Youngsters Tomas Tatar, left, and Danny DeKeyser can bring a lot of pressure for the Red Wings. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Detroit — They are young. They are hungry and they are dangerous.
Slowly but surely the Red Wings are putting their trust in the young guns. Maybe the rash of injuries has been a blessing. It forced the Wings to abandon their old-school way of thinking. This youth movement must remain.
Who is your favorite young gun?
Do you like Tomas Tatar, who reminds me of a young Pavel Datsyuk? He is flashy with the moves of Reggie Bush in the open field.
Do you like Luke Glendening, 24, who has a little bit of a tough streak embedded in him? He gets after it and is a gritty guy who can defend.
Or do you like Danny DeKeyser, 23, who makes the Red Wings defense better every time he steps on the ice? This is their Nick Lidstrom of the future.
Or maybe your guy is Riley Sheahan, 22, who has (gasp) size and is nifty around the net
Justin Abdelkader, 26, will rock you. Gustav Nyquist, 24, will put the puck behind you. And what have you complained about with the Red Wings even during the championship days? They were too small. Well, Sheahan and Tomas Jurco are not small. They are both around 6-foot-2 with good range. These are the guys who smothered the Red Wings before. Now they are doing the smothering.
The dressing room no longer smells like Geritol. It is more like milk and cookies.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland deserves credit for getting these guys. But Sheahan wanted to share some of the love with the coaching staff with the Grand Rapids Griffins, where many of these guys played.
“The coaching staff does an unbelievable job with development,” he said after Sunday’s game. “You’ve got to tribute all of that to the program down there and the development they did with us.”
Future won't wait
It is time for a new mind-set for the Red Wings when this season ends. I would say goodbye to Todd Bertuzzi, 38, Daniel Cleary, 35 and Johan Franzen, 34.
Holland seems to be ushering in a new era. He shipped forward Mikael Samuelsson to Grand Rapids, not to save money but to make sure one of the young players keeps a roster spot when the Red Wings get healthy.
That is the third Red Wing senior citizen to be moved. Jordin Tootoo was one of them and his only contribution was starting fights at the beginning of games last season to try to jump-start the team. Once he stopped punching, he became punchless.
Many of these young players being touted around Hockeytown are the same ones who took the Chicago Blackhawks to the brink during the playoffs. They played like their pants were on fire.
Their motto became “No Fear.”
I understand why the Wings kept trotting out the blue hairs. They were hoping for enough experience to keep their playoff streak alive. That means a lot to the organization. It does not mean that much to me. The Wings will miss the playoffs one year. It happens to everybody. The mind-set needs to be what makes this a better team in the future, not now.
I also think the Red Wings can have their cake and eat it too. They are getting a nice break with the Olympics. That is two weeks of healing, which is exactly what this team needs. If the Wings keep most of the young guns and blend in Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk, this could be a team that not only makes the playoffs but challenges for the Stanley Cup in the most unpredictable playoffs in sports.
No wonder coach Mike Babcock felt good about the Red Wings’ 5-4 loss to Florida in a shootout. Yes, his team blew a two-goal lead late against a so-so team. But amongst the mistakes and breakdowns he saw a solid future because his young guns are pretty good and getting better.