Detroit is a storied franchise, rich in talent that is often found in sewers in Sweden and other places. That talent is then fostered and coddled in Grand Rapids usually to emerge into the NHL as legitimate talent...most of the time. That said, the 90's and much of the last decade alone have been pretty phenomenal for Detroit. Championship after championship. Trophy after trophy. Hall of fame player being inducted to the HHOF too.
I reached out to the folks at WIIM and they pawned off Kyle to answer my dumb questions about the Red Wings to set the stage for tonight's game.
If you don't know Kyle, let me introduce him to you the best way I can. He writes for the prestigious Winging It In Motown on SBNation who cover the Detroit Red Wings. He's a pretty good dude who likes pizza, has a cool dog, and gives some very fair analysis on hockey.
Tell me who you are and what you do; and why you love the Red Wings
My name is Kyle, I'm a part-time writer, and a full-time computer engineer. I like the Red Wings because I grew up here in Detroit, and it's in my bloody. My family would probably yell at me if I didn't, to be honest.
Detroit despite a lot of concern prior to the season are sitting pretty well; 5th in the East and 3rd in the Atlantic. What's been their secret to success this season?
Mike Babcock's system, and a slew of talented forwards who are hungry to make a name for themselves. They picked up right where they left off last season. Mike Babcock's system of superior shot-suppression systematics has lifted Detroit in most of their victories this season. If you look at the way players like Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan have progressed, a lot of that is due to Mr. Babcock. Also, the players themselves are pretty good to begin with.
The Detroit blueline has been subject to a lot of concern over the last few seasons (notably since Swedish god Nicklas Lidstrom retired); does Detroit have any defensemen on the horizon that will be heralded in as the next great defender?
Honestly? Not really. Xavier Ouellet has the potential to be an extremely effective player in the future, but outside of that.. There is much uncertainty. Ryan Sproul (AHL) and Brendan Smith are very gifted players, but they need to learn how to not have all the brain farts that they do. It comes in time, but Smith needs to figure it out soon. The over-ripened develop process of Detroit is something many people fawn over. Is it all it's cracked up to be? Or is it frustrating as a fan seeing prospects have to wait a bit longer?
It's frustrating, sure.. But players like Nyquist, and Tatar are pretty good examples here.. It works. They're in a stick situation with Teemu Pulkkinen, who is the most prolific scoring prospect they have ever had at the AHL level. He's out of options at the end of the season, and there's not much room. So there are some serious decisions to be made by management.
Numbers time, Kyle. I hope your excel spreadsheets are good. Detroit (as of Tuesday) was 4th in CF% at ES at 53.56% and 5th at 5 v 5 at 53.18. What has been their secret to driving possession and generating shot attempts?
I like to watch the games, nerd. I don't read no numbers or think any thoughts. Just kidding. I think a big contributing factor there is the way Babcock tends to deploy his players. He shelters talented players like Tatar or Sheahan, and very seldom are they in the negative for their fancy maths.
He does the same for his less fortunate defenders like Jakub Kindl, or Brian Lashoff. One of my favorite "Babcockisms" is "play defense fast so that you're always playing offense." He always focuses on moving the puck out of their own zone quickly and crisply. One to two passes, and get down the ice. That helps, too.
What can we expect from Jimmy Howard for the rest of the season?
I wish I could tell you, but certainly a bounce-back from what happened last season. He regressed hardcore, and has been pretty sound so far this season. He is an extremely underrated goalie, who at times, seems to get very spotty support in terms of his team scoring goals. He's been real bad in the shootout, but to his defense, the entire team has.
Keep in mind, you guys are getting Petr Mrazek tonight. He's real good. You guys played Edmonton last night, how did you feel about their play against our rivals of the north who happen to suck a bit less lately? What can I say that hasn't already been said? Edmonton is so poorly ran on a myriad of levels.
The entire organization's management infrastructure is a mess, the team is a mess, and the fans simply don't deserve that. They played well against us at times last night, and gave us a scare. But the power-play kinda took over their ability to get out of the game with a point.
Do you expect any significant moves at the deadline for Detroit?
I think there might be one, which could likely even come before the deadline. We all know the Tyler Myers rumor, which just won't die. But I think Ken Holland is trying to keep a poker face with that situation, and I really hope he doesn't break before Buffalo does. Myers has been bad, but under Babcock's system, that could change.
Let's take a step away from hockey and discuss something coming up on January 28th which is Bell's annual "Let's Talk Day". Last year, I stumbled across your personal experiences and opinions on mental illness; and it really connected with me. For hockey fans on Twitter and reading this who are struggling personally or someone they know is struggling, do you have any personal advice or words of wisdom?
You're not alone, and there is no shame or stigma in what you're going through. The only way to get better is to take baby steps. Make yourself comfortable with talking to someone about it, and go for it. Whether it's family, friends, a therapist.. Accept that nothing is wrong with you, and that there are others who want to help you.
To end on a positive note, what is your favourite kind of pizza?
Any kind. Haha! I tend to love the New York style slice. Fold it up, and go to town. I am happy with just pepperoni. Call me a simple man.. However, the Detroit-style deep dish pizza is bangin'. Buddy's Detroiter represent!
Thanks for taking time to answer these questions, Kyle. Definitely check out his writing and stick around here for our game thread, post-game coverage, and our stats recap tomorrow morning.