Born: 02/25/1987 Muskegon,MI
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 218lb
Position: Left Wing
Contract: Signed through 2022-23, $4,250,000 AAV
The season started off on a high note for Justin Abdelkader as on October 5th the Red Wings announced the Muskegon native would wear the “A” previously held by Pavel Datsyuk. Unfortunately for him and the Red Wings that would be the high point of his season.
Abdelkader struggled to find offense without Pavel, only twice logging multiple points in a game and not once scoring more than one goal. On top of that, a knee injury at the beginning of December kept him out just over a month.
In the end, he saw career or near career lows in goals, assists, points, shots, hits and CorsiFor%. On the plus side, he also reduced his penalty minutes by more than half from last season.
What He Did Vs. Expectations:
Coming off of seasons of 23 and 19 goals and entering the first season of the seven year extension he signed midway through the 2015-16 season the Red Wings expected more of the same from Abdelkader. Fans expected (or at least wanted) him to learn how to play with the edge he established in his game without taking the bad and often poorly timed penalties that cost the team games in 2015-16.
In cutting his PIM down to 50 for the season (the second lowest total of his career in an 82 game season) Abdelkader did a much better job staying out of the penalty box, although he did still have a few of those really bad penalties that ended up costing the team points.
Unfortunately, he also saw his offensive numbers shrink to some of the lowest of his career as well. Part of this is from missing 18 games due to injury. Another part can be attributed to an ever-changing role on the team. The emergence of Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou as well as constantly changing roster led to Abdelkader being bounced all over the lineup. This is reflected in his TOI stats where eight different forwards logged over 100 minutes of even strength ice time with Abby, but only Dylan Larkin was over 200. Justin also saw a change in his usage as his even strength defensive zone starts percentage was over fifty percent for the first time in his career. It appears that as the season went on and guys like Mantha, Athanasiou and Tomas Tatar earned more playing time that Abdelkader was asked to take on a more defensive minded role on a line with Dylan Larkin and/or Darren Helm than the secondary scorer/power forward/piano mover role he enjoyed the past few seasons on a line with Pavel Datsyuk.
Final Grade: D
This was a lot tougher of a grade to give out than I had expected. On one hand, Abdelkader did not perform anywhere near the production levels that fans, the organization and his contract expected. On the other, a midseason injury and ever-changing role on an offensively challenged team did not really put him in the best position to succeed in the first place. In the end though, I decided to go a little tougher on the grade than I originally wanted to simply because despite all the challenges this season brought I expected someone wearing an “A” for the Detroit Red Wings to be able to overcome those challenges and produce.
Up next we take a look at Xavier Ouellet
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