Thursday, June 6, 2013

Assessing the Detroit Red Wings 2013 Season

Not a relevent photo for this post, but I was reflecting on what it means to have your number retired. Photo courtesy of "Schmackity" on Wikipedia.


With the season over thanks to an agonizing game seven overtime defeat at the hands of media favorites, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings have cleaned out their lockers and reflected on coming so far but just missing out on the Western Conference Finals. The series winning goal should have been the goal scored by Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, but NHL referee Steve Walkom botched the call and kept the game going. Unfortunately for the Red Wings they were unable to capitalize on this "second chance".


A lot of fans and blogs have already weighed in on the controversy about the blown goal call, the missed boarding call that should have been drawn by Gustav Nyquist, and the painful nature of the series ending goal. Rather than focus on how the season ended, I am going to push forward and celebrate the success of the 2013 Detroit Red Wings for being as successful as they were in a shortened, transitional season. The format for this review will involve short comments on the positive and negatives for each player on the roster. This is not meant to be a deeply analytic piece, just basic observations.

FORWARDS

Pavel Datsyuk
The Good: Datsyuk scored an impressive 15 goals and 34 assists, while remaining a +21 and finishing tied for first in takeaways (56). His faceoff percentage (55%) was impressive and was a human highlight reel all season. He's still the most complete player in the world and has the best attitude when it comes to playing the game.
The Bad: Datsyuk had a much quieter postseason than was expected, with just 3 goals and 9 points in Detroit's 14 playoff games. There isn't much to criticize when it comes to Datsyuk's game, but his playoff performance was less than expected.

Henrik Zetterberg
The Good: When the chips were down and the Red Wings had their backs against the wall, Zetterberg was the hero. In the final four games of the season, Zetterberg scored 2 goals and 8 assists to lead the Red Wings into the playoffs. His season stats (11 goals, 37 assists, 48 points) were a reason why the Red Wings survived a difficult season. Zetterberg has already proven he is an excellent leader on the ice and the perfect captain for a long, long time.
The Bad: Similarly to Datsyuk, Zetterberg was quieter in the playoffs than expected, especially against Chicago. He had two long streaks with no goals (nine and ten games) which contributed to a lesser season that what could have been.

Johan Franzen
The Good: Franzen finished third on the Red Wings with 14 goals and 17 assists, and was a real pest for teams trying to play defense.
The Bad: To be blunt, if Johan Franzen ever has a biography written, it should be titled "Streaky". His tendency to go ice cold during the regular season is infuriating and Mike Babcock himself commented on it a while back. For all the talk about Franzen in the playoffs, where's he been the last three seasons?

Damien Brunner
The Good: Brunner's first season in the NHL was positive; the Swiss scored 12 goals and 14 assists in 44 games. Brunner meshed very well with any line he was on, with or without fellow Swiss league teammate Henrik Zetterberg. Was electric on the ice with fellow youngsters Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson during the playoffs with 5 goals and 9 points.
The Bad: Brunner's scoring virtually disappeared in the second half of the season, scoring just twice in the regular season after a 2 goal, 2 assist performance against Vancouver that saw Roberto Luongo give up eight goals. Brunner took some time in the regular season to adapt to new linemates.


Valtteri Filppula
The Good: Defensively speaking, Filppula is everything you could ask for in a second line center. He contributed 17 points in a shortened season that saw him play just 41 games. Filppula was supposed to be THE next guy to elevate his game after a 60 point season, and still has that capacity...
The Bad: ...except he never stepped up on offence all season. Filppula was -4, barely shot the puck at all this season, and was injured at the beginning of Game Seven against Chicago. He was the lightning rod of criticism among fans and bloggers, leaving a lot of doubt whether he is worth the five million per season he has reportedly demanded. This was a season to forget for Filppula, and provided he dramatically drops his asking price in Detroit, I'd like to see him have the chance to redeem himself.

Daniel Cleary
The Good: Wow, the playoffs can make heros out of anyone if the effort is there. After racking up a respectable 9 goals and 15 points in the regular season, Cleary had 4 goals and 10 points during the playoff run. Cleary took a lot of hits and drew a lot of ire away from the superstars season long, which went unnoticed by myself for most of the season.
The Bad: To be blunt, Dan Cleary is a player who has seen better days and his inconsistently could lead to either retirement or a trade. He has a role on this team but he didn't quite fulfil it. His shot could use a little work but at his age, he's past his learning curve. And his peak. Maybe even past his decline, I'm not sure what to think after the playoffs.

Justin Abdelkader
The Good: "Abby" is the guy who mucks around in the corners and draws the fire away from Pavel Datsyuk. This year he scored 10 goals and 13 points, the former being a career high. At times he looked sufficient on the top line. Had 3 points in the playoffs.
The Bad: As much as Abdelkader is a popular guy for his work ethic, he lacks the skill needed to perform on the top line. Abby's rightful place is on the third or fourth line providing energy and effort. I want to argue he was misused this season, but Babcock is rarely wrong about anything and I'm rarely right about anything. The question is whether Abby goes back to a bottom six role where Cory Emmerton is already helming the fourth line and Darren Helm won't be injured forever.

