Born: February 25, 1987
Birthplace: Muskegon, MI
Acquired: Drafted, 2005 (Rd2, Pick 42)
Contract Status: 5yr/$19.25M remaining ($4.25AAV)
|Zone Starts (EV)|
|Corsi (EV)||Fenwick (EV)||PDO (EV)|
|CF||CA||CF%||CF% rel||FF||FA||FF%||FF% rel||oiSH%||oiSV%||PDO||TOI/60|
|Even Strength||Power Play||Short Handed|
|TOI||CF% Rel||GF/60||GA/60||TOI||CF% Rel||GF/60||GA/60||TOI||CF% Rel||GF/60||GA/60|
Coming into the season, Justin Abdelkader was one of the more polarizing figures on the Red Wings. Mike explains it well in his season preview. With six years remaining on his contract and the Red Wings pushing full on into the rebuild, it was critical that Abdelkader find a long-term role on the team. Could he re-find his 15-20 goal scoring ability or develop another role (i.e. playmaker, defensive forward/top penalty killer, etc.) that at least could come close to justifying his contract going forward?
What He Did vs. Expectations
The season was a bit of a mixed bag for Abdelkader. On the plus side, while he did not come close to reaching the 20 goal pace he had a few years ago, he was able to rebound from his awful seven goal performance from last year to pot 12 this year. On top of that, and maybe even more important depending on his future usage, he posted his second best assist total for the season (22) and was just one shy of equaling his career best. Both of which were done while seeing his ice time drop to the lowest it has been since the 2013-14 season and being bounced all over the roster as Blashill continually chased a long term effective lineup and him spending a decent chunk of time on a “defensive stopper” line with Nielsen and either Helm or Glendening.
There were some negatives as well however. Abdelkader saw the third highest power play time among forwards on the roster at 2:20 despite Andreas Athanasiou (1:44) and Frans Nielsen (0:52) having similar or even better offensive production and Tyler Bertuzzi (1:25) finding a lot of success with the man advantage during his time in Grand Rapids. Some of this can be written off as difference in role (Abby was used as a net front presence, which would not suit Nielsen or Athanasiou) or simply a rookie (Bertuzzi) needing to establish himself at the NHL level first.
Final Player Grade: C-
Mike laid out the grading criteria well in his preview. “The key to Abdelkader’s success in the 2017-18 season is going to be about health and consistency. He’s never been a guy to drive a line, instead providing the space for others to optimize their talent by working hard in front of the net, in the corners, etc. That play style really puts a physical toll on a player, but if Abdelkader can stay healthy he has shown in the past that he is capable of getting the job done on the top lines.” Based on these criteria it is hard to say Abdelkader did not have at least some level of a successful season. While he was not able to climb back to the level he had a few years ago offensively, he did rebound from his awful 2016-17 season to see the majority of his numbers return at least to his career averages while still seeing a tougher deployment (in terms of zone starts) then he saw during his most successful offensive seasons.
That said, I cannot justify anything higher than a C- (meaning meets expectations) for him. While his offensive numbers did rebound I cannot help but continue to wonder what his role should be going forward. Next year the Wings will like see Bertuzzi continue to earn a bigger role as well as the potential additions of Michael Rasmussen and Evgeny Svechnikov to the roster it becomes less and less likely that Abdelkader will continue to see the same level and quality of ice time, especially on the power play, and still do not know if he will be able to produce to the level he did this season (which is probably the bare minimum he needs to produce to even try and justify the next five years on his deal) while playing more and more minutes away from the more offensive players on the top lines.