If I Were Mike Babcock: Red Wings Lineup Changes

First things first, if I were Mike Babcock, I would sign a contract extension, immediately.

With that being said, if I were Babcock, I would make a few small changes to maintain a better team day in and day out. Since trades and call-ups are the responsibility of GM Ken Holland, I have stuck to realistic lineup changes built entirely from the current roster.

More Gustav Nyquist

Gustav Nyquist has been everything he ended last season as, a stud. With 43 points (21 G, 22 A) in 58 games, he is another player who was brought up right in the league’s best farm system.

Nyquist struggles to use his scoring touch in a consistency most would like from him and one he is certainly capable of. But when he goes a game or two without a point, which is allowed seeing as not even Pavel Datsyuk or scoring leaders Patrick Kane and Nicklas Backstrom can hit the score sheet every night, he sees a large dip in ice time.

(Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
(Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Saturday night, in just 14:32 of ice time, Nyquist earned a goal and an assist against the Dallas Stars after just two assists in his previous six games. In his last 10 games, Nyquist has only played more than 18:00 once (three have gone to OT), which proves to be an outlier to his 14 and 15-minute nights.

While giving more ice time to one player means dropping another’s, perhaps fourth-liners like Luke Glendening and Drew Miller should play more fourth-line-applicable minutes.

While Nyquist stands as the worst plus/minus (-9) on the Wings’ active roster, more minutes may scare some people, but more minutes should mean more scoring chances and overall more scoring. Scoring is the easiest way to bring that number closer to zero and in turn, above it.

Use Jurco Accordingly

I am not a big Tomas Jurco fan, mainly because so far he seems to be more of a “YouTube guy” than an NHL scorer. But with that being said, he deserves more of a chance to prove himself, rather than being stuck with the fourth line.

YouTube player

Last night, when the Wings were staging a comeback—after blowing a 2-0 lead in the third period— Jurco had a prime opportunity to receive a pass and have a legitimate scoring chance. That pass? Well Glendening fired a rocket three feet out of Jurco’s reach, resulting in Anaheim retrieving the puck and heading down the ice.

With 14 points (2 G, 12 A) it may be hard to convince some to give the 22 year old a larger role. But a larger role doesn’t necessarily mean more ice time (11:51 ATOI) and removing him from the fourth line does two major things.

One, it automatically gives him better line mates with more offensive know-how. Jurco would see time with Stephen Weiss, a former two-time, 60-point forward who is only 31. Weiss seems to be past all of his groin/hernia injuries that plagued him last season, his first in Detroit, and has played 35 games tallying 18 points (7 G, 18A) this season. Alongside Weiss, I would fill the last third line spot with Teemu Pulkkinen.

YouTube player

Using Jurco as a playmaker, would allow him to dish the puck to the right-handed Pulkkinen who, according to Holland, “shoots like Brett Hull,” i.e. a booming one-timer. Jurco adds more speed and more physicality to the third line and relinquishes his fourth line spot to a more suitable grinder.

Two, that suitable grinder can be filled with Joakim Andersson when he’s healthy or Dan Cleary when all else fails. Actually, a sick Andersson may be smarter than any one named Cleary.

Catastrophe Cleary or under-achieving Andersson would fill the final spot next to Glendening and Miller, two of my favorite fourth liners in the game. These changes allow Detroit to balance their bottom six forwards with more suitable line mates and roles for each.

Don’t Counter With the Fourth Line

This didn’t suddenly occur to me last night, but upon skimming the Twitter-sphere to see others reactions to throwing the fourth line out after Anaheim chipped in another; I came across THW’s Prashanth Iyer’s perfect response.

https://twitter.com/iyer_prashanth/status/570091461548646400

As I mentioned earlier, the fourth line deserves more fourth-line-applicable minutes to make way for the real scoring and offensive talent. Any other team in the league and Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are 19-20 minute forwards. And although I take pride in not being any other team in the league (ahem, 23-straight playoffs), we should use them that way.

28 thoughts on “If I Were Mike Babcock: Red Wings Lineup Changes”

  1. Interesting thoughts. However, teams that can consistently roll 4 lines always fare well in the playoffs. Teams that lean on their stars eventually get exposed in later rounds. I also believe that Babcock is trying to avoid being predictable. That way, come playoff time, there is less video on how to defend this line or that line….

  2. Great article.

    I would put Anderson in a shooting clinic because he has about the worst shot that I have ever seen from a professional hockey player. Until he improves, I am not so sure that Cleary is a downgrade. To me they are interchangeable.

    I don’t think you really touched on defense, which in my opinion is far more problematic than the forward lines. Smith needs to settle down, because his passes are consistently poor, especially on the breakout. Ericsson has been disappointing. And I’d be curious to know what you would do with the recent call ups on d.

    As well, I think Weiss could slip to the fourthline. To me , he had a streak, but beyond that he hasn’t really done anything to warrant his ice time.

    maybe more starts for Gus’ while Howard finds his groove?

    And Sheehan makes the players around him better, so if anyone is suggesting that he should sit over Weiss…I strongly disagree.

  3. Babcock is already gone to the Leafs. He wanted out last summer but Ilitch refused to let him out of his contract for the remaining final year.

  4. Well, Jacob, this is one Red Wings fan who agrees with your first comment and is thankful you’re not the GM or Coach for the rest. I’ll take Babcock’s methodology use player usage over yours everyday of the week and twice on game days.

