My two cents:
The Wings need to grow, change, reinvent. Datsyuk's early retirement represents an opportunity -- and an excuse -- to do so. The Powers That Be (mainly Ken Holland) must embrace it. If losing the magical crutch called Pavel Datsyuk means the team must crawl on the ground and learn to walk again, so be it. The team must be allowed to crawl so that it can learn to walk again and allowed to walk so that it can learn to fly again. The team must be allowed to struggle, must be allowed and encouraged to find a new, post-Euro Twins identity. The team must get younger, faster, harder to play against.
I firmly believe Larkin and Athanasiou are our new franchise centermen, that they can one day match the Euro Twins in greatness.
I believe Mantha can be a force as early as next season -- hell, as early as these playoffs.
I believe Svechnikov is going to be a beast, someone a bit like Tomas Holmstrom in that he'll allow us to get to our forechecking game (which, like many things, we're going to have to rebuild from the ground up) -- but owning better size and skill and and skating ability and an incredible shot.
I don't believe Tatar and Nyquist have taken a step back this year, I think -- and the numbers bear this out -- they've seen a reduction in ice time this season and that this alone can explain the drop in their production. Similarly, I don't think Jurco and Pulkkinen's "struggles" are indicative of what they truly have to offer.
All of this is to say, I think our head coach and/or general manager has/have to come to understand and appreciate what many fans already know: Joakim Andersson and Jonathan Ericsson are not The Answer. Limiting Athanasiou to five minutes of ice time in big games is profoundly foolish, especially with Datsyuk leaving in the summer and an enormous void opening up at the top of our depth chart. The priority this season and next season has to be transitioning to a younger core, not trying to squeeze one.more.playoff.berth. out of our veterans' butts.
By all means, try to land a Martin Hanzal, someone who can play against the opposition's best players, allowing Larkin and Athanasiou to develop their game against weaker matchups. But don't cage creativity. Don't stifle scoring ability. Don't preach defense for the sake of "learning how to defend real well." I don't even want our defensemen worrying about defending. I want a precise, relentless quick-strike transition game. I want the game to be played on the opposition's half of the ice, because we always have the puck and we're always forcing the other team to play without the puck and "defend real well."
1. Darryl Sutter:
“The big thing in today’s game is you have to be able forecheck and backcheck, and you have to have the puck. You can’t give the puck up. We don’t play in our zone, so there’s not much defending. I’ve coached in three decades now and this stuff where they said Marian had to play in Jacques’s system is a bunch of bull-crap. The game’s changed. They think there’s defending in today’s game. Nah, it’s how much you have the puck. Teams that play around in their own zone think they’re defending but they’re generally getting scored on or taking face-offs and they need a goalie to stand on his head if that’s the way they play.”
2. Dave Tippett:
"We had a player that was supposed to be a great, shut-down defenseman. He was supposedly the be-all, end-all of defensemen. But when you did a 10-game analysis of him, you found out he was defending all the time because he can’t move the puck.
"Then we had another guy, who supposedly couldn’t defend a lick. Well, he was defending only 20 percent of the time because he’s making good plays out of our end. He may not be the strongest defender, but he’s only doing it 20 percent of the time. So the equation works out better the other way. I ended up trading the other defenseman."