Filip Zadina and Jakub Vrana are two very different players at this point in their careers. Zadina has been underperforming on a bad Detroit Red Wings team, and he has fallen out of favor with tons of fanbase members because he has rarely been able to score, which is why he was drafted to begin with. His consistency wasn’t there, and as the season dwindled on, he slowly stopped doing the right things off the puck in terms of defense and physicality for his slump to feel “acceptable” (in a relative sense). There were plenty of things to like at the start of 2021-22 about Zadina’s off-puck presence, but as more games were played, those faded away.
In 74 games, Zadina had 24 points including 10 goals, which are all career-highs but take with a grain of salt. It was essentially inevitable even with a slump considering he only played a total of 86 games in his first three seasons with the Red Wings.
Meanwhile, Vrana has come in hot. He tied Danny Grant as the fastest Red Wings player to score 20 goals in team history with 20 in 32 games. He has 30 points in 37 games as well. Despite being hurt for most of the 2021-22 season, he has come back into the lineup with a bang. It has brought another element to a Red Wings team that has struggled to play half-decent hockey for many years. Along with Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider, Vrana is a reason to tune in to Red Wings games despite being eliminated from playoff contention before the season's halfway point (not literally, but the East was decided long before it became official).
Vrana has been fun, and Zadina has been frustrating, but together, they are a strong duo. Despite drastically underperforming his draft stock, Zadina looks to have tons of confidence when playing with Vrana, and why wouldn’t he? Why wouldn’t anybody?
It’s important to note that Steve Yzerman could very easily trade away Zadina over the incoming offseason. However, considering he is an impending restricted free agent and probably won’t cost much due to his recent struggles, I don’t know if that will happen. There could certainly be younger teams that are willing to take on a project at this point in his career, but if everything works out well, Zadina could become a solid player for the team in the coming years.
It would be disappointing if Zadina didn’t reach the potential that he was meant to hit, but that doesn’t mean he will be a liability. In fact, at the very worst, it feels as if he could develop into a decent middle-six player. Of course, time will tell, but there should be some sense of optimism. With a new coach coming in to fill a Jeff Blashill-sized hole behind the bench, there’s lots of hope for the young winger that he will pick it up. Zadina isn’t at the skill of Cole Caufield, but we saw what a coaching change can do for a player’s confidence and performance.
The point totals have already been discussed, but the analytics also stand out. There are plenty of numbers to sift through, but the first one that caught my eye was their expected goals for percentage (xGF%) with and without each other.
Zadina’s xGF% was 49.33 percent with Vrana on the same line at 5v5. Without him? It decreased significantly to 41.99 percent. And for Vrana, it was the same. Without Zadina, it went down to 40.92 percent. Arguably the biggest number difference is in the regular goals for percentage (GF%). Vrana’s and Zadina’s GF% at 5v5 was 85.71, which is absurd. Now, on the other end of the spectrum, Vrana’s GF% without Zadina was 29.41 percent, and Zadina’s was 31.25.
It’s clear that this isn’t just a relationship where one benefits and the other doesn’t, or there is no effect on the other. Both of these players perform at a higher level when put on the same line. The Red Wings, who notably struggled for offense in 2021-22 and have since the rebuild began, could certainly benefit from Zadina and Vrana being on opposite wings.
In a year where Zadina struggled to score and appeared to have some confidence issues with the puck and without the puck, playing with somebody in the upcoming season that elevates his play and makes him feel comfortable could do wonders for the former sixth overall draft pick. Only time will tell, but there’s should still be some optimism surrounding the 22-year-old.