Red Wings’ lack of boldness again on display at trade deadline

There’s never been a lot of riverboat gambler in Ken Holland.

Holland, the Red Wings’ GM since 1997, has done a lot of things in his 19 years on the job, but making the bold, daring, blockbuster move hasn’t really been one of them.

Holland’s M.O., in the pre-salary cap years, was to open Mike Ilitch’s checkbook every July 1 and hold a press conference a few days later, showing off the newest star to slip on a Red Wings sweater.

Since the cap took effect in 2005, Holland has been the architect of a few signings, but mostly the work has consisted of deadline deals in which the Red Wings give up a prospect and get a veteran in return.

No Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre-type stunners. No multi-team deals involving six players.

Holland has never traded a star for a star. It’s not his style.

This isn’t a complaint, necessarily. The Red Wings have won four Stanley Cups since 1997.

It’s also not just a Ken Holland thing. Big trades in the NHL—those involving high profile players swapping jerseys—have gone the way of drive-in movie theaters and personal accountability.

But if there was ever a year in which Holland should have explored an outside-the-box way of thinking, it was this year.

But alas, as expected, the NHL trade deadline came and went yesterday with no activity from the bowels of Joe Louis Arena—not even a stinking minor deal.

The easiest thing to do, of course, is stand pat when you’re up against the cap, which the Red Wings mostly were. They shed a little more than $2 million by trading defenseman Jakub Kindl to Florida on Saturday, but that’s not a lot of dough if you want to do something significant to the roster.

Unless you consider something bold.

Last year, the Red Wings went up against the high-scoring Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs, and everyone wondered how a rookie goalie would do against such an explosive lineup.

Petr Mrazek tossed two shutouts in the Lightning series, and the reason the Red Wings lost it in seven games had little to do with goaltending and their suspect defense.

De-TROY-it couldn’t put the puck in the net—plain and simple.

The Lightning didn’t score very much, either, but they managed just enough offense to escape.

The Red Wings this season, once again, are offensively challenged. They’re again prone to scoring droughts. A 19 year-old rookie is their leading goal scorer.

It doesn’t get easier to score in the playoffs, you know.

It’s not the Red Wings’ style, but if ever there was a time to consider trading a top-six forward for a top-six forward, it was this year.

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As expected, Holland was quiet on trade deadline day.

It’s going on eight years since the last Stanley Cup was hoisted in Detroit. With our other teams, eight years is like a blink of an eye. But with the Red Wings, who have a different standard, eight years is cause for restlessness.

I can hear some of you now.

Why make a trade for the sake of making a trade?

Hey, why not?

Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to take the snow globe, shake it up, and see what happens.

Look, when I say top-six forward, I’m really only talking about a few guys.

The Red Wings wouldn’t be expected to trade Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk or Justin Abdelkader. Brad Richards, while valuable, is too old to garner much of a return. And The Kid, Dylan Larkin, is as untouchable as they come.

So I’m looking at you, Gustav Nyquist. And you, Tomas Tatar. And you, Riley Sheahan. I might even cast a glance at Darren Helm.

Yes, I know that’s more than six forwards. But with the Red Wings, top-six is a misnomer, because coach Jeff Blashill juggles lines frequently.

One of the reasons he juggles is because the Red Wings are always sniffing for goals.

It would have been out of character for Holland, but it would have been nice to see a trade designed to do nothing other than shake things up.

What have you got to lose?

If you catch lightning in a bottle and you bring over a guy from another organ-eye-ZAY-shun who gets hot wearing the Winged Wheel and keeps it going in the playoffs, wouldn’t you take that?

Yes, that means giving up an everyday player but that’s why they call it bold and risky.

Again, not the Red Wings’ style.

The concerns on the blue line—the lack of a true stud being one of them—is something to be addressed this summer.

But in the playoffs, you shouldn’t worry about keeping the puck out of your own net as much as pumping them past the other team’s goalie.

The Red Wings have trouble scoring on too many nights, and the playoffs aren’t the time or the place to get relief in that area.

The Red Wings played it safe on deadline day. They’ll tell you that nothing came across Ken Holland’s desk that made sense. They’ll say that they didn’t want to disrupt their core guys.

Sigh.

It would have been fun to see the snow globe given a good shake.

Sometimes you have to be bold.

But the Red Wings haven’t done that in over 20 years, so why would they start now?

Where are hockey’s riverboat gamblers?

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“My Three Sons” Providing Jolts of Energy, Scoring for Red Wings

It all started with the Kraut Line.

That’s the first time that an NHL line was given a nickname.

It was Boston’s tag for Bruins forwards Woody Dumart, Milt Schmidt and Bobby Bauer, who played together for most of the 1940s.

The Production Line soon followed.

That was, of course, the identifier of the Red Wings’ trio of, from left to right, Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel and Gordie Howe, who first started playing together in the late-1940s.

Others followed, slowly but surely.

The GAG line (Goal a Game)—the Rangers’ line of the late-1960s, early-1970s: Vic Hadfield, Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert.

The Red Wings had the Production Line II: Frank Mahovlich, Alex Delvecchio and Howe, from 1968-1970.

The French Connection—Buffalo’s lethal 1970s threesome of Richard Martin, Gil Perreault and Rene Robert.

The Red Wings, in the 1990s, even had an entire quintet with a nickname—the Russian Five.

To name a few.

Lines don’t have nicknames as much anymore. Maybe because the modern NHL coach likes to shuffle trios like decks of cards on a nightly basis.

I’d like to change that, with today’s Red Wings.

How does My Three Sons grab you?

The Red Wings have an exciting line going now of LW Tomas Tatar, C Riley Sheahan and RW Gustav Nyquist. Coach Mike Babcock has been granting ice time to this young line (average age of 23) at a more liberal rate, and the coach has been rewarded with hard work, nifty passing, quality scoring chances and a trio that is hard to play against.

How long Babcock chooses to keep the kids together is anyone’s guess, but on a team where injuries have hit hard and goal scoring is at a premium, My Three Sons have been carrying their share of the water lately, and then some.

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(from top to bottom: Tatar, Sheahan, Nyquist—My Three Sons)

Sheahan is the newest of the three, having played in just 16 games this season. But the team’s no. 1 draft pick of 2010 has already chipped in with three goals and seven assists, mostly playing with Tatar (13/11/24) and Nyquist (13/10/23).

It’s been fun watching these youngsters skate circles around opponents, dig pucks out of the corner, and set each other up for goals and near goals.

As an opposing coach, you now have a decision to make. Do you match MTS with your fourth line, or do you grant the Red Wings’ young trio more respect than that?

Going further, the line’s speed, skill and puck instinct makes for a headache as well. All three players seem to exhibit a pretty high hockey IQ.

Nyquist, for one, has eight goals in his last seven games. Many have been assisted by either Tatar or Sheahan.

The silver lining to the cloud of injuries and unexpected lack of production from many of the Red Wings’ veteran forwards is that more ice time has been available to so many Grand Rapids Griffins.

But so many of the Griffins-turned-Red Wings are proving that they’re not borderline NHLers—they’re legitimate and are to be reckoned with.

My Three Sons.

What do you think?