COMMENTARY | Three games into the 2012-13 NHL season, and the Detroit Red Wings clearly are not as strong as they have been in seasons past.
However, I believe this team still has the capability of putting together a winning season and making the playoffs.
Here are three reasons the Red Wings have struggled in their first three games:
Special teams are nonexistent
The Red Wings have been on the power play 15 times this season and have yet to score a goal. Couple that with the fact they have been shorthanded 14 times and allowed six power-play goals for a penalty killing percentage of 57.1 - good for 28th in the league - and it's easy to see why the Red Wings are 1-2 this season. In fact, I'd say they are lucky to be 1-2 as they needed a shootout to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday.
Special teams are killing this team. They can't score when they have the man advantage, and they are giving their opponents too many opportunities to score on the power play.
Normally, a team takes penalties when they are being outworked by the opposition. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said it best when he told NHL.com after the Dallas Stars game on Tuesday, "I thought we looked like we were out of gas. The best guys we had were the ones who have been playing in the AHL. Aside from that, we really didn't have much zip in us."
The shortened training camp clearly has had an effect on the Red Wings. Obviously, the entire league had the same amount of time for training camp, but the Red Wings have been unable to adjust as quickly as the rest of the league has.
Kyle Quincey and Brendan Smith are struggling on defense
Kyle Quincey had a rough game against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. Two of the first three goals happened because he got burned by Russian rookie Vladimir Tarasenko.
Quincey already has a minus-4 rating just three games into the season. Just off the top of my head, I can think of two to three breakaways that happened because forwards have skated past him, or because long stretch passes have resulted in breakaways.
Brendan Smith is looking more and more like a rookie every game. He's paired on a line with Quincey, which already is hurting his plus/minus numbers (Smith has a minus-2). It's obvious when you watch the games Smith has been taken out of his comfort zone, and teams have been able to exploit that.
The other problem is neither of these defensemen are pure defenders. They both like to jump into the play to create scoring opportunities. I have no problem with that, but Smith is too inexperienced to know when to jump in and when not to and Quincey hasn't shown the skill to be able to do that and play sound defense like Nicklas Lidstrom could.
Both of these players should be paired with a more defensive-minded defenseman. This will allow them to take those scoring opportunities, but still have support in case things break down.
Injuries already are piling up
As of Wednesday, January 23, the Red Wings had nine players on the injury list. Granted, a couple of those players - namely Jan Mursak, Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm - were out before the shortened season even started.
The Red Wings have lost Jakub Kindl, Carlo Colaiacovo, Mikael Samuelsson, Jonas Gustavsson, Jonathan Ericsson and Ian White in the first three games. That's four defensemen on a blue line that already lacks any depth.
Whether it is bad luck, the short training camp or a combination of the two, the Red Wings are hurting for healthy bodies. It's hard to get any sort of chemistry with linemates when new people are in and out of the lineup on a daily basis.
If the Red Wings can get healthy and get some consistency, they can string a few wins together and turn the season around.
How do the Red Wings turn things around?
First of all, they need to shoot the puck more on the power play. After the Stars game, Babcock told NHL.com, "I thought the power play tonight was terrible. We pass it around and pass it around and pass it around."
The Red Wings are too busy looking for the perfect pass when they should be shooting and looking for rebounds. Garbage goals are worth just as much as pretty goals. Get the puck on the net and look for second-chance opportunities.
On the defensive side, the penalties need to come down. They are averaging about five per night and getting scored on the majority of them. The penalties will dip when players have their feet under them.
The harder they work, the less hooking, holding and tripping they will have to do to slow down the opposition.
I also think general manager Ken Holland needs to make a move for a big-time defenseman. I think the signing of Kent Huskins is a short-term fix, which could be used to make a long-term fix as the trade deadline approaches.
The Red Wings missed on Ryan Suter and Shea Weber in the offseason, and it's clear just how badly they needed either of those two. Huskins is not the answer, but he could be the key that gets the Red Wings some much-needed depth on defense.
Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who has followed the Red Wings and the NHL since the 1993-94 season. He is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter @tom_mitsos.
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