David Guralnick / The Detroit News
The Red Wings' bench looked lifeless Tuesday night during a 2-0 loss to the Blackhawks.
Why Red Wings are struggling
Offense, defense have been spotty
By Ted Kulfan / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- The defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings aren't playing like a championship team.
Inconsistency, a predictable hangover from a long Stanley Cup run, and an injury to captain Steve Yzerman have left the Wings searching for the formula that made last season so successful.
"The hunger is not quite there right now," General Manager Ken Holland said. "The record we have right now (6-5-2) is about what we deserve."
For most of this young season, the Wings haven't been able to get their game in sync for 60 minutes.
The defense has been a sore spot most of the season. The goaltending has been inconsistent. When the Wings get good defense and goaltending, as they did Tuesday against Chicago, they come up short offensively, as they did in a 2-0 loss to the Blackhawks.
"There is a reason to be concerned," Fox Sports hockey analyst Jim Kelley said. "There is such a physical and mental toll involved when winning a Stanley Cup. We've seen it so many times in recent years in the NHL. ... There are a lot of proven players on this (Wings) team. But it's a lot to ask of anyone (to repeat a championship)."
There has been little carry-over from last season to this season.
"Each year is different. What we did last year has no bearing on the game tomorrow," Coach Dave Lewis said. "There are different players, and a different coach, and it's just something that every team goes through. I thought it would happen, and this is the time where we have to figure a way to get out of it.
"It's a healthy thing to go through because you tend to get better once you get through it."
Right wing Brett Hull said the Wings have become too individualistic and need to return to a team concept.
"It's been too disjointed, too much individual stuff," Hull said. "No give and go. We probably have the best coaching staff and all the talent in the world, but if you play as individuals you're never going to succeed.
"We need to come together as a group and play within Lewie's system and do the things he wants us to do because those are the right things. Everybody knows those are the right things, but everybody wants to do their own little things. Until we start doing things together and the way Coach wants us to, we're not going to be successful. I don't know how many times he can tell us that, too. It's time for the players to take it upon themselves."
Here's a thumbnail look at the areas in which the Wings are struggling and the key personnel that need to get going:
* The Wings have allowed 35 goals and their goals-against average is 2.66, which ranks a mediocre 13th overall. Eleven players are in the minus-category in the plus-minus statistics. It adds up to substandard defensive hockey.
"Collectively, we have to do a better job defensively," Holland said.
There have been too many odd-man rushes and breakdowns in the Wings' zone, unusual for them.
Lewis said he felt the Wings played much better defensively in the last two games, against the Stars and Blackhawks.
* Luc Robitaille has two goals, both scored in one game. Brendan Shanahan has three goals but hasn't scored a goal in eight games. Brett Hull has three goals all season. The three combined for 97 goals last season. They have eight in 13 games this season.
It would behoove the Wings to get their Big Three going.
"We have players who expect a lot out of themselves," Lewis said. "There are high expectations, and they're very critical of themselves and their own performances when things don't go right."
* Curtis Joseph hasn't made people forget Dominik Hasek just yet. Joseph has a 2.77 goals-against average, .894 save percentage and 4-4-2 record, all average numbers.
Holland said Joseph is getting more comfortable with the Wings and expects him to get stronger as the season progresses.
Despite the slow start, the upside for the Wings is there will be 68 games after tonight's game against the Bruins.
Besides, they have won three Stanley Cups in six seasons and overcame problems in the playoffs last spring.
"As a team we got into this," center Kris Draper said, "and now it's up to us as a team to get out of this."