I enjoy writing these---and have been doing so for some time on forums---so I figured I'd whip one up at the third trimester (54 game) mark. That's right, folks: the season is two-thirds done.
The past 27 games have seen the Red Wings compile a mediocre tally of 11 wins, 12 regulation losses, and four shootout losses. They have encompassed a period frustrating for both the team and for its fans.
Suffice it to say that this trimester has been a nightmare of injuries. Every single one of the team's top four scoring forwards has spent a substantial amount of time out with injury, as have two of the team's top-three defensemen and its starting goalie; more, the team's second-center-to-be has been on the shelf from the start due to sports hernia surgery, a fix that will hopefully remedy his atrocious performance thus far. On the plus side, this has paved the way for the introduction of two impressive rookies, the elevation of two others, and the apparent realization by coaching and management that loyalty to washed-out veterans should only go so far when the team is struggling and available rookies are so obviously superior. Though assuredly forced by circumstances, hopefully this change in policy will live on, as it is of thoroughly visible benefit to the team and may well be necessary if the Red Wings are to contend for a playoff spot.
Whatever the case, it is admirable that the Wings have remained in playoff contention through such adversity, and there's certainly still hope for this season, not to mention an obviously bright future for the multitude of promising young prospects in the system.
Now, on to the grades. Players are listed in alphabetical order, separated by position. Note that these grades apply only to the second trimester, rather than to the entire season thus far. Sadly, I found myself unwilling to take the time necessary to calculate the goaltenders' stats over the past 27 games.
I actually put quite a bit of effort into this. I hope somebody will enjoy reading it.
Justin Abdelkader (22GP, 2G, 7A): B+. Abdelkader put forth a pretty good showing in the second trimester, recently performing very well on a line with Nyquist and Zetterberg. He plays a physical game, clears space for his linemates, plays very solidly on defense, and never lacks for energy. More, he's able to do so without too many taking undue drips to the penalty box; he thus far has only ten minors in 49 games. In sum, while he's unlikely to ever become a good finisher, he certainly contributes on the ice. For what it's worth, he's on pace to eclipse his previous season bests by a wide margin.
Daniel Alfredsson (20GP, 6G, 7A): A-. Alfredsson started this trimester very slowly, then heated up, had it dashed by seven games sat out for injury, and is currently still getting back up to speed. He's a vital cog on the power play, plays an excellent two-way game, never takes a shift off, and provides a leadership presence in the locker room, but some more consistency would be nice. Regardless, he has generally played very well.
Joakim Andersson (21GP, 4G, 1A): C+. Strangely, Andersson has really (by his standards) turned on offensively lately, and all of his goals have come in victories. That said, he's by no means an offensive dynamo, and his goals tend to be the result of work done by others. He has played very ably on the penalty kill, but the return of Helm and the emergence of Sheahan and Glendening have called his utility into question; with the exception of certain washed-out veterans (i.e. the next two guys on this list), he's the slowest player on the team, and that fits him poorly within Babcock's fast-paced system. The fact that both Sheahan and Landon Ferraro---not to mention Mitch Callahan, who, though not a center, is having an excellent season with the Griffins---will no longer be waiver-exempt at season's end further calls Andersson's future on the team into question.
Todd Bertuzzi (21GP, 1G, 1A): F. Bertuzzi was atrocious, with no redeeming aspects whatsoever. He was thoroughly ineffective despite receiving ample time on scoring lines and on the 2nd PP unit; in a word, he has been worse than useless—tallying a -10 rating—and the team has benefited from his absence from the lineup over the past few games. Barring a spectacular return to pre-lockout Bertuzzi form, he won't be back next season.
Daniel Cleary: (26GP, 3G, 1A): F. Cleary has arguably been even worse than Bertuzzi. There's little to say about Cleary that hasn't been said by fans of this team already. Suffice it to remark that he should not---barring a further, enormous string of injuries---play a single game more for the Red Wings. His body is broken beyond all hope of repair, and his decision-making on the ice has become highly suspect as well. On a related note, he was a whopping -13 over this trimester.
Pavel Datsyuk (11GP, 3G, 6A): A. This has been no doubt a frustrating period for Datsyuk, who has missed almost two thirds of it—including almost the entirety of January—first on account of a concussion and then by way of a mystery injury. His play whilst in the lineup was typically excellent.
