It’s no mystery in the fact that the Red Wings’ early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs brings plenty of speculation in regards to what needs to be addressed going into next season.
Both Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard played well during the regular season and even with an early exit, they played well in the playoffs against the Lightning. Regardless of your outlook on the goaltending situation, all of the blame can’t be directed towards the men between the pipes.
The defense deserves to have a lot of the blame placed on them as well.
There were countless occasions during the regular season and into the playoffs where it seemed as both Petr and Jimmy were being hung out to dry. They would get no support from the defense and if they did, the puck would just end up being turned over, which would lead to a Grade A scoring chance for the opposing team.
Without question, the back-end needs the be addressed for the Wings.
From the regular 6 to 7 defensemen that suited up for Detroit last season, guys like Jonathan Ericsson and Kyle Quincey can be a players that the Wings move on from and free up a couple roster spots. Veteran Niklas Kronwall is getting opinions on his bad knees. At age 35, the wear and tear of the NHL have seemed to take a toll on Kronwall.
That in itself should send a message to GM Ken Holland about needing to upgrade your defense.
Mike Green didn’t seem to live up the expectations that were tied to him when he signed a 3-year deal to come to Detroit, but I still see him being apart of the Wings’ blue line come next season. Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith and Alexey Marchenko’s spots are safe and I see them all being in the defensive mix for Hockeytown next season.
So, that leaves two, possibly three open spots on the back-end that can be consumed by a more reliable contributor on defense.
The problem can be solved by staying in house and bringing up the likes of Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul. It will finally give them a chance with the big club that they rightfully deserve. Spots on the Wings’ roster have been at a premium for quite sometime and guys like Ouellet and Sproul are on the outside looking in. They are NHL ready, but can’t seem to make it to the NHL because there is just no room for them.
The other option could be going the path of free agancy.
Keith Yandle and Kris Russell are two very intriguing names that are upcoming unrestricted free agents.
Yandle excels on the the power play. He led all New York Ranger defensemen in points (47) in 2015-16.
Russell is a tremendous shot blocker. He logs lots of minutes and stays out of the penalty box.
Both players are free to explore other options and go elsewhere, if Ken Holland wants to add stability to the Red Wings’ defense, he should make a call to Yandle and Russell both to try and land them in Hockeytown.
Landing both probably isn’t going to occur, but adding at least one of them would be a boost to a position that has seemed to lag ever since the late, great Nicklas Lidstrom hung up his skates in 2012.
It will surely be an interesting off-season in the Motor City, let’s hope it’s one that gets us pumped for next season instead of being left scratching our heads.
What do you think, Nation, is defense a top priority of the Red Wings’ off-season to-do list? Sound off!