Just Wingin’ It

Winging It In Motown

The Red Wings are not as good as their record. You know it. I know it. Hell, every time you hear Derek Lalonde talk, you can tell he knows it too.

How can we tell this? Oh there’s lots of good ways. My eye test tells me this. Heck, the eyes aren’t the only part of my body that tells me things have been tighter for the Wings. My puckering exercise routine should get me a sponsorship deal for wedgie-resistant underwear.

You can go to NHL.com and look at their own SAT% numbers that show us a proxy for puck possession. You can use Natural Stat Trick for similar information. I don’t feel we need to bore each other with charts. The simple answer is that even when you count in things like score effects and other weird things that can cause the numbers to look different than they should, the Wings don’t consistently have the puck as often as the other team.

So why are we here at nearly 1/3rd of the way into the season in the thick of the playoff hunt? How is it that every step we take out of the charge of SMALL SAMPLE SIZE we’re still here?

Well, the easy answer is that 26 games is still a pretty small sample size. Hell, 82 games isn’t really enough to tell you the full truth of an NHL team if we’re being honest. But, we should know more about the team 50 games from now than we know now.

What we do know is that the Wings are shooting the puck better than half the league and stopping pucks bettter than half the league. We can look at both the stats and the eye test to tell us Ville Husso has been stealing us some points. Is that to be expected? Is there some secret sauce the Wings have figured out? Likely no. We’ve been talking around here for the last week or so that Detroit currently lacks an elite goalscorer and if you listen to us talking in our own gamethreads about how well we pass and set up plays, then that’s not exactly magic going on there.

So what should we do as fans with the information that we’re probably not really a 97 point team in today’s NHL?

I don’t think shitting on our own team is going to really do anything to appease the gods of regression (they’re mean). I don’t think beating ourselves up over having fun watching things that we may not get to still be enjoying in February is useful either. I’m personally not invested in the hubris that comes along with pointing at the standings in December (unless it pisses off fans of other cities).

Detroit finds themselves in a situation not dissimilar to past New York Rangers squads. Last year’s team especially was a decent collection of talent propped up by unreasonably good goaltending. Honestly, I think that’s been the entire Rangers’ organizational desire since Mark Messier retired.

So why am I happy that we’re here now even if I think “here” means slightly higher in the standings than a truly just universe would allow? Because what has mattered for me as a fan going into this entire season is where the team is headed, not where they’ve been. If Lalonde were out there starting to preen about this club then I’d be worried. If the team were starting to put out “this is our year” vibes, then I’d cringe.

The beauty of being a team on the rise is even if you’re getting results better than your play indicates you should be getting, you’re still a team evolving towards getting the same results without questionable sustainability. That’s what GM Steve Yzerman has been telling fans they’re going for since he came back. It’s what he told Tampa Fans before that.

It’s not controversial to say the Wings probably can’t keep earning points at the same clip they have been if they keep playing like this. What’s most important is that the Wings know they’re working towards not continuing to play like this. What’s important is the members of the team continue to buy into their first-year coach’s system. Detroit’s playing with house money this year. I’ll believe they’re a contender when I actually see it, but I’m glad to be back into a position where I don’t think a tank is in the club’s best interest anymore.

I think the hardest part about all of this is that the whole point of this article is “trust the process.”

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