Patrick Eaves (20GP, 2G, 3A): B-. After returning from a somewhat insulting (and certainly undeserved, given certain others present on the roster) stint in the minors, Eaves has played quite well. He's not spectacular, but he's a valuable energy player with defensive upside and the ability to chip in an odd goal here and there. Of late, he has performed well on the checking line, and has proven unexpectedly handy in shootouts. The fact that he was sent to the AHL ahead of Samuelsson, Bertuzzi, and Cleary is a prime example of this organization's unhealthy attachment to valueless veterans, and the fact that all three of those are now out of the lineup while he continues to play is heartening.
Cory Emmerton (7GP, 0G, 1A): N/A. Emmerton has been briefly brought up twice, both times when almost every center on the roster was injured, and both times he demonstrated his unquestionable mediocrity. In the first instance, he was unwisely given precedence over Sheahan. Needless to say, this is unlikely to happen again. Emmerton is, at best, a 4th-line plug. Though he'll be an RFA at the end of the season, it's nigh-on certain that he won't receive a qualifying offer.
Johan Franzen (9GP, 3G, 3A): A-. Of all the injured players on the team, this period has probably been the most frustrating for Franzen. He was truly on a roll before suffering a freak concussion by way of an errant elbow in mid-December, and he has played only one game since. In the process, he missed the Winter Classic, and he will miss the Olympics as well. The hole left by his absence is visible, as he is, despite his occasional spells of poor effort, a very valuable player to the team; he is especially missed on the score sheet.
Luke Glendening (20GP, 0G, 4A): B-. Glendening is precisely the type of grinder that Mike Babcock loves: fast, hardworking, and chippy. Though he's far from useful offensively, he has been surprisingly valuable on the penalty kill, and he has provided an agitating, pain-in-the-ass presence that this team has not had since Kirk Maltby retired. Whether or not there will be space for him in the lineup next season is anyone's guess.
Darren Helm (9GP, 0G, 2A): B-. Though regularly in and out of the lineup, Helm has provided a his typical, large bevy of tangible and intangible benefits while on the ice. His production, however, has unfortunately dwindled almost to nothing.
Tomas Jurco (15GP, 2G, 3A): B-. Though the least effective of the rookies currently playing, Jurco nevertheless possesses impressive potential as a two-way player. More, he plays a physical game, a rarity for somebody with stickhandling ability as potent as his. Needless to say, he's unlikely to remain with the team after Datsyuk and Franzen return—there would be no sense in having him ride the bench rather than playing top minutes in Grand Rapids—but perhaps he'll be back for good next season.
Drew Miller (27GP, 4G, 4A): B+. Miller had a tough start to the season, but rebounded in this trimester. He continued to play an important role on the penalty kill, and began to contribute offensively as well. Of late, he has played effectively on the checking line.
Gustav Nyquist (24GP, 6G, 7A): B+. Nyquist slumped badly in the early stages of this trimester, then rebounded to become the team's best scorer over the recent stretch. After going eighteen games with only one goal and stretch of six games with no points at all—and that while playing on the top line—he exploded for five goals and eight points in his last seven. He's got the speed, the tools, and the instincts to play an important role offensively, if not the size. His play in the defensive zone is average at best, and needs work.
Mikael Samuelsson (11GP, 0G, 1A): F. Samuelsson is the most useless of the team's useless veterans, indeed worthless in the extreme, and almost undoubtedly the team's worst acquisition since the lockout. It took far too long for Holland and Babcock to dispose of him. Perhaps he'll have more fun in Grand Rapids, though I dearly hope that this will not come at the expense of playing time for one of our prospects.
Riley Sheahan (14GP, 3G, 6A): A-. Wow. This kid is money. Few could have predicted the excellence that Sheahan has shown throughout his thus-far short time with the team. He has good size and strength, possesses a good shot and a surprisingly accurate pass, and has displayed unexpectedly sharp offensive instincts and soft hands. He provides a solid net-front presence, plays a physical game, and is solid in the face-off circle, and his skating has improved drastically since last season. In a remarkable display of confidence, management waived a veteran so that he (a rookie!!) could remain in the lineup. When was the last time something like this happened? I don't remember, but it speaks to how well he has played. Hopefully he's here to stay.
Tomas Tatar (26GP, 9G, 5A): A-. The team's offensive leader over this trimester, Tatar's play has been even better than his numbers might suggest. His fireplug-style offensive play is brilliant, and he plays with amazing energy. His defensive play merits improvement, but has not been a huge issue.
