Red Wings Mailbag: Was Jimmy Howard’s Injury a Positive?

The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Detroit Red Wings decided to add some depth to their forward unit, as well as on the blueline. So now that the speculation season is over, we can focus on the playoff push.

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: With so many defensemen injured throughout the league, why hasn’t there been more interest in Jakub Kindl, Brian Lashoff and the defensemen in Grand Rapids? They are not great, but the first two are experienced and the latter have upsides. – Kurt

Both Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff are nothing but bottom four defenseman at this point, and Lashoff might be a seventh defenseman on a lot of teams. Lashoff was able to make it through waivers without being claimed, so that speaks to how much the rest of the league feels about him.

As far as Kindl goes, he won’t put another team over the top. He could provide depth on the backend, but isn’t a Keith Yandle type that could change the dynamic of a team’s blueline.

The Red Wings do have a lot of great defensive prospects like Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul. I think general manager Ken Holland is hesitant to deal Sproul or Marchenko since both of those guys are right-handed, and we all know the ongoing struggle Detroit has had to get a right-handed defenseman.

Q: I wanted to see what your thoughts are on Andy Miele of the Griffins. He seems to be scoring quite a bit and is third in the AHL right now. For him to get a look on the Wings would take an injury? Seems like he could add some scoring power. – Brad

You’re right, the only way Miele gets on the Red Wings is if there is an injury to free up a roster spot. Miele has been phenomenal for the Griffins this season on the top line with Mitch Callahan and Teemu Pulkkinen. His line has been demolished since Callahan is out for the rest of the year with an injury and Pulkkinen is in Detroit, but he is second on the team with 53 points (19 goals, 34 assists) in 51 games.

The problem with Miele is he isn’t very big (5-foot-8, 175 pounds), so it doesn’t take a lot for him to get pushed off the puck. He has minor NHL experience with the Phoenix Coyotes, but his size is his ultimate downfall. Coach Mike Babcock might give him a look as a black ace during the Red Wings playoff run, but I don’t think he’ll find a full-time spot with them.

While Miele is having success in the AHL, scoring in the NHL is a different animal, as players like Teemu Pulkkinen are starting to realize.

Q: There’s a cap on player salaries, not a cap on the salary of scouting staff, so why don’t crap teams pump more resources and cash into scouting to help build the future?– Saskatoon Wingnut

I can’t speak for other team’s scouting departments, but I’m sure they are putting the time and energy into trying to scout the best players. Toronto, for example, hired Darryl Metcalf, who was behind the popular analytics site ExtraSkater.com.

Scouting isn’t as easy as the Red Wings have made it look. You can find the best players overseas or in the junior leagues, and for whatever reason, they might not pan out in the NHL. Maybe their style suits the European way of playing the game, maybe they can’t handle the rigorous schedule of the NHL, maybe the coach doesn’t utilize them properly when they do get to the NHL. There are a number of reasons why prospects don’t pan out.

Q: Will the league ever crack down on cross-checking in the back? It’s way out of line and you can do it two or three times in front of a referee. It will take injury to a star and maybe they will take notice. If you want to open up the game more (rule) you can’t check a player in the back with both hands on your stick; play along the boards would be better and in front of the net more scoring. I know it is ‘part of the game,’ they all do it. I am shocked sometimes at the chopping in the back with no call. – Jim

The problem is there is no consistency among the referees. Some nights, they’ll let players hack and whack at each other all night, but other nights, a slight tap gets you two minutes. There should be some basic level of consistency, but until there is, players will do what they have to in an attempt to gain the upper hand.

Plays like that also can be subjective. If Player A is trying to move around Player B and he accidentally whacks him in the back, is that cross-checking? If that were the case, more than half of the game would be played on the power play, and no coach wants that.

Q: Was Jimmy Howard’s injury a positive? Petr Mrazek gained experience and Jimmy will be a lot fresher than goalies that have had to grind it out all season long. – Kurt

In that sense, yes, I believe Howard’s injury was a blessing in disguise. Mrazek got some extra NHL experience, and Howard should be fresher come playoff time. With that being said, it’s never a good thing when your No. 1 goalie misses an extended period of time, since it takes him out of his groove and he might come back from the injury rusty.

Howard, for the most part, has come back solid from his injury and so has Jonas Gustavsson.

Q: What does Mike Babcock mean when he says “be heavy on the puck?” – Kurt

Basically, it means making it difficult for opposing players to knock you over or off the puck when you’re carrying it. Henrik Zetterberg is one of the best at doing so, and we saw Gustav Nyquist do it earlier in the season when he held onto the puck for 30ish seconds.

Here’s a perfect example of Zetterberg being “heavy on the puck” in a game a couple of years ago against Minnesota:

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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.