A postmortem analysis of what went right/wrong for the red Wings this season and in the playoffs. In short, the Red Wings are plagued by that which ails much of the rest of the NHL; a shortage of mistake minimizing defensemen. Looking at the Wings, the problems are clear – Ericsson, Quincey, Kronwall, Smith, Green and DeKeyser combined cost the wings about 44 goals at the margin this year, adjusted for time on ice. Quincey and DDK are free agents in some form this year. If they each depart, that is likely a positive. The challenge becomes filling the minutes with players that will be less negative with other defensemen in the league who are not just as bad, if not worse. In the event the same personnel remain, a different coaching approach may be required that may be less aggressive and more attentive in the defensive end.
Moreover, the Wings will probably lose Darren Helm as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and the Pavel Datsyuk era is over. These are both important because each combined to produce about 12 goals at the margin combined, and thereby offset defensive lapses. As such, the Wings have the additive problem of replacing goal makers as well as goal takers.
All hope is not lost. If DET can get aggressive on the UFA and possible the restricted free agent (RFA) front, they may be able to extend their playoff appearance streak. An additional positive is that Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou should actually improve from the torrid marginal goal making pace each was on this year (AA needs to be out there for 15 minutes per game at least, up from 9 this year). While it will not likely surpass the 12 needed to replace the production of Helm and Datsyuk, there are a few speedy mistake minimizers available in the offseason (which we will outline in a subsequent piece).
In summary, DET should be rather active in the offseason. A failure to revamp the defensive corps especially may have DET on the outside looking in next season.