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The Detroit Red Wings: Naughty or Nice?

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Christmas is a time for love, joy, and Santa’s judgment. How do your favorite players stack up?

We here at Winging It In Motown want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! It’s one of my favorite times of year, with the hockey season in full swing, the lights and snow outside, and of course, delicious food and fellowship with friends and family.

It’s also the time where a fat, bearded man in a red suit comes to judge everyone for their actions over the last year in a secret process and doles out rewards or punishments as he sees fit. It’s fun to think about where the Red Wings might find themselves in Santa’s graces, but we never truly know what that jolly old man is thinking.

Until this year. We’ve gotten an inside scoop on the Naughty/Nice Lists directly from the North Pole, courtesy of none other than Joe Hicketts and Vili Saarijarvi. I mean, who knew the real reason Hicksy wasn’t being called up was because he was actually hard at work with Vili and the other elves right up until Christmas Eve?

Anyway, we got our hands on the Lists and now we can share them with you. For added fun, we came up with some reasons what each player did to get themselves eternally labeled as Naughty or Nice.

Justin Abdelkader: Naughty

I mean after that dumb slash just last week, I can’t say I’m too upset with this designation. Plus, I’ve heard that Santa has a recency bias. And as Sara succinctly put it, “Go away.”

Andreas Athanasiou: Nice

I was actually a little on the fence about AA, since he makes a lot of Red Wings fans very happy with his plays, but he makes opposing goalies very sad when he embarrasses them. I guess the happiness of all those Detroit fans outweighs the bruised egos of the NHL tendies. Peter hopes he gets more ice time in his stocking this year.

David Booth: Nice

And I’m not just talking about his hair. His was kind of a “wait, what?” signing at the beginning of the year, but Rob H. wants to know how you can’t like his story of return to the NHL. I agree, but I’m also a huge sucker for that kind of stuff.

Martin Frk: Nice

“Frk has slotted in so seamlessly you forget he hasn't been here for years already. No problems handling line shuffles and with his mighty slapshot you'll be like TeemWHO Pulkkinen?” – Sara

Not to mention that his missing tooth makes him look like a happy puppy whenever he scores, and how can you give a puppy coal on Christmas?

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Luke Glendening: Nice

He may be injured now, but Sara wants to remind you that Hometown Hockey Hero LGD is on his way to a career high in goals and a career low in PIM, and he's even got a shorty and a powerplay goal!

Darren Helm: Nice

Now I may be biased, but Helmer is always on my Nice list. Plus, Rob H. is pleased with how he’s really found a niche for himself in this lineup and is quietly having a good season so far.

Dylan Larkin: Nice

How can you say this kid is Naughty? He’s never done a thing wrong in his life, NHL penalty minutes be damned. He was framed.

“Sings during warmups, good sport about the D-Boss thing, the reason for the season.” – Sara

“Can't say enough about his growth this year. Bonus for leaning into the Snip Show stuff.” – Peter

Anthony Mantha: Nice

I’ve gotta say, I’m impressed with how Mantha has improved this season. He’s already got 13 goals in 35 games, and as JJ puts it: Big Tony brings the spicy meatballs, sharing joy and happiness with all.

Frans Nielsen: Nice

While not as delicious as fresh-baked Danishes, this Great Dane isn’t getting coal tomorrow morning. Former Islanders fan Peter has always been a fan of the Frans for his solid play.

“Frans Nielsen works so hard and plays really good two-way hockey but is buried under reindeer shit as the center for a much-maligned "shut-down line" and he deserves some treats in his stocking.” – JJ, oddly and perfectly descriptive as always

Gustav Nyquist: Naughty

As much as it pains me to see that the Goose landed himself on the Naughty list, I can’t help but agree that he’s underperforming this season. He’s got 10 goals now, but only seven assists. Sara adds, “Goose has always been a great set-up man in addition to chipping in with timely goals. This year he seems aimless, and how rude to not have the decency to have the season of his life so we can use him as tasty trade bait.”

Tomas Tatar: Naughty

“You spoiled us last year Tats, now we expect that from you every year. Also, like Nyquist, you should be fetching some prospects for us on the trade market.” – Sara

Something something, Tatar and Nyquist are too much the same player, blah blah blah. But the truth is that these two are rocking almost identical stat lines this season and neither of them are living up to our expectations. The only difference is that Tats will be getting an extra lump of coal in his stocking for the one fewer assist than Nyquist he’s got.

Luke Witkowski: Naughty

The more heavily-bearded Luke may be from my hometown but I’m not going easy on him. Sure, that ten-game suspension was on a technicality and other players involved did worse, but there was that two-fight game that was just, ugh. I know scrappy play and fights get cheers and stuff, but you know what gets fans more excited? Good hockey and timely goals! And what better time to score your first ever NHL goal than when your team needs it most?

“The continuing of the grit>skill narrative is the worst thing. The Wings should be letting players like Lil Bert get the NHL experience they need to be ready for a permanent roster spot and not prioritizing moral victories over the future.” – Sara

Henrik Zetterberg: Nice

Or should I say, niiice. Z’s had a rough patch this season, but lately he’s looked like his old self, piling up the assists and getting into his drag-my-team-into-winning-kicking-and-screaming mode.

