Mike Babcock’s Jack Adams Case

“I told if we just do it the Red Wing way we’re going to get in”

-Mike Babcock

With Pavel Datsyuk out for weeks at a time and even months, no Henrik Zetterberg for the stretch run, no Johan Franzen, Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss, Jonathan Ericsson, etc for lengthy periods of time, Mike Babcock still got it done. It was almost unfair on Detroit’s part with all the injuries they sustained, including missing 5 centers at one point. However, you have to play with the cards you’re dealt as they say, and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock would be the first to tell you that.

With the organizational farm being purged for prospects to minimize the effects of the plague, Babcock all of a sudden had an inexperienced group of kids on his hands. That didn’t stop his strong influence. Kids like Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Gustav Nyquist, and more were taken under the coach’s wing, and the results speak for themselves.

With the kids playing like ten year veterans, it gave a glimpse of what the future could be like in Hockeytown, and that future looks sparkling. But with the Red Wings’ 22 year playoff streak on the line, it was a case of “what could you do for me now”, and these kids had a lot riding on their shoulders. The tradition of Red Wing past was on the line, and adversity was high. However, they all had the right man to lead them, and that was Mike Babcock.

In total, 9 players made their NHL debuts, the most since the early 90s for the franchise. Each, in their own way, contributed to the effort to make the postseason and extend the streak. There was some veteran influence with players that have been there, with guys like Daniel Alfredsson providing a sense of leadership, but when an influx of kids like this comes in, a team has to have to have the right bench boss to coach them, and that’s Mike Babcock.

Now, not taking anything away from Jon Cooper or Patrick Roy and their respective seasons, they did a tremendous job. Cooper led the Tampa Bay Lightning back to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and logged 46 wins. This was without Steven Stamkos for a few months and with rising rookies like Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Kilhorn. Amazing season for Cooper, his team, and GM Steve Yzerman, but the favorite appears to be the Red Wings’ former enemy Patrick Roy.

Roy, to say the least, had a pretty solid inaugural coaching season. The Avalanche were the 2nd worst team in the NHL last season and have been in the bottom three of the league the last few years. This season, they logged 52 wins and won the Central Division, beating out late-season slumping Chicago and St. Louis. With young talent like Matt Duchene, Captain Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Tyson Barrie along with a serious Vezina candidate in the form of Seymon Varlamov, Roy coached them into winners. He took them from worst to first, a rarity in the National Hockey League and a worthy accolade for coach of the year.

However, with all the challenges that these two coaches faced with their respective teams, they did not face the magnitude of adversity that Mike Babcock and his team faced this season. This writer may be biased as a Red Wings fan, but from the mangames lost and the type of talent that the Wings were missing all season with injuries that just kept coming and with kids being inserted into big roles with lines being juggled at will, it took a serious man behind the bench to keep the team stable. It was Mike Babcock.

Firmly believing that this was the best coaching that Babcock has ever done in his career, this writer believes that the winningest coach in Red Wings franchise history has a big time case for the 2014 Jack Adams award. Jon Cooper deserves tremendous consideration for his season with Tampa as does the bench boss in Colorado. Patrick Roy with the work he did in his first season with the Avalanche getting his team to believe that they could be winners deserves plenty of consideration, and this writer believes that he will end up winning the award based on his instant results in the long run. However, for a team to have 421 mangames lost and have leading players missing for tremendous amounts of time as the Red Wings did, it takes a serious calming influence of a coach to steady the team’s course with inexperienced players and missing talent. Mike Babcock was that influence, and that is why his case is very strong for this award.

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Quote and amount of mangames lost courtesy of Mlive.com

Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning players and team statistics courtesy of NHL.com

Featured Image Courtesy of Grantland.com


Why the Red Wings Didn’t Need to Bring Back Gustavsson

The announcement of Jonas Gustavsson’s 1-year deal to return to Detroit for the 2014-15 season has met some mixed reactions.

