To Trade or Promote from Within

By Rhys Richards (@RREsq)

Entering back-to-back away games against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks this afternoon and tomorrow night, the Detroit Red Wings is reeling after a two-game losing streak culminated by a resounding beating at the hands of the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.

Detroit is 9-7-1 and are very much in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference. And yet, that is not good enough.

Like so many teams in the early part of the season, the Red Wings are still searching for their identity. They may be the scoring powerhouse that scored 36 goals and averaged four goals per game in its nine wins.  They may be the offensively-challenged team that scored nine goals and averaged just over a goal per game in its eight losses.

In San Jose on Thursday night, Justin Abdelkader was promoted to the first line and was part of a Wings-dominated first period. Similarly, Fabian Brunnstrom played for the first time in several games with fellow youngster Cory Emmerton and looked good.

With Ian White out with a fractured cheekbone, rookie defenseman Brendan Smith, fresh off of his five-game suspension, started his first NHL game and was on the ice for the first shift. He certainly did not look out of place. The youth injection, however, could not prevent some key turnovers and weak backchecking in the second period, which saw the Sharks take a 4-1 lead.

After the game, Coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit Free Press, “We’ve got to have a discussion as a group.”

He summarized the team’s current conundrum perfectly when he said, “do we want to be a good team or not? Like, life just doesn’t go on good for you. You make a decision it’s going to go good for you. You decide for yourself that you’re going to be successful; you decide for yourself that you’re going to make a difference; you decide for yourself that you’re going to have a good career.”

Babcock added, “No one just gives you stuff. Actually, the other team is trying, too. So we’ve got to make some decisions.”

AP File Photo

While General Manager Kenny Holland reported no trade talks at the recent meeting of NHL GMs, Detroit is likely to explore its options should the team continue its up and down roller-coaster ride of a season.

Should the Red Wings look to trade to shake things up, possible trade bait could include Jiri Hudler, Patrick Eaves, and Drew Miller. If Detroit looks for a more significant return, it could dangle top prospects Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar, or Gustav Nyquist. A potential addition to any trade package could also include rising prospect Calle Jarnkrok, newcomer Tomas Jurco, and young Finn Teemu Pulkkinen.

Detroit is likely to be a player at the Trade Deadline for the first time in several seasons. Fans should not be surprised to see the team make a significant addition. Names like Weber and Parise have been mentioned by various commentators. The Deadline is a long way off, so only time will tell what materializes.

In the meantime, expect Detroit to promote from within and rely on their youth to provide the occasional energy injection and push under-performing veterans. The Red Wings will only enter into an early season trade as a last resort.

The Red Wings square off against the Kings a 4 pm EST today. Goaltender Jimmy Howard will get his eleventh straight start and will look to rebound after allowing four goals, albeit all four arguably not his fault, on 21 shots.

* Statistics available at http://redwings.nhl.com.     

Share your thoughts on the Red Wings and the NHL with Rhys at Twitter: @RREsq.  You can also reach me via email at RhysJRichards@gmail.com.  Join the many fans of The Hockey Guys on Facebook and Twitter @TheHockeyGuys.

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