Mid-Season Report Card: The Forwards

Bruce Bennett

Grading the Red Wings forwards at the halfway point of the season

The Red Wings wrapped up the first half of this shortened season with a 3-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night. After 24 games in 56 days, Detroit sits in 4th in the West with a 12-8-4 record (pending the results of the games Friday night).

That the Wings are exactly .500 in terms of winning percentage should not surprise anyone. Roster turnover and a ton of injuries have conspired to hamper the Wings' efforts to develop any chemistry, and inconsistent play from most of the team has been the result. The team that can drop 12 goals against Nashville and Vancouver in back-to-back games can also lose 2 of 3 to Columbus.

Since we're a bunch of opinionated assholes over here, we're going to hop on the bandwagon and grade the performance of every forward on the roster. No one is failing, but we're not talking about the advanced class either.

One thing before we get into the roster: this is a curve. Cory Emmerton and Henrik Zetterberg are not weighted equally. We're taking into account performance vs expectations and that player's role, so everyone unwad the underoos now before dive in. We good? Great.


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Justin Abdelkader 1 1 2 -4 15

Might as well get this one out of the way early, eh? Abby started the year down on the 3s in Darren Helm's spot. Unfortunately (or fortunately for him, depending on which way you look at it), injuries to Sameulsson and Bertuzzi have left holes on the top 6, and Babs has decided to continue to play Abby with Datsyuk on the second line despite ample evidence that he doesn't belong.

Me, I'm not going to ding the guy because he's being used incorrectly; that's on the coaches. However, Abby's been given a golden opportunity, and not only has he not produced offensively, he's not making the PK better either. He should be better, but he does not belong on the 2nd line.

GRADE: D+


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Joakim Andersson 3 3 6 6 4

One of the many call-ups from the Griffins, Andy was brought up due to his size to fill the "grinder" role on the third line. He has been an extremely pleasant surprise, teaming with Tatar to provide some much-needed offense. He's playing extremely sheltered minutes, but he has the highest individual Corsi on the team, although he's averaging less than 10 minutes a night. Still, at 6 points, he's only a point behind Dan Cleary.

GRADE: B


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Todd Bertuzzi 2 1 3 3 2

Bert's been very limited this year, first with his "mono-but-wait-it-was-probably-just-a-cold" diagnosis and then his bad back. He scored 2 goals in his very first game of the season against Minnesota, but was held to just a single point in his subsequent 6 games before going out of the lineup with the back injury. There's no question that Datsyuk misses him, which is just a really, really weird thing to say.

GRADE: C


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Damien Brunner 10 8 18 0 10

The Swiss scoring star was given an opportunity to show what he could do at the NHL level, and he is not disappointing anyone. He is second among all first-year players in goals with 10 (although he does not qualify as a "rookie" due to his age) and he leads the Wings in goals and shots. At his current pace, he's on pace for 35 goals and 60 points, numbers that would normally put him right in the Calder race.

He needs to be better defensively and he's made a number of mistakes, but he's been even better than advertised.

GRADE: A-


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Daniel Cleary 5 2 7 -2 24

Everyone's favorite whipping boy really struggled to start the season, but he's been better the last few games. Coming off surgery in the off-season, Buckets seems to be hitting his stride and finding his game. Like Abby, he doesn't belong on the top line, but at 5 goals through 24 games he's close to a 20-goal pace. I pointed out that he's been better than people think, and I anticipate he will be better once he's down on the line he belongs.

GRADE: C


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Pavel Datsyuk 8 16 24 8 8

I'm just going to leave this here:

Datsyuk

via cdn1.sbnation.com

He's been every bit as good as he's been the past few years. Imagine how good he'll be once he gets decent linemates.

GRADE: A


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Patrick Eaves 1 5 6 6 0

This may be the feel-good story of the Wings half-season. After missing all but 10 games last year and the first few of this one, Eaves has come back and found a regular spot in the lineup on the kid line with Tatar and Andersson. He's not getting a ton of playing time, but he has 3 points in his last 5 games and is driving possession while playing a depth role.

