Krupa’s concerned about the Wings’ dearth of draft focus on defense

The Red Wings’ draft haul earned consensus A-minus-to-A-plus grades from assorted draft experts, especially given that Filip Zadina is seen as an offensive force who may compete for a spot out of training camp.

The Red Wings were unable to address their need for a top-pairing, offensive defenseman, however, and that particular unresolved personnel issue troubles the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa:

There is no one in the organization currently or prospectively capable of long NHL minutes and careers as a top-pairing defenseman.

Novenas and fasting may be dedicated to the hope that Danny DeKeyser, Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski or someone eventually fits the bill. But the grade for drafting and developing defensemen in Detroit for longer than a decade is failing.

The Wings’ inability in the 2018 draft to arrange for anyone who rates as likely to break through, despite [Jared] McIsaac’s clear strengths, only points to the essential tasks of 2019 and 2020. And, yes, in fact, maybe 2021.

The Wings can trade for top-tandem defensemen. Good luck. Teams rarely do, these days, especially without offering one in return.

They can also sign a huge free agent. But since the last collective bargaining agreement, for which some still may have been booing Commissioner Gary Bettman this weekend, teams lock up top-pair defensemen.

When they escape, the defensemen are often shopping for a Stanley Cup.

More reason to put Hronek, Cholowski and Joe Hicketts into the Red Wings lineup. But, also, more explanation for the difficulty of the task at hand.


And at this point–despite my belief that at least one of Dennis Cholowski, Gustav Lindstrom, Filip Hronek, Vili Saarijarvi or Libor Sulak will pan out thanks to a combination of talent, inevitability and/or dumb luck, I have to believe that the Red Wings believe they have enough offensive talent to import a top-pair defenseman via trade or free agency.


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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.

14 thoughts on “Krupa’s concerned about the Wings’ dearth of draft focus on defense”

  1. I honestly don’t see much to worry about. Teams often draft more than what they need, and some of those players don’t pan out. They become ECHL’ers, AHL’ers or go to the Euro leagues. That is, of course, assuming we keep them all. We grabbed a bunch of righties, and that could play in our favor if we’re trying to throw in something to sweeten a deal to get some added spark to the lineup.

    Still, I’m not worried.

  2. Wings drafting Zadina was a great pick. Zadina along with other forwards better learn to carry the puck out of their own end. Right now there are not many DMen that can get the puck out of their own end let alone make an outlet pass. I am still unsure how the Wings can open roster spots with most locked in with over paid NTC contracts.

    Krupa is right but the roster today is not going to make room for current prospects unless Kronner retires, Jensen and DeK leave.

    Hope next years draft has some quality DMen available and the Wings finish in the Top 3 picks.

    All in all it might be 2 or 3 yrs to see the rebuild with more prospects than older, bad contract players.

    Long way to go for this rebuild.

    What is with the 137 lb kid that was drafted??

    1. “What is with the 137 lb kid that was drafted??”

      wicked speed and ultra competitive is my understanding about him.

  3. Color me Debbie Downer after the draft. I hope I can explain why.
    In General I hate best player available. If you have a hole, fill it. Because each position on the team has a different value, ie defense is more valuable than center, which is more valuable than a winger, the higher value position will tend to be over spent on. So at any particular level in the draft the highest value position will have a player of a bit lesser ability available. By taking best player available a team (most of the time) ends up taking a player at a lower value position, even if he has higher ability. So If your teams hole is D, they rarely show up in bpa paradigm. The only way to get them is to overspend. If your hole is winger, or Goalie, your in luck, they’ll fall to you all the time.
    So, how do you solve the dilemma? The bpa group will argue that you can trade your overstock of lower value position-higher ability players for what you need. I would say you can’t, and use the adam larson-taylor hall trade as proof. Edmonton traded a world class winger for a hoped for top pair defenseman, and got a middle pairing player. What’s the price tag of a legitimate top pair D? let alone a true number 1 D? Its a lot more overspend than the draft pick used would have been.

    To the particulars of this draft for the wings, and my disappointment. Sure Zadina has great reviews. But everyone who is high on the pick really needs to go review the draft profile of Nail Yakupov. His profiles make Zadina look like a pale imitation, and how did he turn out? And Edmonton spending years drafting the bpa—mostly wingers, still looking to turn the corner, needing top pair D, and centers. So even when KH falls to the luster of a high talent-low value position with the first pick, he follows that up with choosing another suboptimal position for his second pick in the first( at least a higher need postion)-gained by trading a talented lower value position player. Then to try and fill his biggest need, he drafts a defenseman in the second round, but not with their third pick, but their fourth. So to try and solve the biggest hole in the line up, there since Rafalski retired in 2011, and Nik lidstrom in 2012, KH waits 4 picks into this draft. UN-F*#@#ING Believable!

