To say that the Detroit Red Wings struggled on the power play last season would be an understatement – the team finished second to last in the NHL with a paltry 11.4 percent success rate. Will the Wings find a way to improve those odds this season?
One of the first steps in the offseason towards improving the power play was a coaching change. While Head Coach Jeff Blashill was extended, Assistant Coach Dan Bylsma was released and replaced by Alex Tanguay.
Tanguay was brought in specifically to improve the offense of the team, including the man advantage.
“I wanted somebody who thought (the game) offensively in somewhat unique ways,” said Blashill in the Detroit Red Wings official press release on the hiring.
“That will certainly be one of his responsibilities. I’m very confident that Alex can put a structure together and can have a foundation of a power play, but to me, it was more than that. ‘m really confident that Alex can help our guys in those individual situations on the power play. That’s where I thought Alex was pretty unique because of the way that he views hockey and because he was a really cerebral offensive player, himself,” said Blashill in the same release.
It can be difficult to discern the effect a coach or staff member has on the power play unit of a team; it’d be unfair to blame last season’s poor power play performance solely on Bylsma. However, bringing in a more offensively-minded coach with some recent success with the power play (Coached for the Iowa Wild last season, who possessed the fifth best power play percentage in the American Hockey League) bodes well for improvement in Detroit.
New Players in the Lineup
The biggest factor for improvement this year is how the updated roster adjusts. There is plenty of turnover heading into the new season – Frans Nielsen, Darren Helm, Luke Glendening and a few others are out, with free agents and even a few rookies taking the open roster spots.
Nick Leddy and Puis Suter will be the biggest (non-drafted) additions to the team and their strengths will be felt on the power play. One of the major faults of the Detroit power play last season was puck movement, and Leddy is a puck-moving defenseman. He can shift offensive possession quickly and efficiently until an opportunity arises, whether it be a shot from the point or a high-danger pass.
Last season, Suter played a role with the Chicago Blackhawks power play unit, which was the 11th best in the regular season (21.7 percent). He’s not going to jump right into the power play and score buckets of goals; Suter’s role will be more as the smart, safe center that can steer offensive play in the right direction.
The most exciting (And unpredictable) change to the Wing’s offense will be the introduction of prospects into the lineup. It’s hard to say when (or if) some prospects will make their way to the lineup, but some are certain to make an impact upon their arrival.
After his breakout year in the SHL, Moritz Seider will almost certainly find a role on the team’s power play at some point this season. Like Leddy, he’s a defenseman that can create offense with efficient and intelligent puck movement.
Lucas Raymond could also create a role for himself on the offense. Detroit’s man advantage didn’t have many highly skilled players last season; Raymond’s crafty handwork and elite offensive toolkit would be a fantastic addition.
It seems that the power play is bound for some sort of improvement this season. As the team improves, so will the special teams. With the additions (and subtractions) both of players and coaches in the offseason, Detroit expects to have an overall improved squad, which means the power play percentage is likely going receive quite the boost.