Gustavsson, who was 16-5-4 with a 2.63 GAA and .907 save % in 2013-14, played reasonably well in the back-up role. However, he was often injured, limited to 27 games. At one point, him and Jimmy Howard were both injured, opening the door for 22-year old stud Petr Mrazek to play a few games. We’ll get to him later.

Gustavsson’s groin problems haven’t been limited to just this past season, as in 2013 he played in only 7 games due to that nagging injury. His durability is certainly an issue and is a main question mark in the decision to bring him back for one more season.

As mentioned above, Petr Mrazek enters the equation. Mrazek burst onto the scene in 2012-13 with Red Wings’ AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins and made a bold impact. He went 23-16-2 boasting a 2.33 GAA and .916 save % in the regular season, but saved his best for last. Mrazek led the team to its first Calder Cup Championship, posting a dazzling 2.31 GAA in the playoffs and constantly saving his team’s hide in shutting down the opposition, covering up his team’s mistakes.

Mrazek has now been down in the AHL for a combined season and a half, sporadically coming up with the Wings in case of injury. In 11 games combined in 2012-13 and 2013-14, Mrazek has gone 3-5-0, with 2.02 and 1.74 GAAs respectively. He has given up 17 goals at the NHL level. The goal support? Well, it’s a process, given his great numbers and subpar record. If that’s not NHL ready, who knows what is.

One can make a case for Gustavsson over Mrazek for a few reasons. For starters, Mrazek has only been down in the AHL for a season and a half, and may not be fully seasoned yet. Another case could be that for the potential Mrazek has, Ken Holland doesn’t want him sitting the bench for almost half the season with Jimmy Howard taking most of the reps. With how the Red Wings season their prospects for the NHL, that wouldn’t be a bad argument for a projected full time starter.

However, all arguments aside, it’s a mistake to bring back Gustavsson. Bringing him back for another year only delays the impact Petr Mrazek could have on the goaltending situation. Having Mrazek in the back-up slot could give Jimmy Howard some recognition that he needs to fight for his starter job with Mrazek being the age he is and bringing the past pedigree he has. This would give him drive to keep the job while Mrazek gets some solid experience at the NHL level. When Howard’s time comes to an end in Hockeytown, that experience could pay dividends in the long run. Hopefully “The Monster” does well in his 3rd year with Detroit, but for long-term, it’s time to break the chains and free Mrazek.




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Stats, bio information courtesy of DetroitRedWings.com

Featured image courtesy of zimbio.com

The Bottom Six: The 4th Liners

We’re at the end of the road in our forward evaluations as we take a look at what the 4th line players contributed to the Detroit Red Wings’ 2013-14 season. Some of these players were good catalysts for the penalty kill and grinding style, and others were just depth guys who just did not have it in the performance department this year. Let’s begin.

Drew Miller- Left Wing/Right Wing

A solid waiver wire pick-up from the ’09-10 season continued to be valuable for Mike Babcock’s group this season. Drew Miller has fallen off a bit in the points department with a measly 15 this past year, but that is not his role. His role is to kill penalties and outhustle others for the puck, and he lived up to that role again last season. Interestingly enough, he was one of two Red Wings to play all 82 regular season games, with Kyle Quincey being the other. The now 30-year old Miller will not have to worry about his future at least for the next two years, since he signed to an extension through 2015-16 season.

Luke Glendening- Center/Winger

Some kind of heart this kid plays with. A call-up from Grand Rapids to fill a hole at center due to injury, Glendening was not expected to be up in the bigs for very long. He ended up totalling 56 games played in Detroit, netting seven points. It seemed like he would never score his first NHL goal with chance after chance after chance, but on the night of April 5th, he got his first against the Canadiens. He’s still smiling after that one. The former Michigan Wolverine was rewarded for his grit and hard work, getting a 3-year extension to be with the big club. The 25-year old Grand Rapids native can feel comfortable about his future now that at this point it is secured for a period of time with his hometown team.

