The Red Wings have some real obvious problems on defense– but a lesser mentioned problem seems to be that the Wings have scored just 4 goals in three games.
The Top line is doing most of the damage; Pavel Datsyuk has three points in as many games, and Brunner and Zetterberg have combined for 28 shots thus far.
After that it really starts to tail off in productivity (Franzen and Cleary combine for 22 PIMS for whatever that’s worth).
Not that the lines have been fluid in these first few games anyway, but I think there is a real obvious way to make your first two lines truly potent.
Everybody’s heard about the magic Brunner and Zetterberg created over in Europe during the lockout, but if you can harken back to last spring there was another budding bromance on this team:
Datsyuk and Gustav Nyquist.
The two should be sewn together at the hip for the remainder of Datsyuk’s career here in Detroit.
Remember Nyquist’s first NHL goal?
Nyquist started the season out in Grand Rapids, and as I’ve mentioned before, excelled in the “Super AHL.” He has speed that many potential line mates of Datsyuk sorely lack and an apparent “click” with Pavel to boot. The Red Wings of old would let him get over ripe, but this team lacks speed so much it hurts. Adding a guy like him brings a skill set consistent with the NHL in 2013, and not what the game was in 2008. Keep him up in the NHL and these could be your top two lines:
This line would be a tough combo to go into corners with and come out with the puck. When confidence is up, Franzen would have plenty of open ice to take over a game. Not the strongest as a whole defensively, but Datsyuk’s faceoff ability and general puck magnitism should keep them out of trouble.
Filppula and Zetterberg are obviously two very gifted two way forwards. I don’t know a ton a bout Brunner’s defensive prowess, but I have seen him shoot the puck (and skate to the penalty box). This combo screams versatility. depending on how opponents are matching up this line could be counted on as a shut down line or be leaned on for goal scoring.
As for the bottom six forwards, they’ve all pretty much been a lump of useless aside from Tootoo. Whether you liked the addition or not, he has played his energy role effectively and most importantly hasn’t turned his zealous into any major PK time.
I’ve been picking on Dan/Danny/Daniel Cleary for his constant name changes and lack of production for a while now, but one thing is clear early on this season: Cleary is a step slow and it is causing him to take penalties. I am not a doctor, so I can’t really say if he’s still feeling the effects from his offseaon surgery, just rusty because of the lock out, or bottoming out from the slide he’s been on since his 26 goal season. I’m not sure how the line-up shakes out when everybody is healthy, but if I had to pick one person to sit for sure (granted, three games in) it would be Daniel Cleary.
Nobody asked me, but here is how I’d go with the bottom-six based on three games (That seems fair, right?)
Eaves/Samuelsson, Helm, Bertuzzi
If you’ve ever played “Ice Hockey” on the NES, this is the classic “Medium, Skinny, Fat” combo. Eaves has looked OK in his return, and of the Drew Miller clones has shown the best hands of the bunch. This skews more toward a checking line, but still has an explosive play element to it. Rotate in Samuelsson for Eaves and you have a pretty formidable third tier scoring line, but you’ve suddenly lost a lot on defense. I am not convinced Samuelsson will be healthy enough to stay put here.
Eaves/ Cleary/Miller/,Abdelkader, Tootoo
Abdelkader and Tootoo hit things and provide energy. The other emphasis here should be defensive liability and for that I prefer Drew Miller here. Miller isn’t a dazzler, but is typically pretty safe with the puck. If Dan Cleary gets his legs he could be pretty effective on this line as well. Just make a couple hits, ramp up the energy and get off the ice.