The next two seasons of the Detroit Red Wings’ rebuild depends largely on the development of the defensive corps.
The Detroit Red Wings defensive corps is a large reason for why they have not found success in the last two seasons. Icing a single first-pairing defenseman and five third-pairing (press box or AHL) quality defensemen every night is not a winning formula. Giving up 310 goals against (31st in the league) is less than ideal to say the least. The goaltending can only withstand the pressure for so long before it breaks down as we saw with Alex Nedeljkovic in February and March this season.
Thin center depth can only hustle back to cover defensive lapses for so long before they become worn down as well. Equally important is that Red Wings’ blue liners scored only 20 goals (32nd in the league). The oft-discussed issue of secondary scoring was not entirely due to the second and third forward lines, but near-zero production from defensemen. Goaltending, center play, and secondary scoring will improve dramatically with a talented and dynamic new defense corps.
Improved defensive and breakout systems from a new coaching staff might paper over some of the problems, but not nearly enough. Initiative-taking, playmaking, puck-possessing defensemen were not consistent with Jeff Blashill’s low-event hockey. Yet, the talent was not available to run any other style. On great teams, the defense drives the bus. This year’s incarnation of the defense has the potential to push the play, initiate rather than respond, make decisions, play with composure, and take the pressure off shaky forward scoring depth. Help is on the way. Perhaps.
Here are three keys to rebuilding the defense.