It was not long ago that I was writing how the team was overcoming injuries and still getting by. After all, it was only 10, then 20 games into the season and there was no reason not to expect a turnaround. They would call up players from the minors and expect them to temporarily fill the holes of Zetterberg, Franzen or Kronwall. Now with under 30 games remaining, the Olympic break – the Red Wings’ last hope – cannot come soon enough.
Let me start by saying that this team can still make the playoffs. There’s no doubt they have the talent to go to a third straight Stanley Cup final, but it just isn’t coming together. The goaltender swapping that worked to perfection last year has been less than spectacular this season. Jimmy Howard and Chris Osgood seem to be playing with one eye at all times waiting to get pulled.
I believe that the goaltender issue and the style of play that has worked in the past has struggled mightily on the ice for Mike Babcock this season. The reason the Wings have lost countless two goal leads recently is that the “shell” defense only works if the forecheckers are ticking passes at the line. With a young goalie like Howard, they cannot afford to have three Wings and two or three of their opponents just hanging out around the net. This defense nearly cost the Wings the Stanley Cup in 2008 as a defensive breakdown in game six could have been a disaster.
With the current Wings situation, it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks regarding the coaching situation and some expiring contracts. Remember, it was the Penguins last year that switched coaches late in the season before making a run. I know that Babcock’s record has been solid in Detroit, but professional sports in 2010 are a “what have you done for me lately?” mentality. For the Wings, the answer has been ‘not much.’