Red Wings Don’t Need Goal-Scorer As Bad As You Think

Throughout the first half of the 2011-12 season much talk has been made surrounding the Red Wings apparent need for a top 6 forward with pure scoring talent. With big names like Jarome Iginla, Bobby Ryan, Rick Nash, Alexander Semin, and Zach Parise being thrown about as targeted forwards in what would be a major trade deadline splash.

Todd Bertuzzi Red Wings
(Icon SMI)

I’m here to tell you, that splash wont happen.

The biggest reason for the majority of this speculation is none other than Todd Bertuzzi. While it would seem that Bertuzzi’s placement on the top line  along side Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen is a bit of a misfit (Bert not being a top 3 forward by any stretch of the imagination), it does appear to be working, which leaves me scratching my head as to why the speculation continues to abound.

Datsyuk (on pace for an 86 point season) and Franzen (poised to score more than 30 goals for just the 2nd time in his career) are both having terrific seasons, and the Red Wings find themselves ranked 6th in the league in goals for with the 3rd best goal differential in the NHL at +36. None of those things are indicative of a team in need of a greater scoring presence, at least, not from an addition.

Todd Bertuzzi Red Wings
Todd Bertuzzi currently plays on the Red Wings top line. (Jerome Davis/Icon SMI)

It’s no secret that the Red Wings would indeed like to see more production from Bertuzzi on the top line (though his production is largely down due to injury), in addition to having Henrik Zetterberg get back on his game, but for now the team is managing just fine.

That’s thanks largely in part to the breakout season of Valtteri Filppula (who is on pace to smash his previous career highs this season) and the returning effectiveness of linemate Jiri Hudler following a dismal year in his return from the KHL.

With 4 out of the top 6 Red Wings’ forwards performing at or above expectations, it would seem to me at least that, rather than mess with current chemistry by shipping out or adding players, it would be more reasonable to wait for those 2 pieces to return to form, especially when one of them is already showing signs of doing so (Zetterberg has 19 points in his last 19 games).

The Red Wings are actually on pace to score more goals than what they did in 2008 when they won the Stanley Cup. Without a clear need for more goal scoring, it makes little sense to pay what would be an enormous price tag for the aforementioned players. How many of the team’s budding prospects and valuable draft picks would  have to be given up in order to land names with such star power? Probably more than they’re willing to give.

What the Red Wings need more than anything is to return to the consistent dominance we’ve seen from them in the past. Graham over at Winging It In Motown wrote a very insightful piece entitled “Who are the Red Wings?” pertaining to just this topic early today that’s worth a read if you want to know what I’m talking about.

Perhaps it is the salary cap space the Red Wings find themselves with for the first time in recent years that has sparked such excitement among fans. The prospect of your team making a big move for an even bigger playoff push is certainly an enthralling one to say the least, but the idea that the franchise will use its nearly $6 million in cap space and try to trade for a big name forward at the deadline, I think, is a bit of a ludicrous notion.

Rick Nash wont find himself in a Red Wings uniform anytime soon. (Dave Gainer/THW)

While it’s nice to live in a fantasy land where Rick Nash plays on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, it is just that, a fantasy land. If the Red Wings are to make any move as we near the trade deadline it will be for a more consistent backup goaltender (or a more consistently good one anyway), and with not a lot on the market in net, Ken Holland may be holding his money until the offseason.

With 2 key defensive pieces in Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart becoming UFA’s at the end of the year, that’s probably not a bad decision. While it’s possible Lidstrom will decide to retire, a search for a replacement would ensue, and Stuart is a piece the Red Wings would like to retain.

Then there’s Tomas Holmstrom, Jiri Hudler, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Mike Commodore, and Ty Conklin’s contracts to contend with. Who knows how much money will be needed to resign certain pieces of that puzzle.

Before you know it, all that cap space is gone. Adding salary now means giving up players now, and probably giving up more later, something I don’t think the Red Wings are prepared to do.

Is adding a smaller name scorer like Tuomo Ruutu or Ales Hemsky still a possibility? Sure, but I’d much rather see the team pursue the likes of Evgeni Nabokov (whom the team attempted to sign previously) or Antero Niittymaki to replace the struggling Conklin as the playoffs near.

