be in their best interest to find a way to not exhaust their top guys, as they cannot afford to lose any of their key contributors.

Raymond Harrison — Defensive Miscues

Perhaps the most common theme between all of the Red Wings’ losses this season is poor play in the defensive zone. Now, sound defensive play was never expected to be a strength for this team, but the costliness of the mistakes is quite concerning.

Related: 7 Detroit Red Wings Numbers That Should Be Retired

In their first loss of the season against the Anaheim Ducks, a brutal giveaway by Tyler Bertuzzi led to a goal that completely swung the momentum in the Ducks’ favor. On Oct. 12, defensive mistakes again victimized the Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Broken coverage and a turnover led to a tying goal by Trevor Moore before a boneheaded decision by Jimmy Howard gave the Leafs the lead for good.

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A leaky penalty kill was the main culprit for their loss in Vancouver on Oct. 15, butlaughable defensive lapses provided the Calgary Flames with three goals on Oct. 16. To reiterate, this team was never expected to be a stingy, goal-preventing unit. Nevertheless, the inability to play sound defensively in their zone has already cost them multiple games.

The emergence of Filip Hronek has been a positive sign, as has the revival of Danny DeKeyser, but the Red Wings have struggled as a whole. Generally speaking, teams that lack elite offensive firepower have to commit to an airtight defensive system. To me, it is of the utmost concern that the Red Wings continue to stumble over themselves defensively.