Jordan Tootoo
The Good: Tootoo does exactly what he was signed to do: fight, hit, and sometimes score. He picked up 8 points in this role during the regular season, and provided some zest in the bottom six when the top six were struggling to score.
The Bad: I disagreed with his signing when it happened, and I still don't see his place on this team in the long term. He's obviously an NHL calibre player who plays the game with little ambiguity about his role, but does this team need someone to carry the team balls? I'm not convinced.

Patrick Eaves
The Good: Eaves picked up 8 points in 34 games and also provides zest in the bottom six. Except with 5% of the penalties! Plus, and I only speak for myself, he is a big fan favorite on the team. His recovery from a very scary concussion is inspiring.
The Bad: Eaves is one of several players who will be competing next year for limited bottom six positions. I don't think there is anything that distinguishes him from Tootoo, Nyquist, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson, Miller, Emmerton, Tatar, Abdelkader, Helm, and whoever from Grand Rapids contends for a spot.

Drew Miller
The Good: Miller scored 8 points in 44 games, and provides Detroit with depth. Sound familiar?
The Bad: I could copy/paste the same information for Eaves, so the extra thing I will add for Miller is that he will be a UFA some July 1st.

Cory Emmerton
The Good: Emmerton registered 5 goals and 8 points, etc. He's actually a decent center. Don't look up his faceoff winning %, though.
The Bad: He may be a victim of circumstance where the Brunner-Andersson-Nyquist might be the third line moving forward and Darren Helm returning. I didn't think Emmerton would be here this year, but Helm's absence made him necessary.

Joakim Andersson
The Good: Andersson was quite impressive during the end of the regular season and playoffs, scoring five points in the postseason and providing a heaping pile of talent and energy to the bottom six forwards. He's only going to get better, unlike much of his competition for a roster spot.
The Bad: The hodgepodge of forwards Detroit has to resign, move, or reassign makes it hard to determine who stands out. The youth injected into Detroit had some growing pains, but they could just as easily be replaced by Cleary-Samuelsson-Bertuzzi if management is not confident they can repeat this season's improvements.

Tomas Tatar
The Good: Tatar scored 7 points in 18 games this season, and has kicked a lot of butt in Grand Rapids. He will find his way into a lineup in a season or two, but will he be patient for it? He has a lot of speed, as well.
The Bad: Tatar is in the same boat as the other young forwards, except he's lower on the depth chart and he may be asked to repeat his success in Grand Rapids, or he might get traded knowing there's more resources coming up behind him (Jurco, Frk).

Gustav Nyquist
The Good: Nyquist reminds me a LOT of a certain pair of Russian and Swedish players who have game breaking skillsets. Great hands and his 6 points in 22 games is going to increase next season. In the playoffs, Nyquist was dynamic with Andersson and Brunner, scoring 5 points.
The Bad: As electric as Nyquist is, he didn't impress me as having enough finish on plays where he generated chances. I may be wrong, but his inexperience led to his inability to finish fancy looking plays. He may have to fight a little bit harder to keep his spot, and negotiating with an unhappy Nyquist about his place on the team may lead to an inflated salary.


Todd Bertuzzi
The Good: Bert didn't have much of a season, playing in only 7 games and scoring 3 points. Bertuzzi was scoreless in 6 playoff games...there's really nothing to say except he didn't play worse than he has in previous seasons.
The Bad:The injury begs the question of whether he will be kept. Bert has a lot of upside compared to an unproven rookie...but now those rookies have shown they are the future. Will Bert be bought out?

Mikael Samuelsson
The Good: Samuelsson is a proven talent that can score goals when paired with the best players on the team. He had an assist in one of his 4 regular season games, that's more points than I scored this season.
The Bad: He was injured 200 times this season and might just be the worst signing of the 2012 NHL offseason. Jeff over at Winging it in Motown was right all along about him. He is the top choice for a buyout. It makes more sense to play any other forward than him.

Darren Helm
The Good: Helm played one game this season. He's possibly the best third line center in the league, when healthy.
The Bad: He's not healthy, and he's not done being unhealthy. This could spell trouble for his career as well as his tenure in Detroit.

Jan Mursak
The Good: Mursak made the best of his time in Detroit, and found a job elsewhere. I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours.
The Bad: There just wasn't a place for him in Detroit.

Riley Sheahan
The Good: Sheahan played one game this season without much fanfare. He looked good in Grand Rapids, I guess.
The Bad: Sheahan's previous criminal transgressions frustrate me. I know young men do stupid things but the Sheahan saga really soured me on him, even if he finds the means to move up the depth chart and into the Red Wings' lineup in the next three seasons. He has a lot to prove before then.

DEFENSE

Niklas Kronwall
The Good: This was Kronwall's first season as Detroit's top defenseman, and he registered a
respectful 5 goals and 29 points in the regular season. Kronwall is a physical defenseman who
isn't afraid to land game-changing hits, and he did so all season right until the very last goal
was conceded.
The Bad: Much was expected of Kronwall this season, and while following Nick Lidstrom was going to be a tall task, there were times where Kronwall didn't deliver the offence he has the
potential for. Two assists in 14 games during the postseason isn't acceptable from our top
defenseman.