    • I love Babcock and I would choose his methodology over mine as well. He is my favorite coach in the entire league and possibly the best. The greatest thing about opinions is the variety they come in. While some commenters agree with me, others agree with you. But I must admit, you say you are a Red Wings fan, but I’m not sure why you wouldn’t like to see more of Nyquist and Tatar. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    • I love Babcock and I would choose his methodology over mine as well. He is my favorite coach in the entire league and possibly the best. The greatest thing about opinions is the variety they come in. While some commenters agree with me, others agree with you. But I must admit, you say you are a Red Wings fan, but I’m not sure why you wouldn’t like to see more of Nyquist and Tatar. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    • I’ll just stay with Babcock too. Results are the measuring stick we should use to judge the G.M., the coach and the players. So what is the problem? No one wins all their games.

  5. I agree with this post. Top players= top minutes. PERIOD.
    The lines should be something like this:

    Tatar-Datsyuk-Helm(Isn’t really a top 6 FWD but what can you
    do, make a trade?)

    Nyquist-Zetterberg-Abdelkader

    Jurco-Weiss-Pulkkinen(or use Sheahan on this line)

    Miller-Glendening-Anderson

    A problem is that on most other teams, Helm and Abdelkader
    would not be top 6 players. This is just a rough idea of lines but can be
    modified accordingly. If Jurco doesn’t pan out, move the kid for another
    player. Detroit does appear to be lacking a solid top 6 power forward with some
    size.

    • just throwing this out there, i recall was it early this year or last year
      why not trying the

      abdelkader – datsyuk – zetterberg
      nyquist – sheahan – tatar
      jurco/weiss – helm – pulkkinen
      miller – glendening – anderson line again?

      considering abby produced on the line with them
      sheahan/tatar/nyquist have chemistry together considering they played in grandrapids with eachother ( which ive been to many games and always knew where eachother were at )

      and if it fails then just split Z/Datsyuk up and continue to experiment?
      might as well figure what works before you reach playoffs.
      helms speed on the 3rd line and against weaker matchups will give him more chance instead of against other teams 1st lines.

      just saying.

  6. For all the people tearing into Howard about the shootout look at our attempts to score in the shootout clear the Dallas shootout from your minds we don’t score in the shootout. We haven’t scored on a regular basis in the SO since Big Berts creativity goals.

  7. Nice article
    Puts Pulks in the slot on PP, no one else (exc 13/40) has shown an ability to score
    Kronwall ain’t what he used to be – a lot of complaining about Smith/Kindl/Q/52 but Krons makes as many bad mistakes as them.

    • Pulkkinen is listed as a LW I believe, but if not, Babs has played him there to open up his right-handed one-timer.

  8. First, don’t know why you advocate for Babcock to sign immediately–even if the Wings tumble out of the playoffs that won’t diminish his value one cent. The longer he waits the higher will be the price tag.

    Second, I regarding using guys like Tatar and Nyquist more, and the 4th line less, it has to do with pacing. Too often team get to the playoffs having spent all their energy just to get their and they’re worn out. Keeping the ice time down of your big guns helps to ensure they have legs left when they need them. Also, giving other guys the playing time helps raise their game as well because there are certain to be injuries in the playoffs and so it’s good if these guys got some solid playing time in tough games down the stretch.

    Finally, I also agree with some of the above comments that Howard’s days are numbered. I don’t say that because of the few recent games after he came back from IR (though for the life of me I don’t understand why he wasn’t sent to Grand Rapids for a few tune up games), but because his weaknesses are too noticeable. Aside from his glove he has a hard time staying on his feet whenever someone makes a move on him. He often falls forward and looks quite awkward.

    • The immediacy of the contract isn’t of concern, I was just implying how much I want him back behind the Wings’ bench for next season and beyond. But I agree in the sense of wear and tear and energy for the playoffs because pacing is significant for a stretch-run. That being said, I just wish that Babs would have played Nyquist and Tats more throughout the entire season, each has been a 15-16 minute forward more often than not. And your Howard comment is too true, a conditioning stint would have been valuable to him and the team, Mrazek was playing just fine (more than just fine) and a few extra starts wouldn’t have hurt the Wings whatsoever. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  9. Babs has to get over his use of Dekeyser on the point on the power play; it is just like Damien Brunner——>good in their place, but out of water on the point. Also, that stupid drop pass in the neutral zone on the PP; STOPTRYING TO DO THAT!! Especially Kronwall. Last, there are a few players who can’t hit the ocean from the end of the dock. How about maybe some shooting practice??

  10. I suggest the Wings trade Jimmy Howard, for whom they should be able to get a decent return and make Mrzak the starter. They would be freeing up some cap space by dumping Howard’s salary, too.

  11. I have said all along they need to bring Mrazsek back up and send Howard down. Petr can at least stop the puck, Howard acts like it don’t make any difference if he stops the puck or not.

  12. Very good points. For several years Babcock has often employed the “Square Peg -Round Hole ” concept on line combos. Guys like Helm and Abdelkader have no business being in the top 6, He is a good coach but too often thinks just because he’s who is whatever he tries will work.

  13. There’s plenty to say about this article (most of it in agreement), but I’m going to stick to adding to Stephen and Papa’s comments. A goalie that can catch would solve a lot !!

    • All fantasy, I love and respect Babcock and that’s why I opened with signing an extension. These were just some observations that I thought would be worth a shot. Thanks for reading!

    • Agreed, Howard is certainly no shootout goalie, although our shooters don’t always get the job done either, sadly.

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