    In five years, how do we measure this draft? Lets say Zadina hits 30-30=60, how does that stack up? Is that the equivalent of 40-45 points out of a defenseman? Only 30 d-men hit 40 pts this year, 68 forwards would match the 60 point level. Using those levels, if any of Hughes, Boqvist, bouchard, or dobson hit the 40 point, top pair level, the wings lost. Even if Zadina is scores 80, and is an all star, if one the four D turns into a true #1, we lost.

    You can’t keep kicking the can down the road. If you want a top pair D you will pay either in the draft, or in a trade. There is no Magic D man tree waiting for you to find it. They don’t show up in free agency, super expensive to trade for, and overpriced in the draft. The only reasonable way to obtain one is to suck it up and draft them, ignoring all the shiny forwards, and taking your best shot.

    end of rant.

    1. “His profiles make Zadina look like a pale imitation, and how did he turn out? And Edmonton spending years drafting the bpa—mostly wingers, still looking to turn the corner, needing top pair D, and centers. ”

      You stole my thought. I swear I was telling my friend the same exact thing. Great post.

    2. “His profiles make Zadina look like a pale imitation, and how did he turn out? And Edmonton spending years drafting the bpa—mostly wingers, still looking to turn the corner, needing top pair D, and centers. ”

      No DMan had a higher potential at their position then Zadina does at wing. Detroit does have a hole at wing to fill. 2008 was the last time the Wings had a 30+ goal scorer. Zadina brings a second potential 30+ guy after Mantha. That’s something to consider when we look at last year’s Wings trouble putting the puck into the net. A dynamic scorer can open up the ice for dmen to maneuver. Detroit seems to have a number of Dmen prospects who can move the puck.

      Let’s not just focus on one profile either. I’m sure there are other players we could find who looked worse then Zadina but became good players. Remember One is an exception, not a series.

  4. AK Wings fan that was very well written and well spoken.

    The only argument i can make both for and against is that basically the Wings have glaring issues at almost every position. The offense is lacking, and yes is that because of a severe lack of offense from the back end, damn straight it is. However if the puck gets to even center ice then the D has got the puck out and in the right direction. Still need scoring forwards to move it forward from there.

    I think after Zadina fell to them we should have seen a more aggessive draft strategy that had them trying to offload players and picks from the current, future roster and 2019 draft to get an additional top 10 pick.

    Maybe that wasnt possible because this draft was wierd. So yes we are looking at a long rebuild and over the next 2 or 3 years we need some cant miss players on D

    1. The only thing Detroit could have done different was to trade back a spot or two to a team that may have wanted Zadina if they truly felt. Kenny is know for kicking a lot of tires so it would be safe to assume he looked into a trade but didn’t find a deal that made a trade worthwhile.

  5. Hronek should definitely be with the Wings next season. He’s a right shooting defenseman, something the Wings keep saying they need. Unless he totally blows it in training camp he should be there. Him and Cholowski have done everything they need and more to progress, yet no one seems to have any faith in them. One or both could become the top pair guy the Wings need, or it could be someone out of the blue we’re not even considering.

    The last few Cup winners have not really had an elite number one guy, but a good corp of solid defensemen, so it can be done without tying up your resources in one player. The Wings could trade for some of Carolina’s depth, or someone else’s too. Things are really not as dark as some try to make them seem.

  6. AK Wing Fan has it right. We’re starting to fall into the Edmonton (pre-McDavid) trap. I would have felt better about this draft if we had gone after D men with both of our second rounders (i.e. grabbed Bode Wilde with our other pick instead of Berggren).

  7. Unless Zadina himself is part of the package that Ken (almost never does player for player trades) Holland hopes to send out for a real top-four let alone top-two offensive D man, I’m not sure how much confidence I have in the idea that “too much” forward talent (do we have that? Is that why we picked Zadina?) can be swapped for a more scarce asset at a higher demand position. Holland already said in previous offseasons that stocking up on forwards was partly a plan to acquire an upgrade on D via trade. Never happened. Either because he simply is not clever at working out player for player trades, or he overvalued his own forwards and his colleagues weren’t interested. In anyone he could or would offer. Again and again and again.

  8. I have never seen Flip Zadina play. I do know that most every mock draft had him 3rd overall. Earlier this year he was even second. Veleno was on most mock drafts 12-15, I have never seen him play either. What Edmonton did with their players is not develop them properly. They stuck them in to top roles when they were not ready for them. The result was that they never developed properly. Will the Wings make the same mistake with Zadina and Rasmussen? Are the ready for 13-15 minutes of NHL action? Will they be stuck on the 3rd line or worse in the press box? These hopefully are questions that will be answered in training camp or the first 10 games of the NHL season ( after 10 games they can’t go back to their CHL teams). The evaluations that George will tell us this summer after prospect camp and training camp should be insightful.

    1. I think the major point about the Edmonton reference is the lack of talented Dmen to support all those talented forwards. No team wins in this league without one or two good puck movers and two good solid dmen. That is why D men are one of the biggest committees in the NHL.

      Your point is valid on how Edmonton handled those forwards and yes, hopefully Detroit does a better job, but without talent on the backend (which we have none) having all those forwards skating backwards backchecking all the time is senseless.

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