Blown leads. Sloppy play. Lazy effort. All could be used to describe the Detroit Red Wings play thus far in 2010. While the Wings have had several injuries to battle through, this play comes at a time when the team has been nearly the healthiest it has been all year. Players like Filppula, Cleary, Zetterberg, Williams and Ericsson have all returned to the line-up and resumed playing lots of minutes in each game. But somehow, the Red Wings are struggling more now than they have all season. It’s become hard to watch. But who is to blame?
The high-energy puck possession game the Red Wings used to win the Stanley Cup in 2008 and reach the Stanley Cup Finals again in 2009 has all but disappeared. No one on the team blamed injuries, but fans were quick to use it as an excuse. However, it has become clear that the squad clearly lacks motivation at this point. This team has struggled gaining motivation not since losing the game 7 last spring, but since the Stanley Cup Finals began against Pittsburgh. While skill alone was enough to bring them within one game of back-to-back Championships, lack of energy, desperation and motivation is what broke the Wings.
Mike Babcock is arguably the best coach in the NHL. He has been to the Stanley Cup finals three times in only six seasons as an NHL head coach. In a week, he will lead the Canadian Olympic squad to Vancouver in an attempt to win a gold medal. But while he has been successful in the past, he has not been able to light a fire under the Wings since last season. The Wings need that fire in order to compete the rest of the season and make the playoffs.
After blowing a three goal lead to Los Angeles yesterday, Babcock was quite calm when interviewed after the game. “We made some mistakes, gave them two freebies, but other than that I didn’t mind our game,’’ Babcock said. “We had two power plays in the third period. The game’s on the line, we’d like to get one and win the game.’’ How can a coach be so calm after a game like that? Where is the energy? The passion and desperation to win? With only 24 games left, the Wings currently sit 9th in the west, with Dallas, Minnesota, Anaheim and St. Louis right on their tail. Now is a better time than ever for Babcock to light into his players and get them to play like they’re capable of, with or without injuries.
Is Mike Babcock on the hot seat in Detroit? If things don’t turn around soon, I would certainly think so. Perhaps a coaching change is just what the Wings need to change their tempo. The Penguins replaced Michel Therrien last season as the team slumped to a 27-25-5 start. The replacement, Dan Bylsma, recorded an 18-3-4 record after taking over, and eventually lead the Penguins to a Stanley Cup.