Justin Abdelkader- (Left Wing/Right Wing)

Another hometown guy, another solid player. Over the years we’ve seen Abdelkader mature from scoring floaters on Marc-Andre Fleury in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals as a 22-year old to a hard-nosed 4th line grinder. Abdelkader put up 28 points this year in 70 games played which is a bonus for a guy that loves to hit…Maybe too much. Early on in his career Abdelkader was criticized for not taking the body to other players and using his physical play as a weapon. The last two years, we’ve seen Abby come out of his shell. Another sign of maturity for the Muskegon native. There is one thing that Abdelkader still needs to work on as he enters his prime: taking penalties. There were numerous times when Abdelkader would take that one extra step or lunge that he did not need to, sending him to the box. His penalties seemed to come at the worst of times, and this spring in Belarus we saw an huge example of this. All in all, Abby can keep evolving into a physical presence, but at the same time he must improve his discipline in the coming years.

Darren Helm-(Center)

Over/under on how many games he plays next year.

Evidenced by at least the last couple seasons, you never know what you’re going to get with Darren Helm durability wise.

Limited to one game in the lockout-shortened 2013 season and 42 in a full 82 game slate in 2013-14, Darren Helm has his doubters. He’d play a few games, miss a few weeks. He’s come back again, miss a lengthy period of time again. It’s a real rollercoaster with this kid. However, in the games he played, he was a phenomenal spark. He put the puck in the net frequently, and that speed is still Top Thrill Dragster type. An outstanding penalty killer, Helm can use that valuable weapon of speed and turn a penalty kill into an offensive opportunity. Totalling 20 points in half a season’s time, fully healthy you’re looking at a 20+ goal scorer who can touch 50 points as he reaches his prime. For the 27-year old Helm, it comes down to health. Entering the third year of his four year contract he signed back in the 2012 offseason, Darren Helm’s biggest key to making Detroit his home for years after that is health. If he works those issues out, look out.

Joakim Andersson- (Center)

It was a season filled with growing pains for Joakim Andersson.

After earning his spot on the Red Wings in the 2013 season forming a formidible trio with Gustav Nyquist and Swiss sniper Damien Brunner, the 25-year old Swede had to get accustomed to playing a full 82 game season.Through 65 games, Andersson totalled a measly 17 points and was a dismal -11. With the emergence of Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening as depth centers, Andersson saw competition in his way to even staying on the roster. With Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm out for lengthy periods of time, Andersson saw his role elevate, even up to the first line when the injury situation for the Red Wings was laughable. Not known for scoring ability, Andersson struggled in those elevated roles and it showed with his point total and plus/minus. Entering his second year of a two-year deal  signed with Detroit, time is certainly ticking for Andersson to show that he belongs on a roster that boasts big depth at the center ice position.

David Legwand- (Center)

Known as “The First Predator”, Legwand spent 15 years in the Music City before being traded to an injury-riddled Detroit team who at the time had five centers out of the lineup at the deadline. For Legwand, Detroit gave up prospect center Calle Jarnkrok, Patrick Eaves, and a conditional 3rd rounder. Through the first week or so, slotted in with Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen, Legwand provided a spark that the Wings needed. He went cold after a while however, and ended up with 11 points in 21 games with Detroit. Not bad, but probably not what Ken Holland ideally had in mind. Looking towards the future, the 33-year old center has a hazy future in Motown. He is an unrestricted free agent, and the Wings have way too many centers. He looks to be headed to the free agent waters at this point, but in his short time with Detroit, he offered a depth player that helped the team make it to the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive year.

Depth players is up next. After, my Detroit Red Wings Summer Prospect Series will be kicking off pretty soon with the NHL Draft just weeks away. A preview of the special day in Philadelphia will be coming along with the prospect series with Detroit picking smack dab in the middle of the pack on June 27th.

Let’s Go Red Wings!

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-@LastWordOnSports #LWOS

Stats, bio information, and featured image courtesy of DetroitRedWings.com

Contract information courtesy of capgeek.com