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Red Wings Season Preview: Filppula/Hudler

Welcome from sunny (and mildly warm) Canada, where I'm on a mini-vacation visting the family before I completely embarrass myself in my family's annual golf tournament. Being home always gets me revved up for hockey, because when I turn on Sportscentre (notice the spelling), the first stories are always about hockey signings, not which NBA player is going to lose their mansion because of the lockout. We continue our series of previewing the Wing forwards, and Jeff looked at the 2 net-crashers on Wednesday, Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom. We shift our focus away from the tough areas of the ice to look at two players who play more on the perimeter. Let's look at Valtteri Filppula and Jiri Hudler. Last Season's Benchmark: Hoo boy, big things were expected of both of these players headed into last season. Filppula was coming off a 2009-10 campaign in which he started very well, but a broken wrist sidelined him for an extended period of time and affected his play when he came back. He remained relatively healthy for most of last season, and chipped in 16 goals and 39 points in 71 games. Hudler? Well, after a year in Russia where he chased the almighty Ruble, the man known as Happy came back to the States and promptly began to suck for the first few months of the season. He didn't score his first goal until November 13, and only had 3 in the entire calender year of 2010. He improved slightly over the course of the season, and ended the year with 10 goals and 37 points, less than half of what his totals were in his last NHL season.

Valtteri Filppula

#51 / Center / Detroit Red Wings



Mar 20, 1984

2010 - Valtteri Filppula 71 16 23 39 -1 22 4 0 5 115

Flip had a solid start to the season, recording points in the first 3 games of the season while playing on a line with Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi. He spent most of the year playing as the second-line center with various wingers, and saw significant time on the power play as well. A sprained MCL in mid-February cost him 8 games, but he put up his highest PPG offensive totals while playing at least 70 games in a season. Strengths: Filppula has a lot of speed, and this helps him in the transition game and in creating offense. He's a very good passer who sees the ice very well. He can play in almost any situation, and has enough defensive ability to be used late in games while protecting a lead. Weaknesses: Flip will never be a very good goal-scorer, often choosing to pass first and shoot second. He's also undersized without a ton of raw physical strength, and can get muscled off of pucks at times. He has yet to display a consistency necessary to being a legitimate second-line offensive center in the NHL. Expectations: This really needs to be the year that Filppula breaks out offensively and shows that he's the 50-60 point man that many believe he is. With Darren Helm getting better and a solid set of forward prospects in the system, Filppula has a lot of pressure to fend off the competition. I think this is the year he hits 50 points, and 15-20 goals are a possibility.

Jiri Hudler

#26 / Right Wing / Detroit Red Wings



Jan 04, 1984

2010 - Jiri Hudler 73 10 27 37 -7 28 3 0 2 105

Oh, Happy. The Wings retained Hudler's rights despite his bolting for the KHL in 2009-10, and it was thought that a return to the lineup would yield the 20 goals and 50 points we saw from him when last in the NHL. Unfortunately, Hudler never got going offensively until the second half of the season, and while his numbers were decent at the end of the year, it was not enough to salvage what was a dismal start. Strengths: Hudler is first and foremost a goal-scorer. While he only had 10 goals on the season last year, he's shown that he can score 20 in the NHL. He's got a very good shot, and is especially dangerous on the power play when he has some room to move and get open for quality scoring chances. While not the fastest skater, he does have offensive ability and a decent set of hands. Weaknesses: He's not going to beat many other players in a foot race, and that lack of speed makes him a little one-dimensional. He's pretty much useless in his own zone, and he's got no size to make up for his lack of defensive ability. He's not good enough offensively to make up for the deficiencies in his linemate's game, and needs to be on a line with other talented forwards for him to have a positive impact on the team. Expectations: Considering how he fared for the first half of last year, expectations for Hudler are pretty low entering the season. Personally, I'm waiting to see if last year was simply him trying to re-adjust to the speed of the NHL, or if his 2008-09 season was a flash in the pan. Personally, I think he's somewhere in the middle (hey, being Canadian means I don't take a definitive position), and he scores 10-20 goals with 40-50 points. I will say this about both of these players: if ever there was a player that could be traded mid-season, you're looking at the two biggest candidates. Both have high cap hits and have not lived up to the expectations placed upon them by the organization or the fans. That may not be fair, but it is what it is. Come back on Monday when J.J. moves up the size chart to look at two of the bigger forwards on the Wings, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi.