The RedWings organization has been almost universally praised for almost 20 years for being the model of excellence. They used all facets of team building to maintain the highest level of competitiveness in the NHL. Draft, trade, and free agency all supplied key players.
Detroit has been given a lot of credit for their ability to draft in the late round and their development program, but honestly I think too much has been made of that. The fact is t hat if Detroit knew Zetterberg was going to be a Star they would have taken him in the 1st round. The fact that such a disproportionate number of quality players came from late rounds has really glossed over the fact their early picks have not turned out.
Turning an eye towards their development program I think its easy to say they were patient with many of their Euro draft picks, but the truth is the RedWings have been good for such a long time that they had the luxury of time. Those Detroit teams were so stacked that they didnt have roster spots for the kids until they were legitimately deserving of them. This is, of course, in stark contrast to the Oilers who have MADE spots open for untested players for the past 3-4 years. I think all teams would love to be so good that their prospects cant crack the roster until they are real difference makers, pretty tough to do when your team is filled with Patrick O’Sulllivans and Ethan Moreaus.
I would actually like to turn my focus right now on the 5’11” 198 pound center who didnt start to break out until he was 23. Yes, I would like to turn an eye to
Sam Gagner Pavel Datsyuk.
I wonder how many RedWing fans would have been all over management in Detroit to trade Datsyuk before he turned 24 if he had been playing in the NHL since he was 18. Just another diminutive centre that wasnt putting up enough points to be a 1st line guy. Pavel was allowed to ripen on the vine, so to speak, and came into the NHL when conditions were favourable. He has since turned into a point a game player in his mid 30’s. He has unreal skill on the ice and will be counted on more than ever this season for the RedWings. This year the Oilers own 5’11” 200 pound center is actually outscoring Datsyuk, but is somehow still the name thrown out in trade speculation. ~Everybody knows you cant win with 5’11” 200 pound centers, right Datsyuk, Giroux, and Crosby?~
This version of the Detroit RedWings is facing an issue they have avoided for 15 years. They are finally aging and have been unable to replace or replenish the parts that become outdated. They seemed to avoid aging for so long, but Lidstrom WAS ageless. I think he will go down in history as the greatest European defenseman of all time and probably no lower than 5th All Time. He was so important to that club it’s hard not to link their struggles to his absence. Of course that’s only part of it. The RedWings’ best players are almost all over 30 and the young guys they have on the club look like tweeners instead of legitimate NHL options.
I think the era of the RedWings is coming to a close. This club should start to look pretty unexceptional moving forward.
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) The Early Shift
The Oilers need to adapt to another early afternoon game. This has been a problem in the past and Jason Strudwick explains why its such a problem for NHL athletes. The RedWings are in the same boat, but if you throw in the change of time zone this game will feel earlier for the Oilers. Lets hope that the team of Nutritionsts, Trainers, and Coaches have a plan to have the team peak at the right time.
2) Stay Healthy
Good grief, these Edmonton Oilers need to stop the parade of players leaving games injured. Lander broke his foot and will be gone for a month and with Belanger and Horc still out Vandevelde has gotten the call-up. He wasnt in practice yesterday so the lines that Krueger threw out will likely not make it to the ice without some revision, but no matter what the combinations are I dont think the Oilers can withstand more losses, especially to another C.
3) Specialty Teams
The special teams matchup favours the Oilers. Detroit’s Power Play is only running at 12% and their Penalty Kill is a woeful 69.6%. To say the Oilers must take advantage of that mismatch is a gross understatement. The Oil cant seem to get much done at evens, but they are still a force on special teams. Failure to take advantage of this will make a W in Hockeytown much more difficult.
The Puck drops at 12:10 PM Mountain time on CBC. Game On!