GRADE: B


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Cory Emmerton 2 1 3 1 4

Here's a guy who is often looked at as easily replaceable, yet I would say that he has been surprisingly consistent this season. He's the 4th-line center and playing less than 10 minutes a night, but he's chipped in with some offense and has been a contributor to a PK unit that is getting better the last few games.

GRADE: B-


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Valtteri Filppula 4 6 10 3 2

Coming into a contract year and after his setting career highs last season, big things were expected of Flip, but a slow start offensively followed by an injury to his left shoulder have made this season less-than-memorable. He's been his usual solid defensive self, but despite getting playing time with Datsyuk, Flip only managed 4 goals in his first 19 games before getting hurt, good for a 17-goal season over 82 games. That's not acceptable for a player who should be one of the top offensive contributors, and he needs to start putting up points when he returns. His strong defensive play prevents this grade from being lower.

GRADE: C


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Johan Franzen 4 6 10 4 31

We're booing Marian Hossa when we really mean "we wanted you instead of Mule". It's not fair, but like Flip, Franzen has not been the offensive producer the team needs him to be. A hip flexor injury hasn't helped, but after recording points in 7 of his first 9 games he's had 1 in his last 8. However, he's starting to take more shots, which is always a sign that he's "feeling it" offensively, and it's only a matter of time before he and Brunner/Zetterberg start scoring a lot more.

GRADE: C-


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Darren Helm 0 0 0 0 2

Oh Helmer. Get better soon, please. We miss you.

GRADE: INCOMPLETE


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Drew Miller 2 3 5 0 2

The fan club has been a little less vocal this year, but Miller has done pretty much what has been asked of him: he's killing penalties, kicking in a few goals, and not taking penalties. He's the Wings' leading PK-er by TOI among all forwards, averaging over 2 minutes per game on the penalty kill. 5 points from the 4th line translates to 17 points over 82 games, which isn't terrible.

GRADE: C+


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Gustav Nyquist 0 0 0 -1 0


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Jan Mursak 0 0 0 0 4

How's Grand Rapids, guys? (too soon?)

GRADE: INCOMPLETE


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Mikael Samuelsson 0 1 1 -2 0

Jeff's favorite person in the entire world was signed to a contract that made many of us scratch our heads, but we haven't had a real chance to see whether it was a good idea or not because he's only appeared in 3 games so far. We'll reserve judgment until we can see whether he has an impact, especially on the power play.

GRADE: INCOMPLETE


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Tomas Tatar 4 3 7 3 2

Tatar was vocal about wanting a chance to play in the NHL, and injuries necessitated his call-up where he has been nothing less than very impressive. He has showcased his offensive abilities and is a major puck hound. When he touches the puck in the offensive zone, big things are expected. He's playing WAY SHELTERED minutes on a line with Eaves and Andersson, but they've been contributing offensively while the top line struggles. Being less one-dimensional would raise this grade.

GRADE: B+


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Jordin Tootoo 2 2 4 2 58

We all wondered what the hell was happening when Tootoo was signed, but 4 minor penalties 24 games in and a bunch of fights later and he's a fan favorite. He has yet to score a goal directly into the net, but he wasn't signed for offense. He's done exactly what has been asked without taking all the stupid penalties that Nashville fans complained about. The fact that he has played well in Detroit makes Nashville fans a little mad, so that gives him a little bit of a higher grade.

GRADE: B


G A P +/- PIM
2012 - Henrik Zetterberg 6 20 26 5 12

"To whom much is given, much is expected" is a phrase found above the Wings' locker room door and for no one was this more true than Zetterberg. Being the next in line of captains after Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom places a lot of pressure on the shoulders of a player, but Z has borne it well. He leads the team in points and has formed one of the better 1-2 punches in the league with Brunner. He kills penalties, plays on the power play, goes against the other team's top players, and continues to be the leader that everyone envisioned. He and Datsyuk are still the drivers of the bus, and without them this team would be in deep trouble.

GRADE: A

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