4 thoughts on “Red Wings Don’t Need Goal-Scorer As Bad As You Think”

  1. I’m sorry foruth line of Abby , Milsie ,Homer/Patty. Also the veteran right handed shooting D-man is needed only if Nick retires, and it is for next year. Just my two cents

  2. Bring in Pulkkinen and Nyquist and I would play first line of Z, Fil and Huds, second line of Pav , Mule and Pulkkinen/Bert, third line of Helm , Nyquist and Cleary/Bert, and third line of Abby, Milsie and Homer/Bert/Patty. So in reality all we need is a good backup goalie, and another right handed shooting veteran D-man who can play with Smith.

  3. There’s no way the Wings pay heftily for a mediocre goaltender stolen from them via wavers. Nabokov isn’t worth it, and doesn’t stand to be the difference maker in a playoff run. Any and all players the Wings could use they could acquire in the off-season without having to trade away assets.

  4. I totally agree with you. We have almost all the pieces to be the best team in the league. Our second line of Filppula Zetterberg Hudler may be one of the best in the league, and that’s with Zetterberg performing below expectation, or potential. He looks to have lost a bit of a step this season with his uncharacteristic turnovers, but Filppula and Hudler have some amazing chemistry on that line. And that should be a fixture for the rest of the season barring anything drastic. I think our best top line would be a Filppula Datsyuk and Zetterberg line, however feasible that is though, all of them being left handed and Fil & Z both being left wingers, the thing with this is while this line would dominate, the next line has a large drop off. I think Hudler needs to play with a skilled slick forward, being Datsyuk Zetterberg & Filppula. Recently I’ve noticed Franzen seems more comfortable handling the puck, as does Darren Helm. The question of the top line, or tha Datsyuk line as the aforementioned Fil Z Huds line could be our top line, is who do we pair up with quite possibly the best hockey player in the world? Zetterberg has played lots with Datsyuk and they both play similar, but Z is already on a line. We have Franzen, a goal scorer, but by no means a slick passing smooth skating playmaker, he gets the puck and scores. That’s his job and he does it well. It makes sense to pair him with the best set up man on the team (Datsyuk) although obviously Datsyuk himself would benefit more if Franzen were more adept at returning the favor. Who now should be the third player on that line? Here there is lots of room for debate. Cleary? Bertuzzi? We’ve seen Holmstrom here before and fairly effecgive at getting those rebounds off Datsyuk and Franzens shots, should it be someone else???
    This I think is the question that will play a huge role in our team staying streaky or being more consistent. Cleary is a good player, but he doesn’t naturally fit in with Datsyuk with their dissimilar styles of play. He’s a straightforward player, does the simple things while Datsyuk does the unexpected all the time. He’s constantly switching it up and while this can be lethal to the opposing team, it can also throw his linemates off if theyre not as skilled as Zetterberg or Franzen for example. You have to be used to playing with Datsyuk and getting yourself in a position for him to get the puck to you. He can change hos game to suit anyone, but he is most effective when he’s playing HIS game. That’s why you don’t play the simplest thing all the time. With Datsyuk your constantly looking for the smallest opening to put yourself in a position that Datsyuk can make an amazing play. This clearly doesn’t work with Franzen and Bertuzzi, though he is still an effective player as always. Bertuzzi plays too much of a round the rink game for my liking. He recieves a pass skates around while protecting the puck, he’s not a bad player, he definately has way more offensive upside, but defensive hockey if played too defensively will cost you. You need to find the balance between offensive opportunities and when to play more defensive. He needs to pick his spots smarter and play with a bit more speed. Holmstrom is not a skill player by any means. Well not the Datsyuk kind of skill. He has his own skills, and he’s super effective. On the offensive side of the ice he’s one of the best. Our system with the defense regularly involved on every play givez holmstrom the opportunity to go to the front of the net. He creates turmoil and just by his presence increases the chances of scoring. He’s extremely good at finding pucks after rebounds and banging them in. However its becoming harder and harder for him with the way defenseman are always watched in the offensive zone, and especially how the defense immediately pounces on anybody near the goalie after an opportunity. They just crash in and hit anybody, and this means a lot of wear and tear on holmstrom plus getting pushed around, were not a team that fights a lot, and holmstrom will definately get roughed up, and he will most often end up with the worst of it. However in the transition zone and on the defensive side he’s more of a liability than on offense. And this is what holds him back from being a fixture on the top line. He’s not all that fast, and not the best at stealing pucks &tying up opponents. He visibly puts mpre effort into getting back and forth between the zones thab bertuzzi and even franzen exerts, cleary is closer to his effort but effort isn’t everything. However datsyuk is good enough defensively to offset holmstroms