Jonathan Ericsson
The Good: Many who watch the Red Wings could make the argument that Ericsson was the best defenseman on the team during this transitional season, and I buy in to that argument. While his offence was respectable (3 goals, 10 assists), Ericsson played a significantly more mature game than was expected, and that's what I take away from his season. I like the new nickname "Riggy".
The Bad: "Riggy" still takes untimely penalties, but was only slightly more visible on the
scoresheet than Kronwall with just 3 assists in 14 playoff games. I'm aware Ericsson isn't on
the team to score, but more was expected.

Jakub Kindl
The Good: Kindl served the team well while other defensemen were injured, scoring 4 goals and 9 assists in the regular season along with a goal and 4 assists in the playoffs. This season saw him resurrect his status from "expendable" to "reliable 5-6 defenseman". Scored a goal in the playoffs that sticks in my head as impressive.
The Bad: Kindl is still a bit of a whipping boy for criticism, with many gaffes occurring in the
playoffs. He's 26 and can't be sheltered as a "rookie" or "prospect" any longer. He's definitely
low on the depth chart and might still be expendable.


Brendan Smith
The Good: Smith had 8 assists in 34 games in the regular season, and 2 goals and 3 assists in
the playoffs. I'm very interested in seeing how he elevates his game in a full NHL season, as I
believe he will produce more offence than he already has.
The Bad: Smith is definitely the whipping boy of the defensive corps. He looked extremely
vulnerable during the playoffs and while he showed some offensive flair, he was responsible for
more goals.

Brian Lashoff
The Good: I really don't know where Lashoff came from but he was quite impressive during the
regular season as a 22 year old who was certainly not weened into his position like Smith was.
He has done great things in Grand Rapids and the future looks bright for him.
The Bad: Lashoff might wind up spending more time in Grand Rapids as there are more experienced
defenders who the Red Wings might consider putting in the lineup for the sake of "winning now".
I'm not sure he's paid enough dues to find a regular spot in the lineup yet.

Ian White
The Good: Ian White was supposed to be one of the top defenders on Detroit in a post-Lidstrom era, having gleaned some experience and good numbers from playing on a deep Detroit blueline. Had 4 points in 25 games despite limited playing time.
The Bad: White is not long for Detroit as he has a tendency to say stupid things to the media
and really has not been playing better than any of the other defensemen on this list. The former
isn't a good reason to get rid of him, but it makes more sense to play a younger defenseman
still capable of improving. He is a UFA so that doesn't work in his favor.

Kyle Quincey
The Good: Quincey had a goal and 3 points in an injury shortened lockout season. He was a solid defender in the bottom pairings and is a great story about having a second chance.
The Bad: He was acquired for a 1st round draft pick and is being paid 3.375 million dollars to
do what any number of our younger players would be capable of doing. Still has a year left, but
after that, if he doesn't improve, he's likely gone.

Carlo Colaiacovo
The Good: Cola looked good in the 15 games he played all season. I really can't remember
anything he did so this section is a wash.
The Bad: "Splodey Bones" is made of glass and while the 2.5 million cap hit is decent there are younger players who could use the playing experience. Might not like being a 6-7 option on this team.

Danny DeKeyser
The Good: The best available college free agent signed with the hometown team and impressed everyone by being an excellent first-pass defenseman who played with the maturity of a veteran during his limited playing time. He is the player I am most excited to watch play next season.
The Bad: The bad for DeKeyser so far is the fact that his limited playing time doesn't provide
enough data to know what he is capable of. His request of being in the lineup immediately
rustled my concern he could wind up demanding more money after the initial contract is done, but there's just not enough data to say much about him except we're all excited he's here.

Kent Huskins
The Good: Huskins stepped in when the team needed someone to be signed and fill the void. He did it well and found employment elsewhere.
The Bad: Nothing bad to say about a player in his situation. I hope he finds NHL employment
elsewhere.

GOALTENDERS

Jimmy Howard
The Good: Jimmy was Detroit's MVP all season and put up All-Star stats in the regular season and playoffs. He was the reason Detroit went the distance against Chicago and nearly defeated them.
The Bad: As elite as Howard was this season, even more will be expected next season in the new division against newer competition. I am unsure if he can repeat the same MVP-like season next year, but I wouldn't bet against him. I would like to see more rebound control, if I had to lodge a legitimate complaint.


Jonas Gustavsson
The Good: He didn't lose every game he played.
The Bad: His stats were poor, he was unreliable as a backup, and is due for a buyout.

Petr Mrazek
The Good: Mrazek has performed brilliantly for Grand Rapids all season, and he was quite
impressive in his two NHL games, especially his first career start, a 5-1 victory against the
St. Louis Blues.
The Bad: With only two games of NHL experience, it's hard to say whether Mrazek is ready to
shoulder a full season load of games as Detroit's backup. He's obviously the future of the team
in goal, but there's a lot of time before that becomes a reality, if it does.


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