PLYMOUTH – The Wings’ power play last season can be summed up in one word … dreadful.
By season’s end the unit converted just 16.1 percent with the man advantage, which ranked 22nd in the league.
And that was with Nicklas Lidstrom manning the blue line and Tomas Holmstrom providing his net-front presence. Both have since retired.
“We’ve got people capable of filling those holes,” said Wings assistant coach Tom Renney, who has been put in charge of the power play by coach Mike Babcock. “As much as Nick is a Hall of Famer I don’t think you dwell on that. I think you look at who’s here and what they have to offer and play off those strengths. From first looks I think we have what we need to have an effective power play.”
Last year’s power play conversion rate was the Wings’ worst since the 2006-07 season when it was just 17.1 percent.
“The bottom line is whatever we do on the power play five guys have to be connected both mentally and through their level of skill,” Renney said. “From what I see we have both.”
The Wings have had much success on the power play the four seasons prior to last, ranking in the top five in three of those seasons and ninth in one.
Renney resurrected the power play in Edmonton in his second season behind the bench.
“I think we had the right sticks, not necessarily the personnel, but we did have some pretty good ponies,” Renney recalled of his time behind the Oilers bench. “Speaking of pedigree, they were very hungry to score on the power play for starters.
“I think we really made the net the focal point,” Renney added. “You can over pass the puck on the power play to the point where you have diminishing returns. Our objective was to get it to the net as quickly as we could, create chaos at the net and really come in hard for rebounds.”
Renney’s first year with the Oilers the power play ranked 27th and then jumped to third overall his second season.
“What I find interesting is how your skill can take over when you start taking that approach,” Renney said. “Then you’ve got guys that can do some pretty significant things when they do start attacking the net.”
The Wings power play started off red hot last season and tapered off considerably as the season wore on.
“I don’t think that’s to unusual for our league, let’s face it, on a good day it’s going to be 25 percent so we’re going to watch our power play be unsuccessful about 75 percent, at least 75 percent of the time,” Renney said. “How we choose to chronicle that, not just you people, but us as coaches we to take that with a grain of salt.
“The bottom line a good power play has to sustain itself,” Renney said. “If you’re getting a power play goal a game in this league it’s probably pretty good. I don’t want to suggest that the power play percentages are insignificant, they’re not, but they tell a story. What we want to do is make sure, at the very least, is our power play isn’t sucking the life out of our offensive team play. It can’t prevent momentum it’s got to entice it.”
The plan this season is for Johan Franzen to take over from Holmstrom in front of the net and adding newcomer Damien Brunner on the blue line or Mikael Samuelsson, who played the point on the power play his first stint in Detroit.
“What I prefer is two defensemen back there if I can because what that likely means is we have two really good units,” Renney said. “Because that one forward is either up front on the first unit or has the same value playing on the second unit. We’ll do what we have to do. What it’ll come down to is the shots. Do we need a lefty or a righty? Where are our one timers, who are they and can they handle and that’s what we’re going to have to determine with Damien.”
Renney said Niklas Kronwall will be an important part on the power play.
“We’re still a puck-possession team and we want to try to get the puck to the net a lot of times and not try to play too much around,” Kronwall said. “So hopefully we can keep shooting the puck and Mule’s going to do a good job in front and so is Bear or whoever is in that spot. The rest of us just have to find ways to get the puck to the net and find ways to make something happen.”
During Tuesday night’s Red and White scrimmage there was power play goals scored on four chances.
“There’s a point in time when you give a different horse the bit,” Renney said. “These guys are pretty good. They were top 10 in the league for a good chunk of last year. I’m not sure I’m going to come in here and reinvent the wheel, I don’t intend to, but I certainly want to make sure based on the principles of a good power play I’ll certainly pay attention to that.”