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Season Previews: Red Wings Underdogs

These Red Wings Have Something to Prove


My list of Red Wings for whom I'm specifically rooting to have a great season:

  • All of them

There. That was an easy article.

What? Oh fine, I'll do it the hard way. Let's take a look at some of the guys who get specifically dumped on by Wings fans. These are the guys I'm rooting to have a great year just to kind of shut up their critics (me included). We all know that Wings fans are probably the meanest bunch when it comes to talking about Wings players, but there's a handful who get way more of it than they probably deserve.

Now I'm not calling out the fans. This is what the internet does. Everybody who gets a fair amount of criticism does so because there are reasons to do that. Some of it is fair; some of it isn't. Also, the internet is extremely good at exaggeration, so a lot of the criticism is just a louder version of objective analysis. Then again, a decent amount is also invective trash being hurled from a pillow encampment which could adequately be titled "Fort Unrealistic."

Regardless of what causes it, I'm rooting for these guys to silence their critics.

Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak

It's not entirely fair to lump two players with two different development arcs into the same entry, but that's the whole reason they're on this list. Mursak had a great camp last season before breaking his ankle and never found his stride from the fourth line. Emmerton couldn't be sent down to Grand Rapids without clearing Waivers and the Wings needed a fourth line center, a position from which the youngster potted a decent six goals.

So why are they here? Because they're in Gustav Nyquist's way. These two are taking up roster spots that could be filled with players who fans expect will be much bigger producers for the Wings in the future. Fans don't really dislike Emmerton and Mursak, but they want more out of them, so they either get casually scratched from prospective lineups or hastily thrown into lopsided trades whenever they're brought up.

Deserving of the Criticism Score: 3/6 minutes played per night
Playing on the fourth line for 6 minutes per night is a completely different game than getting even 10-12 minutes. It can be excruciatingly difficult to develop at that pace.

Jordin Tootoo and Justin Abdelkader

Two-for-two (for Tootoo) on doubling-up here so far. Why are Tootoo and Abby together? Because they're basically the same player in the same role. Both got contracts longer than most think they should have gotten at cap hits higher than most think they should have been. Both are expected to be the next coming of Darren McCarty, except with more scoring. Both take a frustrating amount of penalties thanks to their nature, but are expected to use that nature to get under opponents' skin.

It's almost impossible to put a level of performance here that would make a majority of fans happy because there isn't really an easy majority of fans asking for something so specific from such a potentially-varied role. Mike Babcock's Wings have taught us to expect better-than-league-average scoring from all four lines, while more of the old-school Scotty Bowman-types want them to bring back way more of the grit.

Deserving of the Criticism Score: 4/5-minute majors
Tootoo spent his whole career with the Preds and Abdelkader didn't do either of the potential jobs expected of him particularly well last season (although he did have a nice touch on Darren Helm's wing for a while). We need both to be noticeable in a good way.

Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi

Whee! It's the old, broken-down guys who are still holding on to spots portion. The tanks are emptying on these two guys fast. They still have scoring ability and still play the rougher-style game of the NHL, but the grumblings are getting louder that they're also in the way of a much-needed youth movement in Detroit. Add in cap considerations for the accountants among us and the 35+ rule for Bertuzzi for the wannabe lawyers and there's an expectation of tangibles that just isn't being met by the intangibles they bring.

Don't get me wrong, these guys have heart for miles, but so did Rudy and that tiny sucks-at-football hobbit only ever got into one game. There comes a time when a guy just can't do it anymore. Here's to hoping they still can.

Deserving of Criticism Score: 2/4 unhealthy knees
What do you say to somebody who wants a player out of the way to develop a younger guy and knows exactly the risks associated with that? It's a valid opinion. They're likely going to have to perform way above their pay grades to get consistent praise. Even better, how much the fans like them is probably going to depend more-heavily on how well the team does overall.

Carlo Colaiacovo and Kyle Quincey

Lidstrom retired, Holland didn't get any of the free agent D-men above Colaiacovo on the depth chart, and he kind of fell into our laps (luckily not breaking his hip in the process). The positionally-sound and smart rush-joining Colaiacovo is a value pickup for a defense corps that needed more. He was a ripple in a pond that needed a splash. That's not really his fault, but living up to being a part of a defense that now doesn't have Lidstrom is going to be tough.

Quincey is every bit the victim of circumstance working against him, but it's worse for him because people saw him play in a Wings uniform. He was acquired for what was expected to be a mid-20s draft pick that turned into #19 overall as the entire team went like Mega-Maid from suck to blow. Quincey was along for the ride during the very worst (and unfortunately most-recent) portion of Red Wings hockey last season and played just about as well as the rest of the team.

Deserving of Criticism Score: 500,000/1,000,000 things the wings "should" have done differently
Small sample size, small sample size, small sample size. However, Colaiacovo did get injured before playing a single game in Detroit, so that probably couldn't have worked out better for his detractors.

Jonathan Ericsson

Big Rig earned every single portion of the criticism that was lobbed his way through the 2010-11 season. Then he earned about 75% of the criticism lobbed his way through last season after the contract he signed which definitely overpaid him at the time to keep him from getting overpaid by somebody else. Rig's development into a shut-down defenseman has been painfully slow. His decent performance in the 2008-09 playoffs may have set the bar too high for expectations, but he didn't adequately meet even a more-realistic bar on-schedule.

The second half of last season, Ericsson looked to have turned the corner. He wasn't going to be an All-Star, but he played solidly in his own end and performed very well on the PK. A big part of me is actually rooting against him having a critic-silencing breakout year because that's just going to make them all the louder if he then regresses back to the average 2nd-pairing D-man he can probably be.

Deserving of Criticism Score: 18/18 wheels on a big rig
Listen, I personally like the guy more than I feel a lot of fans do, but the nicest thing I can say about him in general is "he's not as bad as you're making him out to be." The sometimes-crazy criticism aimed his way goes over the top, but it's not really undeserved.

Mikael Samuelsson

I saved this guy for last because he collects a bit of each type of criticism from everybody else so far. He's old; he's taking up a roster spot for somebody else; he's both a newcomer to the roster and a guy with past Red Wings' performance to judge him on; his role isn't as well-defined as others', and finally, he's on a longer contract with a higher cap hit than you want him to be on.

To add to the list above, while he's a prolific shooter, he's not a very accurate one. Mikael Samuelsson is the Boogey-Man sent to the NHL solely to punish that asshole in the stands who's constantly yelling "SHOOOT!" like it's the best idea ever and nobody has ever thought to do that. Jokes about him shooting high and wide are past the point of cliché, to where they're basically part of his name. You can't mention him without a jab at his shooting consistency because it becomes kind of an awkward elephant in the room for the conversation where you and your partner are stuck kind of trying to figure out why nobody has said it yet for too long and now it awkwardly lingers like a fart.

Deserving of criticism score: 148/1,755 successful shots on goal
Sammy brings just about everything people have been asking for to Detroit: A willingness to shoot and a snarl in front of the net to go along with good defensive play. There are plenty of better candidates to be mad about taking up a roster spot than this one.