Will the Real Detroit Red Wings Please Stand Up!

Of all the teams in the NHL, Detroit baffles us the most (-9.09 AB, 15th NHL).  On the one hand, it appears as if General Manager Ken Holland is a disciple of the Advanced Bracton score.  On the other, part of the team, especially the defense (which we rate as one of the worst in the NHL), is constructed as if he has never heard of puck possession.  We wonder to what extent the wide disparity of performance was a function of the presence (and now departure) of Coach ($50 million dollar) Mike Babcock and if new coach Jeff Blashill will implement wholesale philosophical changes?  It appears, but with nowhere near enough information available to compute a possible dedication to the metrics which underpin the AB, as if Blashill as coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins at least valued two way play throughout the lineup and not just with select forwards.  We wonder if that was part of the impetus behind his hire?

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Blashill stated that he was looking forward to dealing with DET’s character players, citing Datsyuk (+6.93 AB), Zetterberg (-0.43 AB) and Kronwall (-5.81 AB).   While it is undeniable that these players represent the old guard leadership of the Red Wings, other than Datsyuk, the other two were actually detractors from the success of the team.  If we were Blashill, we would be focused on meeting and developing the leadership potential of players like Darren Helm, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Tomas Jurco.  As believers in the AB metric we strongly assert that for the Red Wings to be successful in the future (i.e., making past the first round of the playoffs), they must retool their ENTIRE back line other than Danny DeKeyser (who at a -0.41 actually lead the Red Wings defense in AB, believe it or not).

Accordingly, our calculations demonstrate that Detroit’s top seven defensemen cost the team 28.43 goals at the margin over the course of the season.  Conversely, the aforementioned forwards actually provided 28.6 goals at the margin, essentially wiping out any advantage Detroit may have enjoyed against the top teams in the league (i.e, those with ABS over -9.09).   While their 15th overall AB was good enough to advance to the playoffs, DET is presently a bubble team that could just as easily miss the playoffs next year if wholesale changes are not made to their back end.  The top brass in Detroit must be at least somewhat aware of the need for it to improve team AB given their strict attention to our metric in their top 6-8 forwards but surprisingly total ostensible neglect in front of their goaltending corps.

On a side note, but not totally unrelated, we believe that Darren Helm is to our AB efforts what Steve Swisher and Chad Bradford were to sabermetrics.  In fact it is because of our careful consideration to all things Helm that we were inspired to philosophize about the AB score at its inception.   In that respect we have Mr. Helm to thank for being our Rosetta Stone; not just on the ice, but for our foray into a new manner in which to analyze the sport of hockey.  We are perplexed as to why so many teams seemingly have not yet shared our view of the merits of players like Helm when assessing the signings of free agents, the drafting of young talent, or the management of existing personnel.  Maybe after we prove over a long enough period that AB actually works, is predictive of future outcomes, and most importantly is a “holy grail” secret sauce metric that translates into the maximization of hockey related revenues.  If 2015 is any indication, someday the NHL will be filled with Darren Helms at the expense of the Jakob Kindl’s of the world.  Which one of you Red Wings fans will tell us that would be a bad thing?

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