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Detroit Red Wings Player Preview: Luke Glendening & Luke Witkowski

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I wish I could luke the other way.

Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Last Season

Well damn, Luke Glendening had another gritty, gnashing, red assed season season where he skated really hard into the corners and took key offensive zone draws late in games then had to skate even harder back to the bench. Could I say he suffered from some bad luck? Yes, Luke “Sorry Dylan, here’s your linemate” Glendening, has had a slope in both shots and shooting percentage. One thing that remains consistent? Despite being in Sidney Crosby’s head even worse than Brandon Dubinsky, the defensive specialist gives up a lot of shots when he’s on the ice. Yes, Luke scored 12 goals a couple seasons ago, had over 20 points in 2015-16, so maybe his sub-4 shooting percentage was an aberration. The way he struggles to get out of his own zone is not.

Luke Witkowski? He’s from Holland, MI. According to the Red Wings social media team, that’s important. He played with the Lightning last season (I double checked). If you come from Steve Yzerman’s system that’s a positive right? At one point the best GM in hockey called you up for 34 games. Witkowski didn’t do much in those games. He averaged over two hits a game. That’d be a cool stat in 1993. Anthony Mantha broke his finger while in a fight with him. He did have some value though. Yzerman essentially signed Dan Girardi to replace Witkowski—a lateral move for Tampa. What’s curious is Ken Holland signed Witkowski to replace Steve Ott.

2017-18 Preview

The two interesting issues surrounding Glendening is where his ice time will go and who his linemates will be. In Holland’s (and the stringers) fever to anoint a new grind line, we’ve seen younger players not given the precious 8 to 10 minutes a night for growth, perhaps alongside Glendening. Whether this was the dearly departed Tomas Nosek (he would’ve been a good bottom-sixer, YOU GUYS), or Tyler Bertuzzi—though his season was abbreviated by injury. Glendening saw his ice time drop a bit and he bounced up and down the line up as Jeff Blashill desperately tried to cobble something together. I liked seeing Glendening around 12 minutes a night. I think Sheahan, Abdelkader and/or Bertuzzi would make an ideal linemates benefitting him and suiting these players in a more modest role where they belong (Abdelkader’s contract be damned). It would also be ideal to retire the notion because you can’t score you can magically kill penalties. Skill, speed and puck control should go on the penalty kill. Glendening is a good skater but that’s his lone penalty killing asset. The Red Wings need to stop believing he’s got no.33 on his back, ironically that includes Kris Draper. Lastly, don’t put him on offensive zone draws when you have the goalie pulled. It just creates an awkward line change when you need zone pressure.

Witkowski is concerning. A defensemen at age 27 will get every opportunity to make the Red Wings as forward, as Glendening’s linemate. When the Red Wings are struggling to sign Andreas Athanasiou, one of their best even strength goal scorers, we see them giving an 4A enforcer a contract. They’re making him a forward when they already have too many forwards. What does Witkowski actually bring to the table? Blashill has coached him at Western Michigan. He can fight and he can hit. He will appease fans who want “Olde Tyme Hockey”. I watch hockey fights on You Tube. Hell yeah. But those fights took place 30 years ago. The Red Wings urgently need to enter this decade as it’s almost over. As other teams move forward with youth, speed and skill, Holland is doubling down on his rapidly expanding plot of critics with Witkowski this season following Ott last season. But hey, this strategy worked out well for Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens last season. Excuse me while I poll more Hockey Men on what really works.

Bottom Line

Clearly my frustration comes from a player like Glendening being considered an asset in this lineup. Frankly on most teams he’d be a liability. Cut back his penalty kill time, keep him off the ice final minute of the game, and dammit stop matching him against top lines! I suppose he could be fine. He’ll probably be thrown on the defensive front line again, used as some sort of specialist. This will just expose Glendening and Blashill and the Red Wings.

Witkowski is an American League player and hopefully that’s where he’ll end up. If he comes up for a cup of coffee here and there, fights, maybe wake up the oligarchs that’ll be filling the lower bowl of the LCA, okay I guess. When he plays, he’ll be an instant fan favorite. Even then, it’s a spot that could be filled by a young player spinning this team into a true transition period.