The upcoming 2012-2013 season, whenever it begins, is going to be a true test of the Detroit Red Wings ability to adapt to a new era. There will be no “Perfect Human” logging a solid 25 minutes a night on the back line and quarterbacking the power play, as the only role Nick Lidstrom will be playing is that of a scout and cheerleader all the way from Sweden. In addition, top-4 D-man Brad Stuart will not be securing the second line, meaning either newly acquired Kyle Quincey or raved prospect Brendan Smith will need to take on newer and bigger responsibilities. The summary of this being one thing: the new Red Wings are going to have to learn a new way to compete.
Even with Lidstrom and Stuart in the lineup last year, the power play for the Red Wings was abysmal at the end of the season. This continued in the playoffs – partly due to great saves by Pekka Rinne – but also in great part to telegraphed passes, sloppy offensive-zone entries, and an inability to finish. There was also a sense that the Wings simply took too many offensive risks last year, allowing almost constant odd-man rushes. Too often we saw defensemen pinching or passes going astray when a few years ago the same mistakes would rarely occur.
Coach Mike Babcock does not allow lines to stay the same or pairs to get too comfortable with one another if the results do not come. There is little doubt he is gearing up this season for some changes both in the lineup as well as the mentality of the team. It is not that the Wings do not have solid offensively and defensively talent, it is simply a fact that in order to have a successful season, these Wings must play solid fundamental hockey.
If there is a man who can turn around the psyche of a talented team quickly, Babcock is the coach. He did so with a severely underachieving Canadian national team in 2010, and there is little doubt he can pull out a solid contender from these Red Wings. Hockeytown may not be as flashy as in past years, but fear not that they will be in full flight once the season is underway.