It was no secret heading into this season that the Red Wings were once again going to be one of the oldest teams in the NHL. For the past 10 years, the Wings have relied heavily on seasoned veterans to be the leaders, supplemented by a few young players.
As we continue our postseason series of grading the Red Wing players. we focus on two of the more experienced members of the team. One has been a fixture in red and white, a player that was obtained for $1 and has been around since before the Wings were known as Stanley Cup Champions. The other was a former superstar who was "coming home" for one more shot at glory. For potentially the last time, let's review the seasons of Kris Draper and Mike Modano.
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: In the pre-season, it was clear that both players were going to play significant roles as depth players. Modano was coming off a season in which he missed time due to injury and had been discarded by the only franchise he had ever known. Draper was going to be his usual energetic self, killing penalties and winning faceoffs, but in a reduced role as the kids got more playing time. Modano in particular was seen as a piece that could vault the Wings ahead of the pack and give them the forward depth necessary to contend for a Cup.
Follow the jump as we dish out some grades for two of the Wings' elder statesmen.
#33 / Center / Detroit Red Wings
May 24, 1971
|2010 - Kris Draper||47||6||5||11||1||12||0||0||1||57|
The last remaining member of the Grind Line, Draper has seen his role evolve over his years in Detroit. Obtained in 1993, at times he has been the Wings' best penalty killer, top checking center, defensive specialist, and now is a mentor to younger players like Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves. Casey predicted that Draper would see reduced playing time as he was caught in the revolving door to the Leino Lounge, but it was hernia surgery that kept Draper out of the lineup for the first 2 and a half months of the season. He played in only 47 games, the lowest percentage of games played vs team games since his first season in Detroit.
WHAT HE DID WELL: Despite the injury, he made an immediate impact in the faceoff dot, leading the team in faceoff percentage and finishing 15th in the NHL among centers who played in at least 41 games. Together with Patrick Eaves and Darren Helm, they formed a line that was often one of the best trios for the Wings on any given night, a testament to how hard that line worked (and how poor the top lines played at times this season). Despite appearing in a limited number of games, he was able to score 6 goals, a pace that likely would have gotten him in double-digits for the first time since 2006-07. While losing some of his defensive abilities, he was still an asset against the other team rather than a liability.
WHAT HE DIDN'T DO WELL: Draper has never been known as an offensive force, and this year was no exception. His 6 goals, while only in 47 games, came within a stretch of 22 games, and he did not score a goal after February 13. In the playoffs, he kicked in 1 assist in 8 games. However, he was not kept on to score goals.
OVERALL GRADE: There's some sentimentality at play here, because we all know that Draper might not be back with the Wings next year. However, this is not about what he's done over his career, but rather what he did this season. He missed the first 23 games of the season due to hernia surgery, than was unable to escape the 13th forward rotation. While in the lineup, he was effective in his role as a fourth line winger, but his inability to remain in the lineup diminshed his impact. If this was Draper's swan song, it was probably not the way he wanted to go out, but he played hard and with passion when on the ice. I'll give him a C+ for being a solid, if unspectacular, contributor to the team.
#90 / Center / Detroit Red Wings
Jun 07, 1970
|2010 - Mike Modano||40||4||11||15||-4||8||1||0||0||79|
There hasn't been a free agent signing by the Wings that was as anticipated as Mike Modano. The storylines were in abundance: the Livonia native coming back to Michigan to play for his hometown team after a Hall of Fame career as the face of the Dallas Stars franchise for one last chance at winning the Stanley Cup. His Red Wing career began with a bang, scoring in the first game of the season against the Ducks. After that, he struggled to adapt to the Wings' system, and he only tallied one other goal over the course of the first 20 games. Then in a game against Columbus, R.J. Umberger's skate came up accidentally and struck Modano's right wrist, severing tendons and causing him to miss 41 games. Upon his return, he struggled to catch up, and by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was relegated to the press box while the Wings attempted an epic comeback.
WHAT HE DID WELL: When reviewing Modano's season as a whole, he really wasn't the factor that many of us thought he'd be. It was well understood that he was not the Modano of 10 years ago, but 10-15 goals and 35 points were not unreasonable goals. In the preseason, he told the press he was not used to the conditioning the Wings employed. However, a lot of his struggles can be attributed to being in a new system, and then due to coming back after a significant injury. Towards the end of the regular season, Modano was playing with a step in his game that was not there previously, and he had 7 points in his last 20 games. Before he got injured, he was playing better as he adapted to his new team.
WHAT HE DIDN'T DO WELL: In a few words, a lot. At the beginning of the season, he struggled to mesh on a line with Jiri Hudler and Danny Cleary, and when he returned, the team was playing so well that his place in the lineup was tenuous at best. He couldn't score to save his life early in the season, and the injury he sustained took a lot of momentum away from him (although the injury was through no fault of his). His defense was pretty much non-existent, he was inconsistent offensively, and before the playoffs began, he took a lot of the focus away from the team by announcing that he would likely retire if the Wings made a deep run. Unfortunately for him, he only played in 2 playoff games, and only because of injuries to Johan Franzen.
OVERALL GRADE: I think it's safe to say the Mike Modano experiment was a bust. I know a lot of people were excited at the prospect of the greatest American-born player joining his home team, but the Modano of 2010-11 was a shell of his former self. He never seemd to fit in with the Wings, and he sustained an accidental injury that derailed his season. I won't go so far as to give him a failing grade, because I think had he not gotten injured, his season would have turned out differently. Still, he was not good when he was in the lineup, never becoming the player many thought he would be for the Wings. For that reason, I give Modano a D and wish him well with whatever he decides to do next in his career.