Stephen Weiss (5GP, 0G, 1A): N/A. One hopes that Weiss's inexplicably poor play before going down for good was due to the sports hernia for which he recently had surgery. If he can return to his usual level of play, he'll be a huge asset to the team.
Henrik Zetterberg (14GP, 5G, 9A): A. A worthy captain and an exemplary player in every facet of his game, Zetterberg has throughout this season been the Red Wings' most important player. Though he missed almost half of this trimester, when in the lineup he was the best man on the team.
Danny DeKeyser (16GP, 1G, 1A): A-. Aside from a couple of costly mistakes made soon after returning from injury, DeKeyser has been exceptionally solid. There's little else to be said.
Jonathan Ericsson (17GP, 0G, 2A): B+. Ericsson's value to this team was demonstrated while he was out with injury. He plays a shutdown role of often understated importance, both at even strength and on the penalty kill, and continued to perform well in that role during this trimester. That said, his play in the second trimester was not as solid as it was in the first.
Jakub Kindl (21GP, 0G, 2A): D. Easily the team's worst defenseman over this trimester, Kindl has reverted to the inconsistent play that has characterized his career thus far. After a somewhat promising November (with seven points in 14 games), his performance promptly took a dump. He has been soft in the defensive zone and, worse, useless in the offensive zone; he is often thoroughly unable to get a shot on-net through a crowd, whereas he was amongst the best in the team at this last season. The most definite sign of the insufficiency of his play is that nothing of him was missed when he was replaced by Lashoff. For a guy with a brand-new, four-year contract, that can't happen.
Niklas Kronwall (27GP, 3G, 9A, -6): B. Kronwall started this trimester as well as he'd ended the last, tallying nine points in December's 14 games. He then totaled only three in January. Worse, he has been playing somewhat average hockey in his own end. As the team's #1 defenseman, he needs to be better than he has of late.
Brian Lashoff (26GP, 0G, 1A): C. Lashoff is the quintessential "good enough" #6 defenseman. He plays passably well at even strength and on the penalty kill, but cannot face up adequately against talented opposition, and produces no offense. There's nothing remarkable about him.
Kyle Quincey (27GP, 3G, 3A): B-. Quincey rebounded fairly well from a horrific first trimester. Those he still isn't even nearly what management expected when he was acquired—he still produces next to no offense—he has played quite a bit better defensively since being separated from Smith and paired with DeKeyser, the latter being capable of covering up for Quincey's frequent brainfarts. Interestingly (and sadly), Quincey's three goals over the past two months equal his total tally of regular season goals with the team to that point.
Brendan Smith (27GP, 1G, 9A): C+. Better was expected of Smith, but he has nonetheless continued to improve this season. His turnovers, though still costly, have decreased in frequency, and this trimester saw his offensive contributions increase substantially. That said, his improved play is likely due in large part to his divorce from Quincey and his relegation to third-pairing minutes, and he still takes far too many boneheaded penalties and makes too many mistakes.
Jonas Gustavsson (13GP, 7W, 4L, 2OT/SOL): B-. As he has been wont to do throughout his entire career thus far, Gustavsson played several excellent games to go along with an equal number of atrocious games. The rest mostly fell in the below-average category. His record is not quite as good as it may appear, as he has been the beneficiary of goal support that Howard has inexplicably been deprived of; the Red Wings scored four or more goals in six out of Gustavsson's 13 starts, and he did not win a single game in which the team did not score at least three.
Jimmy Howard (11GP, 4W, 5L, 2OT/SOL): B-. There's no doubt that Howard fought through a significant slump. His December was horrible, and his performance in several January games was not much better. However, he appears to be returning to the excellent form that has characterized most of his career with the Red Wings. It is worth noting once again that his goal support has been atrocious. This trimester inexplicably saw the Red Wings score a dismal 1.73 goals per game in front of Howard, versus 2.85 for Gustavsson.
Petr Mrazek (3GP, 0W, 3L, 0OT/SOL): A-. Tough luck for Mrazek, who was better than his meager record might suggest. In the three games that he started during this trimester, he let in only six goals. Unfortunately for him, the team in front of him potted a grand total of zero. Poor guy. He certainly ought to have received more starts while Howard was out, as his play was generally superior to that of Gustavsson.
Thanks for reading!
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