New Year’s Resolutions for the Detroit Red Wings
By Rhys Richards (@RREsq)
At the beginning of every New Year, people make resolutions that they rarely uphold. Regular gym rats become fed up with the heavy treadmill traffic because gym attendance increases so much. Families and couples agree to disconnect from the digital world, spend more time together, and cook at home more often. Procrastinators study that new language on their computer programs.
Then, all of those efforts dwindle to a minimum at about the same time the NHL is gearing up for the Trade Deadline. We are all complicit in this annual failure, which is not a judgment merely a fact.
Perhaps more resolutions would be met if someone else made them for us. With that spirit in mind, this Red Wings’ fan submits a list of resolutions for Detroit and its players.
11. The club’s New Year’s resolution is to continue to sell out every home game. The Red Wings 15-2-1 record at home is driven in large part by the overwhelming support and attendance of the fans. St. Louis is the only team that has won more games at home with 16. Teams once again fear playing at Joe Louis Arena.
10. The team’s New Year’s resolution is to catch the Chicago Blackhawks and wrest the Central Division from their grasp. Both teams have played 39 games going into Chicago’s game at Philadelphia on Thursday night, a 5-4 loss. Detroit is one point behind Chicago with 51. While both teams have scored 128 goals, Detroit’s defense has yielded far fewer tallies giving up 88 to Chicago’s 111, the fourth lowest goals against total in the NHL. That hard work on defense will eventually reap rewards.
9. The defensive corps’ resolution is to do everything possible to keep the number of shots on Jimmy Howard down. Howard has faced 915 shots in 34 games, an average of just under 27 shots per game. Despite playing the second most games in the NHL, Howard is ninth in total shots faced. The defense has returned to the standard set by past Detroit teams allowing a mere 27.5 shots per game, which is the third lowest average in the league. With Howard playing the vast majority of Detroit’s games, the Red Wings defense is experienced and knows that fewer shots means a healthier, less bruised goaltender for the playoffs.
8. The third and fourth liners’ New Year’s resolution is to continue to chip in on offense. Veteran Danny Cleary leads this group with nine goals and nine assists, while fellow veterans Todd Bertuzzi and Tomas Holmstrom each have five goals and twelve assists and six goals and nine assists, respectively. Bertuzzi and Holmstrom get some time on the top two lines. In fact, all six of Holmstrom’s goals were powerplay tallies on the top unit. Penalty kill regular Drew Miller has been perhaps the biggest surprise scoring seven goals and assists for 14 points. Fellow penalty kill specialist Darren Helm has contributed four goals and eight assists, but is a steady victor at the faceoff dot. Arguably known for their performances in other areas, Justin Abdelkader has added four goals and six assists and rookie Cory Emmerton has tallied four times and added three assists in 29 games.
7. Valtteri Filppula’s New Year’s resolution is to continue his offensive breakout. Filppula is tied for second on the team in scoring with 33 points. He has 13 goals and 20 assists to go with a remarkable plus-12. At 27, Filppula has been due for a breakout campaign, but injuries have undercut his efforts both of the last two seasons. The most Filppula has ever scored for Detroit was 40 points in 80 games in 2008-2009. He tallied 39 points in 71 games last season. Filppula has arrived, and he should achieve his resolution in the 2012.
6. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg share the New Year’s resolution to lead this team by example. Datsyuk has been living up to his superstar status and alternate captain status. He leads the team in scoring with 40 points, tying him for seventh in scoring in the NHL. He leads Detroit by a wide margin with 392 faceoff wins. Despite the superb offense, he continues to be a scary presence on defense. He is sixth on the Red Wings at plus-13. He leads Detroit and is second in the NHL with 54 takeaways. Zetterberg has shown his competitive heart throughout this season. Despite his excellent play overall, the alternate captain only has 29 points. He leads the team with 123 shots and is second with 251. Zetterberg is due for an offensive outburst. Though somewhat counterintuitive, Zetterberg can lead by example by being more selfish. In fact, his accomplishing the resolution may be directly connected to increasing his shot totals and improving his current standing as 18th overall in the NHL.
5. Nicklas Lidstrom’s New Year’s resolution is to yet again sip from the fountain of youth that is the Detroit River(hopefully after a proper filtering). The 41–year-old has 8 goals and 15 assists, which puts him sixth in team scoring and first for defensemen. Lidstrom is on pace for 48 points, one short of his 2009-2010 total. While the aging captain and top-five defenseman in the history of hockey may not break the 60-point barrier ever again, his plus-17 stands as a testament to the reality that he is not slowing down.
4. Jimmy Howard’s New Year’s resolution is to put a second half finish on his Vezina-caliber season. Howard leads the NHL with 24 wins. Howard’s 1.99 goals against average is sixth in the NHL just behind J.S. Giguere. His .927 is eighth in the NHL. Howard is locked in a three-goalie tie for second with four shutouts. Howard was the top write-in vote-getter for goaltenders in the All Star game balloting, though that process has become a laughable popularity contest and likely does not mean much to Howard.
3. Kenny Holland and the rest of Detroit’s management’s New Year’s resolution is to use the cap space that it has not had for several seasons to land a top-six forward, a top-four defenseman, and, to a lesser extent, a faceoff specialist at the Trade Deadline to improve the team’s chances of a deep playoff run.
2. Coach Mike Babcock’s New Year’s resolution is to get past the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. While he would never look past the next game, he can taste another playoff season and would like nothing more than to exorcise Detroit’s second-round demons, especially if that exorcism includes humbling former Assistant Coach Todd McClellan and his San Jose Sharks. The Sharks have developed into Red Wings killers in recent years ousting Detroit in the second round each of the last two seasons. Coach Babcock wants to end that streak more than he wants anything else this year.
1. The club, management, coaching staff, team, and City of Detroit’s New Year’s resolution is to parade the Stanley Cup down Woodward Avenue and reestablish Hockeytown on the NHL map.
These resolutions are not exhaustive by any means, but they should be easier to accomplish since they are not self-imposed. Seriously, what fan would rather keep a gym membership, disconnect from the digital world, spend more time with family and significant others, cook more regularly, or learn a new language than take some time on a warm, sunny afternoon in Detroit to parade Stanley?
Statistics and other information obtained at www.nhl.com and www.tsn.ca.
Share your thoughts the Red Wings, the NHL, and hockey in general with Rhys at Twitter: @RREsq. He can be reached via email at RhysJRichards@gmail.com. Join the many fans of The Hockey Guys on Facebook and Twitter @TheHockeyGuys.