The Detroit Red Wings are the hottest team in hockey right now. This is an undeniable fact. The Wings are boasting the NHL’s best record, picking up significant accolades along the way.
A week ago, the Wings had a record 21-straight wins at home. That number changed to 23 Sunday, but an asterisk remains next to it in the record books. This is because the Wings have yet to have an opponent break the streak as of Monday.
One of the reasons for this success has been the players’ lasting durability. Because the Wings have yet to catch the injury bug they seem to attract seemingly every year, the ability to use four complete lines has been a strength.
Top to bottom, Detroit has one of the most complete rosters in the NHL. Depth has never been an issue since Ken Holland took over as General Manager in 1997. The ability to stay healthy strengthens its completeness.
The issue, especially since the Wings haven’t got back to the Stanley Cup, has been the age gap.
During the Stanley Cup runs in 2002 and 2008, Detroit had a healthy balance of not-too-old veterans and young guns. They were also the New York Yankees of the NHL, even when the salary cap forced the Wings to look for good deals in the free agency market, but not necessarily the best players.
Having veteran players, especially on the backside, like Dominik Hasek, Chris Osgood and Chris Chelios, the Red Wings had the versatility to make deep playoff runs on a consistent basis.
I would like to see Holland get out and make a deal prior to the trade deadline to add even more depth for an even deeper playoff run than last year. The Wings are one player away from being truly unstoppable in an extremely competitive Western Conference.
I see two potential options on the table for Holland to choose from in this year’s cream of the crop deadline stable: Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash and New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise. With roughly $15 million in cap room, the Wings have no issues in terms of affordability.
Since the Blue Jackets are looking for goaltending, it is probably safe to say the Wings won’t be shopping Nash because of Detroit’s interest in keeping current goaltender Jimmy Howard. Plus, since Howard simply isn’t on the level of Buffalo Sabre’s goaltender Ryan Miller, Columbus would likely want another player in the deal.
I see Zach Parise as an option. Parise is comparable to Datsyuk in that he is a defensive-minded forward with incredible plus/minus splits.
Parise also addresses another need for Detroit – he can hit. Besides defenseman Niklas Kronwall, the Red Wings don’t have the bullpen of MMA fighters when it comes to guys who can lay a hit. It’s important to note that Darren McCarty, despite numerous efforts to return to prominence in the NHL, will not be available to return as the token Red Wings “enforcer.”
If nothing works out, and the Red Wings cannot add one of the two blue chip trade targets, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina might have to suffice as someone who can add depth to an aging group of defensemen.
The Wings don’t have a problem with complete depth, but the injury bug is something that has sidelined Detroit’s superstars in the past. With only a few months in the season to go, it’s time for Holland to turn a surprisingly successful team into a playoff contender.
If the Red Wings finish the season in first place in the Western Conference, they are guaranteed home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Considering the record-breaking year this team is having, who’s to say Detroit can’t make a run for Stanley Cup number 12?