When Wings fans all over the internet began debating the depth charts for the 2013-2014 season, 4 names were nowhere to be found on anyone's lists. David Legwand was this year's controversial trade deadline acquisition, and the Sheahan/Jurco/Glendening trio were not really expected to make a significant impact on the roster this season. Despite this, all 4 of these guys played big minutes down the stretch, so let's do a bit of a miscellaneous post here to grade each of them in their limited roles. We're only going to look at stats acquired with the Red Wings, so that excludes AHL stats and Nashville stats.
David Legwand was brought to the team on a trade deadline move that was literally processed at the last minute in a trade that sent Calle Jarnkrok, Patrick Eaves, and a 2nd round pick to Nashville. Many critics have forgotten that Legwand was initially a nice spark plug when the team badly needed one. When Legwand stepped into an injury-ravaged lineup, he made up a top line with Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist, and the trio turned in a series of excellent games. Legwand accrued 7 points in his first 8 games in a Red Wings uniform, and he very much looked to be the guy Detroit was hoping they got in Stephen Weiss. Unfortunately, things went downhill after that. Legwand managed only 3 points in the final 12 regular season games, and his time on ice steadily decreased from the 18-19 minute range down to around 12 minutes in the final two games, and he remained on the 4th line during the series against Boston. Quite a fall from his strong initial start. To make things worse, he managed to rack up 6 minor penalties in those final 12 games and often got beat in the faceoff circle.
However when it's all said and done, there's a very strong chance the Detroit Red Wings do not make the playoffs without David Legwand in the lineup for all those games, especially those first 8 games where there literally was not enough centers on the roster. If you want to lay blame for the high price of this rental, that shouldn't fall on Legwand's shoulders. While Legwand deserves some real blame for not performing to the level we all hoped, he does deserve credit for putting up his best performance when the team most needed it. He was thrown into an unfamiliar lineup and produced immediately, and that's what keeps his performance from being a failure.
In what can only be described as the best surprise of the Red Wings season, Riley Sheahan emerged as a legit scoring line center this season. For long stretches of the season with Datsyuk and Zetterberg out of commission, Sheahan essentially centered the 2nd line and 2nd PP unit, and he came away with the numbers to show for it. Sheahan was expected by many to be a big and tough defensively-responsible center with limited offensive abilities - comparable to Joakim Anderson. Instead we got our sights on some real offensive ability, as Sheahan's impressive anchoring of the famed "kid line" with Tatar and Jurco was the Red Wings most consistent line for long stretches of this season. Riley Sheahan scored at an 18 goal/47 point pace to go along with his team-leading 56.4% corsi. One highly underrated stat about Sheahan is that he managed only 6 penalty minutes in 42 games. For reference, Pavel Datsyuk got just 6 penalty minutes in 45 games, and literally everybody else who played at least 20 games had more PIMs. Sheahan stayed out of the box as well as any player in a Wings uniform this season, and that type of discipline from a young player is exceedingly uncommon and valuable.
Expectations for Sheahan will surely be higher next season, but for this season, Sheahan exceeded expectations in every way possible. There's a very strong chance that Sheahan's emergence was really the nail in the coffin for Jarnkrok's future with the team and directly led to him being traded away. Discussion over that trade aside, there's no doubt that it says a whole lot about how the team views Sheahan's present performance and future with the team.
Tomas Jurco was yet another face that stepped into that lineup this season that is probably younger than you. At just 21 years old (practically an infant by Red Wing standards), he went from injury replacement to stealing the job of veterans like Dan Cleary. Jurco didn't turn quite as many heads as Tatar, Nyquist, and even Sheahan have done the last couple years, but given his size and his increasing ability to utilize it, he should get there anytime now.
Tomas Jurco was played like a top 6 winger for long stretches of this season, and he acquitted himself well. That alone speaks volumes about his performance. When guys returned from injury and Babcock was able to give the kid line easier minutes, they ate the lesser competition alive. The only blemish to Jurco's resume was his playoff struggles resulting in him being a healthy scratch, but given the fact that the whole team struggled in that series, we can comfortably chalk that up as a learning experience and move forward. Jurco exceeded expectations and produced at an NHL level, and for that he gets a very good grade.
Luke Glendening rather quickly became the new Daniel Cleary - the guy Babcock loved that the statistically-inclined Red Wings fans have grown to hate. The thinking is that for as much as Glendening does things "the right way" and is "tough" or "gritty" - both traditional and fancy stats suggest he just isn't very good at even strength. Babcock's frequent usage of him on a shutdown line against opponents top lines had very mixed reviews as well. Despite all this, Glendening skates his tail off every time he's on the ice. He does well killing penalties, and sure his hands make Helm's hands look all-world, but your 4th line center making less than $1M isn't really out there to score tons of goals.
Given Luke Glendening's microscopic expectations and vote of confidence from the organization, it's hard to be too harsh on his complete lack of offense in terms of grading. It's not hard to find fans who would happily give him an A, and it's equally easy to find fans who would rabidly give him an F. I'm more inclined to go somewhere in the middle. Glendening was not very good at even strength, but he certainly wasn't one of the biggest weaknesses on this team either. Glendening's problem may honestly be just as much usage as it is ability, and we'll have to see what next season brings in that regard. For this season though, his performance was solid enough. We'll give him a grade based solely on non-existent preseason expectations with the understanding that the curve will not be so easy on him next year.
David Legwand is expected to walk as a UFA. Sheahan and Glendening will be back next year. Jurco deserves to be back, and he will be as long as we don't get Nyquist-like waiver exception games with him next year considering that he can still safely be sent back to the AHL. Next year the expectations will increase for the 3 youngsters, and we'll get to closely watch to see if the each make another leap next year. Overall, I think we can be pretty happy with this trio. What were your grades for each of these guys?