defeciencies in this department. Holmstrom would have to stay at the top ready for a break to get into possition, while in the defensive but to me this makes the most sense out of holmstrom cleary or bertuzzi. However the someone else? Is a big question mark. We have a lot of forwards. And a lot who are being given smaller roles than they deserve juat because of how many forwards we have in the system. Jan mursak has yet to play a regular season game, fustav nyquist belongs here but has only played in 2 games till now, brunnztrom has played 5, eaves has played 10.. but was a healthy scrath for long times before the horrible injury. I think the third line is set with miller helm and cleary, that line has been extremely effective for us and they have a good amount of skill between the three of them. The fourth line would carry abdelkader the drop out from the top line (bertuzzi or holmstrom or both if another player is playing alongside datsyuk.) Before this season started I was all for seeing patrick eaves up there because of his goal scoring potential largely untapped in detroit. Last year he was amazing, and he is an amazing defensive forward providing datsyuk a bit of relieve on the back end. However his injury definately affected his game, and he will need time to speed up again. The other possibilities are gustav nyquist, who is extremely skilled, and I think putting him up there will make for his quick development into a star player, bring out his potential upside and bertuzzi on the fourth line will not hamper his game. He will still play the way he plays which will be a huge boost to the fourth line. I don’t think brunnstrom will be able to play well with datsyuk, but we all know he’s definately skilled, and he just might be able to. I think I’m done for forwards :P
    Goalies we definately need a depth goalie. I though macdonald was perfectly capable and definately willing to be a full time back up, and with mrazek coming up we should be set for goalie having these three in our pipeline. (Including Howard who will probably play at a high level for the next 7-10 years).
    On defense is a bit different. Were not quite as set for the future but have the potential. Nick Lidstrom is definately the best defenseman in the league, and while its close now that he’s in his 40s and contemplating retirement, while he’s here were good. Ian white has been a revelation, which was kind of expected with him being paired with Lidstrom and being a good defenseman beforehand, but he has exceeded all expectations, he’s on pace to have about the same amount of points as Rafalski did, and if anybody was expecting him to fill in Raffys shoes offensively while being a huge boost defensively from the injury plagued Rafalski, he has certainly fulfilled. Kronwall is a good defender with good offensive upside, however sometimes he costs us a bit defensively, if he takes more care and pays a bit more attention to detail, he will be a corner stone on our defense for about the next seven years.. brad stuart, in my opinion, is one of the best defensive defensemen in the NHL. He’s overloooked a lot because he’s not the greatest offensively ina. Time when defenseman are looked upon to put up points as well, but I definately want him back, and would have no problem with him getting a 2-3 year 4.6 mil annual cap hit. I would be happy with that. Jakub Kindl is a maturing defenseman and honestly, I don’t know why he’s being scratched these days. I believe defenseman take time to mature.and perfect their defensive game ( which is possible if they don’t worry too much about contributing offensively). Kindl in mh opinion will be one of future top defenseman. Along with Brendan Smith, who has limited NHL experience, but is expected to step in when ‘The Captain’ steps out. That’s a huge responsibility to fill, and while he will most likely be a calder trophy candidate and a future all stare, Lidstrom is good enough thay he wont be able to take over himself, the whole team will have to play harder to make up for it when Lidstrom steps out. Jonathan Ericsson. He was the biggest question mark coming into the season, and while some will say he still hasn’t deserved his cap hit, I will say ot was all for the better. If we had let him go we would have had to fill someone else in. And while brendan smith has only played two games this season when he was more than capable of being a regular, having ericcson and giving smith more time is probably thr best way to handle this. Now defenseman take time to mature. Obviously. Ericsson is 27 already. But I think, especially with all the critisism he faced last year, he was feeling uncertain and pressurized. The big contrast has definately made him more motivated and secure, and that is huge. I’ve been watching him closely this whole season. And while he still leads the team in turnovers, he’s much much much better than last year. He’s smarter, he’s quicker, he can handle the puck better uses his body more effectively, overall he has taken huge strides and I expect that to only continue. Mike Commodore came in mostly as an insurance policy, and while I was definaltely feeling a bit bad for him being scratched so much, and even though I’m still grudging him taking away kindls ice time, om happy he’s a red wing. He hasn’t been outstanding. But he hasn’t been a liability either. And so if we can just lock up stuart and some of our other key players, (Huds) etc I think we are SET.

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