Born: 12/1/90 (25 years old)
Birthplace: Ilava, Slovakia
Acquired: Second-round (60th overall) 2009
Contract Status: Signed through 2016-17 season, $2.75 million cap hit.
Tomas Tatar had an explosive and thrilling 2014-15 NHL regular-season. His team-leading 29 goals that season were flashy, skillful, and memorable. Who can forget when Tatar scored the game-winning goal and pointed to the sky the day after his father passed away? Personally, Tatar was my favorite player to watch and root for during the 2014-15 season, and I know I that I wasn't alone. Needless to say, hopes were high for Tatar heading into 2015-16, just check out Kyle's expectations for Tomas heading into last season:
Like with Nyquist, I expect greatness. Tatar is a versatile forward who has proven that he can dominate at the NHL level. He's a pint-sized offensive firecracker that just needs to keep the mistakes to a minimum. I want 70 points from Tomas Tatar this season.
Obviously, Tatar didn't live up to the lofty expectations that many of us had for him last season, but was it all bad for the Slovakian-firecracker? Let's dig a little deeper in Tatar's 2015-16 season.
For the two steps forward that Tomas Tatar took during the 2014-15 NHL season, he took one step back during the 2015-16 campaign. Much like Gustav Nyquist, Tatar's inconsistent and underwhelming season can be attributed to several factors, both in and out of Tomas' personal control. Between being juggled around in different line combinations, a lingering shoulder injury, not having Mike Babcock push him, and ultimately not being able to live up the lofty-expectations we all had for him all contributed to Tatar's performance.
To be fair, and as much as I hate to say it, the Red Wings in general were not a good offensive team last season. Detroit finished 23rd in the league in both goals for (209) and goals for per game (2.55). Even though Tatar was expected to have better numbers, he still managed to finish second behind Dylan Larkin in goals (21), fifth in assists (24), third in points (45), and second in shooting percentage (12.7%) on the team. Tatar also finished tied for second alongside Nyquist in power play goals (7), another area that the Red Wings struggled in all-season.
What He Did vs. Expectations:
Along with Nyquist, Tatar was expected to grow into a more veteran-style role and help lighten the workload of players like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk in 2015-16. Instead, younger players like Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou stepped up and became the players that Red Wings fans relied on and looked to for a spark while Nyquist and Tatar seemed to all but disappear at times during the season.
Tomas continued to make the mistakes that fans (or at least I) find frustrating about his game. Whether it's trying to be too fancy with the puck while entering the zone, getting knocked on his behind/turning the puck over while trying to make one too many moves, or simply not taking the shot, Tatar definitely had his fair share of frustrating/unproductive moments.
Despite not improving on his 2014-15 numbers, Tatar pretty much maintained his final standings on the team in regards to both assists (5th) and points (3rd). Had it not been for Dylan Larkin, Tomas would have most likely lead an offensively-struggling Detroit team in goals again this season. Sure, we would have all liked a greater contribution from both Nyquist and Tatar during both the regular-season and playoffs, but it just wasn't in the cards.
Final Grade: C
I like Tomas Tatar. I want to like Tomas Tatar even more, but last season he was just average when the Red Wings needed him to be more than average. We have all seen what Tatar can accomplish when he's hot and on his game, it's exciting and game-changing. When he's not on his game, it's downright frustrating.
I don't know Tomas Tatar personally, but he comes across as a person and a player that wears his emotions on his sleeve. Perhaps the burden of knowing how much was expected of him from fans and management last season weighed too heavily on him. If Tomas remains on the Red Wings in 2016-17, expectations will be just as high, if not higher.