It has been a long summer, but hockey is almost here. Last year at this time, I gave my predictions for the Eastern Conference. I had some good picks (Tampa, Detroit, Islanders) but also had some huge misses (New Jersey, Boston, Washington). With such obvious room for improvement and another season coming up, I am back to try again.
August 10, 2015
This off season Ken Holland got his right-handed defenseman when he signed Mike Green to a 3-year deal. Despite playing a reduced role, Green scored an impressive 45 points in only 72 games making him seem like an ideal fit for the Wings. However, some critics bemoaned the deal, pointing to Green’s playoff struggles against the New York Rangers. Some believe the Rangers’ comeback was due to targeting and exploiting Mike Green. If the Rangers found the book on Green, Ken Holland may have paid good money for a diminished asset.
July 8, 2015
In every men’s league game, you are sure to find the one player. The older gentleman who could play in the 40+ league, but still laces them up with the 20 and 30 year olds. Lacking speed and strength he continues to wrack up the points and be an effective player. Now 35 years old, Brad Richard is this older gentleman.
As he has aged the biggest critique is Richard’s lack of speed. Interestingly, when watching the tape his top end speed is much better than I had expected. The problem is that he rarely uses this burst, electing to save his energy for the one time it is absolutely necessary. Similarly, his game lacks any sort of physicality, rather than engaging in the battle, he waits for the puck to come loose. Due to these physical deficiencies his wingers do a lot of the dirty work. His wingers were almost always the first ones on the forecheck and the backcheck. Even in the defensive zone the wingers come down lower than most, preventing the opposition from exploiting Richard’s lack of foot speed. However, against a threatening cycle this can cause Richards and the defenders to run around the defensive zone, opening up opportunities for the opposition.
Despite these deficiencies Brad Richards remains an extremely effective player because of his incredible on-ice intelligence. He does not need to work particularly hard defensively because he is almost always in the right spot. In addition to always being in the opposition’s passing lane, he is incredibly skilled at knocking pucks out of the air, breaking up passes and disrupting the opposition’s attack. Since he lacks the speed necessary to create opportunities for himself, he relies on his ability to find the dead areas of open space. When he has the puck his vision and patience is elite, particularly on the powerplay. He is an incredibly skilled passer, so skilled that he has a tendency to over-pass despite possessing a very good shot. In addition to always finding his teammates he is excellent at putting the puck into open spaces where his teammates are sure to get to it first.
Thankfully for Richards and the Red Wings he is perfectly suited for Detroit's roster and style of play. Although his lack of physical attributes make him more of a complementary player, the Wings have an abundance of top 6 wingers, particularly if Datsyuk and Zetterberg play together. Playing with two skilled, speedy wingers like Tatar, Helm, Nyquist or Abdelkader should hide Richards’ weakness while allowing opportunity to demonstrate his strengths. While not the same player point per game player he once was, Richards is a great addition to the team and Ken Holland deserves a lot of credit for bringing him to Hockeytown.
July 2, 2015
With the signing of Brad Richards, the Red Wings have a surplus of top 9 forwards. Based on his quotes, Holland sees Datsyuk, Richards and Sheahan as the top 3 centers meaning Zetterberg, Tatar, Nyquist, Franzen, Abdelkader, Helm, Pulkkinen and Jurco are competing for the remaining spots in the top 9. With so much competition, there is little opportunity for the Red Wing’s super prospect Dylan Larkin to crack the lineup. However, Red Wing history has shown us a possible blueprint for getting Larkin into the lineup despite the aforementioned players.
June 30, 2015
This year's class of free agents could be one of the worst in recent memory. With every team signing stars to long-term extensions, the remaining free agents are complementary players at best. However, these complementary players still get big paydays on July 1st as General Managers scramble to improve their squad. Despite the lack of depth in this years class, there are a few players that fans have suggested signing to deals to improve the team. Most of these suggested targets are overvalued and should never be seen in Detroit, and while I would consider others, there is only one player that I believe Ken Holland could and should sign to become a member of the Detroit Red Wings.