The Detroit Red Wings defence was one of the oldest in the league last season. Players like Mike Green, Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall are all over 30-years-old and played important parts on that team.
However, all of them have gone through injuries and has forced head coach Jeff Blashill to hit the fast-forward button on the youth movement. Dennis Cholowski and Libor Sulak made the team out of camp while Joe Hicketts and Filip Hronek were immediately returned to the big club after being sent down to AHL Grand Rapids.
Many Detroit fans were hoping the injection of youth into the defence would be gradual. However, the future is now for this blueline group.
Detroit Red Wings Defence With New Look
The Red Wings had an odd look to them in the season-opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Veterans like Danny DeKeyser and Daley were the only two defenders with long-term experience. Cholowski was with DeKeyser on the top pair while Sulak and Daley were a combo. Hicketts and Hronek made the third and final pair in the first game.
Those pairings showed the state of flux that the defence is in right now. Cholowski did score in his NHL debut, but the team struggled to get any rhythm. The Red Wings struggled to stay out of the penalty box and disrupted any flow that had.
“Sometimes the game is like that, there’s no real flow to it, and there were a lot of penalties taken,” Cholowski said to the media after the game. “You have to be able to cope with it and kill those off.”
Forced to Mature Quickly
All these young defencemen in the lineup will have to find their games quickly, Cholowski’s goal was the highlight of Thursday’s game and offers hope that he’ll stick in the league. Sulak showed plenty of promise in the pre-season and that’s why the club kept him in Detroit.
Players like Hicketts and Hronek were eventually going to get extended looks during the season, but the team wanted to work them in slowly. The injuries are forcing Blashill to show his hand a little earlier than he wanted.
Green is out for at least a month with a virus while Kronwall and Ericsson missed the season-opener. Daley was able to find his way into the lineup but was uncertain going into the game against the Jackets.
Detroit knows that it won’t likely be a playoff team. However, they want to be a team that will be miserable to play against. They want teams to earn every point the hard way against them. The Red Wings did grab a point against a playoff team but felt they “shot themselves in the foot.”
What it Means for the Future
This season’s plan was for a lot of on-the-job training for this young team. There are going to be growing pains for the Red Wings this season. Mistakes are going to be made and there are going to be times of frustration.
The main thing is for this group to grow and to be able to take the next step. Rebuilds are tough, but Detroit has plenty of young players with plenty of talent.
DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 04: Dennis Cholowski #21 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his first NHL goal in the first period while playing the Columbus Blue Jackets at Little Caesars Arena on October 4, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)