"Tarasenko played his best with those two guys and as much as we probably need help somewhere else up the lineup, those three guys were a combination, so we'll just stay with it," Hitchcock said.
I understand the coaching technique of mixing up lines to catch your team's attention, or to see if a lagging player does better elsewhere. But as a technique to see just if something -- anything! -- works? I think sometimes sticking with what you know might be best, and then you just let them work stuff out. Nothing else has worked so far during this losing streak -- you might as well try what you know works.
1. Did it phase you guys that Joey MacDonald got snatched up by Calgary? It wasn't surprising to see him go to me. Do you think that Mrazek is reliable as a back up until Gustavsson comes back?
Not really. Shortly after the Gustavsson signing, MacDonald asked for a trade because he wanted to at least get a shot to compete for a job somewhere. MacDonald's injury maybe cost the wings one of those conditional 7th-rounders, but it's just as likely that it meant MacDonald ended up on waivers later than he otherwise would have. It kind of sucks to see because Joey Mac is such a likable guy, but Mrazek has the chance to be the Wings' goalie of the future and I like him getting this experience while Gustavsson heals.
2. The Wings seem to be in a very familiar spot as of late -- written off, and still winning games regardless of what any prediction said. What is it about the team/coaching staff/whatever that keeps making this possible?
This is hard to say without a huge potential to come across as blasphemous, but losing Nick Lidstrom didn't turn the Red Wings from a good team into a bad team. The Wings have veteran leadership that knows how to win hockey games and a coach that's gotten experience with getting a Lidstrom-less roster to perform very well over decent stretches (like the playoff run in 2009-10). They're probably not going to stay at the top of anybody's power rankings, but right now, Detroit has a squad that's good enough to punch a lottery ticket into the postseason and rely on mid-tier contender luck to do the rest of the work for them. Writing them off completely makes just as much sense as calling them cup favorites. Either of those could happen, but we're dealing with the edges of probability, where all the most fun predictions happen.
3. I'll be lazy and fire your last question back at you -- what is your least favorite thing about the Western Conference?
Outside of the Central Division, the worst thing in the Western Conference is the Ryan O'Reilly situation in Colorado. The Avs have this kid by the balls and won't sign him because their owner is way more a businessman than a sports fan. He may not be one of the 20 best players or anything, but the NHL is better with Ryan O'Reilly in it than not and the entire fact that there's a single guy who isn't back yet because of stupid non-hockey reasons pisses me off every day. I guess the big problem with it is that it reminds me of the lockout and I'd rather that memory be more distant. RFA rules in this league are fucking dumb.