Krupa: Red Wings can win by losing, especially if Jack Hughes is the prize

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Red Wings fans might pin their hopes on the team landing highly touted prospect Jack Hughes of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program.

Detroit — This is no time for the squeamish.

Faced with a 0-3-2 start, their worst in 38 years, the Red Wings are conjuring thoughts of times that try souls, and concerns about summer soldiers and sunshine patriots.

Used to prolonged success, this feels epochal.

It is.

But it is also hockey, not the American Revolution. And, it all argues for staying the course.

The leaders of the ground-swelling “Lose for Hughes” campaign cannot complain if the Wings' losses pile high.

Losing is required, if a goal is to improve lottery odds enough for the Red Wings to have the best shot at Jack Hughes, who skates with some brilliance in Plymouth for the National Team Development Program (NTDP) of USA Hockey.

A lot of losing.

Well, they are off to a pretty good start. And, management should let it go.

Temptation may build to peruse the waiver wire, hoping to stanch the bleeding.

Forget about it.

No player should ever take the ice intending to lose. It is up to management to design a roster, under reconstruction, that provides the best opportunity for draft position.

It is how a team tanks, not by quitting on the ice.

The time for churning the roster, having arrived a while ago, is ever more present now.

Whether one’s belief is in God or the “hockey gods,” it almost feels as if divine intervention is leading the way.

Injuries to Trevor Daley, Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green and Niklas Kronwall have churned the roster in a way that management has, until recently, resisted.

Seizing that initiative, GM Ken Holland said at the end of 2017-18 that the Red Wings would skate two or three new players, at the start of 2018-19.

Arguably late to the task, Holland kept his promise.

Mounting injuries

Then, casualties intervened.

In addition to starting the season with Dennis Cholowski, Christoffer Ehn and Michael Rasmussen, and perhaps Evgeny Svechnikov, until his injury, the Wings have added Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek and Libor Sulak.

They are playing well enough to suggest the best way forward is to keep them in the lineup.

Oh, they make mistakes. One cringes, occasionally, watching.

But, the frank assessment is that they do not make that many more than the veterans. For evidence, recall the cringing in 2017-18.

Plus, the younger guys play with more pace.

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The announced goal of the Red Wings for two seasons has been playing with pace. The quartet of debuting defensemen help provide more of it.

Any consideration of looking to the waiver wire to fill sandbags for the tidal surge of this early October is trumped by the twin considerations of development and losing for Hughes.

It will take 200 to 250 games played, at least, before the status of Cholowski, Hicketts, Hronek and Sulak as NHL defensemen is substantially clear.

Monday, in Montreal, they may play in their fourth, fifth, sixth and sixth games, respectively.

Play them. And then, let them play on.

Playing in Grand Rapids is not the best way for the 19-year-old Rasmussen to learn how to use that big body to finagle and finesse his way into net-front position in the NHL.

Playing him in the NHL is.

Enough banging without consistent results is likely to produce motivation for the work a young man so serious and dutiful surely knows must be done, this season and in the offseason.

Filip Zadina

Zadina progressing

Meanwhile, Filip Zadina is finding more open ice in Grand Rapids.

Zadina followed his two-goal performance Friday with four shots on goal Saturday. If he proceeds apace, the Wings should make room by Thanksgiving, if not Halloween.

The argument for more AHL experience fades when the parent club is losing. Ever more so, when losing is simply part of the price.

In rebuilding an NHL team, as in life, sometimes the way forward seems to go backward and seeing into darkness provides is the only light.

That is where the Red Wings are.

Embrace it.

And, whether it is the guidance of Eastern philosophy, or thoughts of George Washington reading Thomas Paine’s words “these are the times …” to his troops at Valley Forge, grab what you need to make it through.

While we can expect Daley, Ericsson and Green back in the lineup, as Holland makes good on his vow to “honor all those contracts,” management must banish thoughts of reinforcing from waivers, despite the mounting losses.

And, assertiveness is required to create playing time for Cholowski, Hicketts, Hronek and Sulak, after the veterans return, and for Zadina, if he keeps finding room to operate, in the AHL.

The way forward is not trying to lose 50 instead of 60.

The way forward is steadfastness in a difficult moment.

Watching Frans Nielsen and Dylan Larkin on Fox Sports Detroit after the 8-2 debacle in Boston revealed resoluteness.

Larkin twice said he felt he should have dropped the gloves, at one juncture.

“We’ve played five games,” the young general said. “We have a lot of games to go here, so we have to find a way to turn this around.

“It’s not going to be a fun year if it keeps going like this. And, we all know that.”

No sunshine patriot, Larkin. No summer soldier, he.

Twitter: @greggkrupa