“Has carried this team the last two seasons, although he's getting more help this year. Tremendous press conference faces. Much beard.” – Peter

“I will not accept any Zetterberg slander here, he's old and he's honest so SHOW SOME RESPECT.” – Sara, whose twitter contains enough sparkles for a million snow globes but also has a running collection of Zetterberg faces, from pride over his smol hockey sons to barely restrained contempt for certain Detroit diggers

Trevor Daley: Nice

Daley just seems like a good dude. I mean, it was with the Penguins and ew, but did you hear about the story with his mother after he won the Cup? Ugh, tears. Plus, he hasn’t made Sara curse on twitter about him yet, and he proved JJ right the other night for saying he was playing well just before he scored his second goal in as many games.

Danny DeKeyser: Naughty

Oh Danny Dekes, what can we say about this season? It’s… it’s not been going well. A measly two points so far and while I haven’t looked lately, I imagine his Rank ‘Em scores aren’t doing much better. Let’s hope he gains some serious Dad Power when he and his wife welcome their little one in February. Also, Sara thinks he’s tacky.

Jonathan Ericsson: Nice

E52 has definitely been the surprise on the blue line this year, and while I am confused, I am also completely here for it. While he didn’t have the over-eager puppy type of mistakes a la Brendan Smith (RIP), you can’t say he didn’t often fully commit to his errors when he made them. I imagine this is why Mike B. described him as “the type of nice where your kid is trying harder in school, but he still can't manage better than a C in math class. You still give him the GameCube anyway.”

Mike Green: Nice

He’s a good husband and father to a gorgeous wife and adorable kiddo, he rocks the tattoos, and he has cats named Gary and Banana. Like, you can’t not love that. Rob H. is also excited about the couple of second rounders we’ll get back from the Oilers at the trade deadline.

Nick Jensen: Unknown

“Left off the list. Like me, Santa forgot Nick Jensen existed so that Easy Bake Oven will have to wait another year.” – Sara

My theory is that the beard made him look too much like Steve Ott, so he was originally on the Naughty List, but then he shaved and Santa got confused, and that guy just doesn’t have time to completely re-evaluate someone when he’s trying to find a stocking big enough for all of Zac Rinaldo’s coal.

Niklas Kronwall: Nice

Before you start with the wailing and gnashing of teeth, remember that this is based on Santa’s opinion. Maybe he thought that all those giveaways are generous, or that his determination to play through pain when he reeeally shouldn’t is admirable. Maybe he thinks Kronner is actually one of his escaped reindeer. After all, he’s been at this a long time, he’s bound to start forgetting the names of his steeds eventually.

“Yes, he's on the nice list because he is healthier and more often in a position to not make colossal mistakes resulting in goals against. He'll make some, but he looks much better than last year that it's hard to summon the same level of rage when you have to apply so much to DeKeyser and Ericsson.” – Sara

Xavier Ouellet: Naughty

As Mike B. points out, when you can't crack this blue line unit and get regular playing time... well, poor X has been left out in the cold of the press box. Looks like he’ll be getting coal to burn and keep warm, at least?

Jimmy Howard: Naughty

He might be playing the lion’s share of games this season and honestly, it’s commendable that he hasn’t murdered any of his teammates in cold blood for their inability to score when he’s keeping them in games. On the other hand, JJ posits that he put the local unblinking and unsettling Elf of the Shelf out of a job with those crazy eyes of his, which is true. I mean, can you imagine replacing that mini demon with a Howard bobblehead or something? shudder

Petr Mrazek: Nice

Like his tendy partner, he’s not getting a ton of help from the skaters in front of him. He’s also not getting a ton of favors from the coaching staff by barely playing this season. As Sara puts it, “He's doing the best he can with what he's got, which is almost nothing. It's not easy to only play one game a year but he's better than a lot of goalies would be.”

Jeff Blashill: Naughty

Hard to argue this, I think. All the constant talk about “The Process” was great in Grand Rapids when he coached some dominant teams into impressive playoff showings and a Calder Cup, but in Detroit it just isn’t working the same. I’m also still confused by the ice time decisions, especially when using the 11/7 format he’s insisting on.

“The Blashill Bingo Wheel has not been particularly malfunctioning, but his staunch belief that the only thing you need to win is to decide losing is ‘unacceptable’ is a steaming pile of reindeer poop. There's being optimistic and then there's being disconnected from the current reality you live in.” – Sara

Ken Holland: Naughty

Sara once again puts it bluntly and perfectly: You are a thief of joy, Ken Holland. Coal for you.


So there you have it, everyone! Definitive judgments for all of your Detroit Red Wings have been handed down, and Santa himself is already off and flying, delivering gifts and coal around the world. Agree? Disagree? Tell us in the comments!

And if any Red Wings are reading this on Christmas Eve? Well, spoiler alert, your stockings will be filled accordingly.

Let’s Go Red Wings!!