There’s been a lot of trade talk going on for the past couple of weeks, but this mailbag focuses on other topics surrounding the Detroit Red Wings.
MLive.com’s Ansar Khan does a weekly feature called “Ask Ansar,” in which he answers fan-submitted questions about the Red Wings. I will answer the questions submitted to Khan.
You can view his answers here.
Q: One thing I’ve noticed is (Niklas) Kronwall doesn’t seem to be “Kronwalling” much anymore. I realize the Wings aren’t a Boston-type physical team, but his big hits were exciting for fans and could change momentum of games. Is it just me, or has he not been as eager as he has in the past to deliver big hits? I haven’t noticed any so far this year and the only “big hit” that really comes to mind last season is when he hit Reilly Smith in the playoffs. Are other players more conscious of him on the ice nowadays making it harder for him? Is his game changing with age? Orders from Babcock?- Steven
It’s not just you. Kronwall definitely doesn’t step up and deliver the big hit like he used to. I think it’s a combination of all of the reasons you mentioned. He’s 34 years old now, his body isn’t able to recover from big blows like it could when he was in his mid-to-late 20s. That’s not to say he won’t hit someone if the situation calls for it, but he won’t go out of his way to deliver a big hit. As players get older, they have to be smarter about how they use their body to maximize the amount of time they are able to play.
He also has to be more responsible defensively. Back when he was Kronwalling on a regular basis, he had Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski playing most of the minutes against the other team’s top players. Now, however, Kronwall plays the most minutes against the other team’s best players. He can’t afford to go for the big hit and leave his defense partner in an awkward situation.
Q: If Mike Babcock does sign with another team next season, could Tony Granato become head coach? – Admin
First of all, I don’t think Babcock is signing with another team this offseason. He has a good thing going in Detroit, so why would he want to leave it?
But, since you asked, no, I don’t think Granato would succeed Babcock as head coach. I think the Red Wings would promote Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill before promoting Granato.
Blashill has done a wonderful job developing the young players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Xavier Ouellet. Plus, he is quite familiar with half of the team already having coached them in Grand Rapids.
If the Red Wings were to look outside for a new coach, I would think they would try to go after Dan Bylsma first. Bylsma is all about developing players as well, plus he’s a Michigan native from Grand Haven. Seems like an all too perfect fit.
Q: What is to become of Daniel Cleary? The Wings are calling up players when some get injured, but not using Cleary. Why is that? – Matthew
Well, the Red Wings have only called up one forward this season in Teemu Pulkkinen. Ask any random analyst or fan, and they will tell you they would rather have Pulkkinen in the lineup than Cleary. Cleary has great leadership skills and is a good locker room guy, according to Babcock and general manager Ken Holland, but his skills on the ice aren’t what they used to be.
I would be surprised if the Red Wings re-signed Cleary again this offseason. I know there was some unwritten agreement that Holland would take care of Cleary because he turned down a better offer from the Philadelphia Flyers two offseasons ago, so Holland simply lived up to that promise by re-signing him this offseason.
If Cleary doesn’t want to play with another team next year, he’ll probably get a front office offer from Holland.
Q: How big a factor in the team’s success is the fact that the Wings have basically the same roster as last season? Unlike some teams, they did not have to take a period of time to adjust to new faces in the lineup and the locker room. – Kurt
I would say it’s a small contributing factor, but I think the bigger contributing factor is staying healthy. The Red Wings had the second-most man games lost last season with 421 (second to Pittsburgh’s 529). As of Feb. 16, the Red Wings have lost the 14th-most man games this season with 130 — a night and day difference from last season.
Not only have they been able to stay relatively healthy, but the younger players are contributing just as much if not more than last year. Tatar and Nyquist finally earned roster spots with the team, and now that they have a good chunk of regular season games and one playoff series under their belts, they came into the 2014-15 season with more NHL experience.
Q: The Wings have a much higher winning percentage with Weiss in the lineup than when he isn’t. How does his presence in the lineup make such a difference? – Kurt
His absence in the lineup means Cleary has to dress more often than not. So, I’m not sure if it’s so much the fact Weiss is in the lineup, but when he is in the lineup, it prohibits Cleary from being in the lineup.
Don’t get me wrong, Weiss is a good player. He has bounced back nicely from the past two injury-riddled seasons with 18 points in 31 games, but he isn’t a difference maker like Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg is. Weiss is seeing mostly third- or fourth-line minutes. He doesn’t have that big of an effect on the game.
Q: How is the Wings’ scoring distributed over the three periods? How is their goals against over the three periods. It seems like they give up a lot of goals in the third period. – Kurt
According to NHL.com, the Red Wings have scored 60 of their 158 goals in the second period or 38 percent. They have scored just 42 in the first and 52 in the third. They have allowed 47 of their 131 goals in the third period or 35.9 percent. So you are correct, they do allow the most goals in the third period (42 in the first, 40 in the second and two in overtime).
However, it’s not an overwhelming number, and they rank tied for 18th in the league in third-period goals allowed, so it’s not as if they are allowing more third-period goals than other teams. Buffalo has given up the most third-period goals with 79, while Calgary has allowed the fewest with 38.
Q: What kind of future do you think the Red Wings have in mind for Tom McCollum? He played well in his brief stint for the Wings, but they just don’t seem to be moving him towards a regular role. Does he have a future with the Wings? For that matter, do you think he has a future in the NHL, or is he pretty much relegated to the AHL with only brief call-ups to the NHL to cover injuries? – Michael
I answered this in the last mailbag, but I’ll re-iterate: I don’t think McCollum has a future with the Red Wings. Jimmy Howard definitely is the No. 1 goalie, and Petr Mrazek will be the backup next year. McCollum is too far down the depth chart.
As far as his NHL future, there’s a possibility he gets there. He showed he can play in the big league during his two games with Detroit, where he only allowed one goal on 25 shots, 17 of which came from Tampa Bay. But two good games does not make a goalie’s career.
He’ll have to prove he can be that reliable on a nightly basis, and it starts in Grand Rapids. His stats have gotten better each season, but Jared Coreau is pushing him for starts until Mrazek returns.
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Tom Mitsos is a Detroit Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @tom_mitsos.