Kenny Holland angered a lot of analytical Wings fans (and Wings fans in general, for that matter) by retaining too many veteran forwards and re-signing guys like Daniel Cleary during the offseason, whose best days were long behind them.
If a forward wasn't agreeing to play overcooked minutes in Grand Rapids, he was threatening to bolt for the KHL. Things became a bit of a mess, but while it was nasty in Detroit this season, the injury bug giveth, the injury bug taketh away.
What the younger players were really in need of was some NHL experience and a chance to prove themselves on the big stage. What the fans have is proof of Detroit's touted future.
#14 / Left Wing / Detroit Red Wings
Jan 9, 1989
#14 / Left Wing / Detroit Red Wings
Jan 9, 1989
The Goose had an extremely successful yet surprising year. On one hand, he played far too little at the NHL level for a skill ceiling his high. On the other hand, he made the most of his time in the big leagues. On top of a double-digit point streak in the middle of a playoff hunt, Nyquist also served as Johan Franzen's replacement on the Olympic team, where he received high marks as a rookie.
In a year where the Red Wings were desperate for a hero, Gus answered the call.
There weren't many pundits calling for his head, and most of the reaction on social media was stellar. There's not much to say other than he was used pretty evenly in all situations, and was a decent CF player at 54.5% in 5v5 situations. If that number goes up, the calls for him to be Pavel Datsyuk's successor won't be too far off.
Hopefully he doesn't face a full on sophomore slump, because this kid was absolutely dynamic this year. Is he your next jersey, or is it the guy I'm writing about next?
Sure, he didn't score at all in the playoffs, but the Wings had more problems beyond Nyqust in that series. After all, this was a kid that wasn't supposed to be in Detroit this year in the eyes of the front office.
You knew what his grade would be before you even began reading.
#21 / Left Wing / Detroit Red Wings
Dec 01, 1990
It's very hard to come back to work after losing a relative. It's even harder when your job is playing in front of millions of people a night and that particular death in the family was your father, the very man who taught you the game of hockey. That's what Tomas Tatar went through this year, and even then he still managed to have a pretty good season otherwise.
In any case, it's safe to say that the offseason dramatics can be ignored, because Tats was clearly NHL-ready and needed to test his game against the big guns in the league. For all intents and purposes, he did well. If he were to play the full 82 games, he would have certainly broken the 20-goal plateau and have recorded nearly fifty points. That's pretty good for a young gun in his first full season with the big club. That might have sounded a bit too Mickey Redmond, now that I think about it.
His playoff performance left a lot to be desired, going pointless in five games and looking frazzled against the Bruins defense, much like his teammate, Nyquist. The kids had to be great to beat Boston, and they weren't. Condemning them, however, is like telling a teenager to stop being moody.
Tatar got a lot of his starts in the offensive zone and was sheltered by Babcock to face lower quality competition (27.8 TOI % QOC) quite a bit during the regular season. He was often paired with Riley Sheahan, given more offensive zone starts against the same quality of competition.
This kid is good and he's been through a lot. He has some nasty skills and as long as he doesn't regress next year, he'll be a cornerstone player on the roster for years to come.
#18/ Center / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 5, 1989
Andersson is basically that one friend who is really hard to go gift-shopping for around his or her birthday. He's a nice guy, he does his job, and he's there when you need him, though you just don't know how to evaluate or reward him. The Swedish youth (pronounce that as a hard th, like Schmidt from New Girl) is the quintessential call-up who can play an every day role and do just fine playing every other. His stats are average if you exclude +/-, but he's still extremely raw, so ferociously scrutinizing him at this stage of the game is moot.
Joakim Andersson wasn't bad in all honesty. While there isn't much to say about him, he posted 17 in 65 games played, after all, he served his role well. Andersson served as the depth center that he was promoted to be from Grand Rapids, and he did very well considering the massive mix of players he wound up playing with throughout the year.
Andersson wasn't a highly sheltered player compared to the rest of the squad, with 46.5 percent of his starts in the offensive zone, though it was usually against weaker competition . On top of that, he was pretty much a dead even possession at 49% CF in even strength situations.
He is starting to use his body a bit more, and his skating is slowly improving, which is all that can be asked of him.
While he's not a mandatory piece of the Wings' puzzle (just so many freaking centermen), he does play a role as one of Babcock's serviceable center-icemen. The Wings would have done just fine without him in the lineup, though they did pretty well with him in it, too.
Next up in evals will be Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, and Daniel Cleary. Thanks for reading.
Advanced statistics courtesy of ExtraSkater
Player statistics courtesy of NHL.com