You Know The Pistons Are Losing, But Why Are The Red Wings Struggling?
The Detroit Pistons and their long (and still active) losing streak has reached "National Story" proportions. It's featured prominently on every national sportscast, let alone every sportscast in the State of Michigan.
But underneath that, the other Detroit sports team that plays their games in the fall, winter, and spring, the Detroit Red Wings, has struggled badly to go from second place in the Atlantic Division to completely out of the playoffs as we get close to the halfway point of the regular season.
As of this writing (the afternoon of December 29), the Winged Wheelers are 16-15-4 and have fallen three points out of the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Red Wings are 2-8-1 in their last 11 games. And have only won one game with new acquisition Patrick Kane (pictured above) in the lineup.
Some may blame Kane for their struggles, but they shouldn't. The future Hall of Famer has played well so far. He's got 11 points in 11 games played (6 goals, 5 assists). He's the least of their problems, IMO. Here are the issues plaguing them.
GOALIE PLAY & INJURIES
They are intertwined really. Injuries to goalies Ville Husso and Alex Lyon have hurt them. And while they haven't been great, you'd rather have them on the ice than not. The team has resorted to playing 35 year old James Reimer the bulk of the games with the injuries and he's struggled. Although Lyon is back healthy now.
The injury suffered by team captain Dylan Larkin in the San Jose game a few weeks back threw the team for a loop. He just coming back now. Other injuries to forwards Klim Kostin, J.T. Compher, and Joe Veleno haven't helped.
This unit has been disappointing. The signing of Jeff Petry, and re-signing of Olli Maata haven't worked. And they've had too many defensive lapses that have resulted in goals for the other team. Even Mo Seider, one of the best defensemen in the league, hasn't been as good this year (although he is still excellent). Their problems have contributed to the goalie issues.
LACK OF A PHYSICAL PRESENCE
The Red Wings still don't have a physically dominant presence up front or on the blue line. Remember last year when the Ottawa Senators physically bullied the Wings into two blowout losses last February? It prompted team president Steve Yzerman to sell off assets at the trade deadline. And he still hasn't addressed it. That's on Stevie Y, as much as I admire and respect him.
DON'T FREAK OUT YET
Yes, be concerned. But don't freak out yet. They have 47 games left to right the ship and turn things around. Alex DeBrincat has been great. The more Patrick Kane plays, the better he'll be. And Dylan Larkin just keeps playing at a high level when he's in there.
THEY NEED TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS THIS YEAR
This is Year 5 of the long rebuild that was necessary for the Red Wings. While they aren't a legitimate Stanley Cup contender yet, they are in the stage of development where they need to be in the playoffs this coming spring. And every year for the foreseeable future.
If they don't, you have to start asking questions about Steve Yzerman and second-year head coach Derek Lalonde and the direction the team is headed. I'm NOT saying fire either one of them, but start asking legit questions to them and about them.
Because missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year is failure, regardless of the issues I mentioned above.