I thought after last season, there was no way we would ever have a roller coaster run like that ever again. Though the Wings were never in danger of missing the playoffs this year like they were last year, the injuries they had to overcome may have been even more substantial than last year.
That’s what makes the Wings 3rd place finish in the Western Conference that much more special. After the jump, I’ll show you how everyone who played a game for the Wings this year finished in my season long tally of three star selections, and who the Wings top 3 players were this year!
Like I said at the start of the season, my goal was to track the three stars from all 82 games of the regular season in order to determine the Wings three top players this season. My top three may not reflect who you thought were the Wings three best players this year, but they are the three who stood out more than any other players in my opinion for their positive contributions.
But before we get to them, here are the also-rans!
Zero 3 Star Selections:
Cory Emmerton – 1G, 0A, +1, 0 PIM
Doug Janik – 0G, 0A, -2, 7 PIM
Jakub Kindl – 2G, 2A, -6, 36 PIM
Thomas McCollum – 0-0-0, .625 SV%, 12.31 GAA, 0 SO
Mike Modano – 4G, 11A, -4, 8 PIM
Jan Mursak – 1G, 0A, -3, 4 PIM
Ruslan Salei – 2G, 8A, E +/-, 48 PIM
Tomas Tatar – 1G, 0A, E +/-, 0 PIM
In this grouping, we have a handful of guys who didn’t play much (Tatar, Emmerton, Janik) and didn’t get a chance to really crack the three star voting.
Thomas McCollum only played about half a period, and got lit up by the Blues in relief of MacDonald.
Mike Modano missed half the year with a lacerated wrist. He was just starting to get on track with the Wings game plan when the injury happened in November, and it took him a while to get back up to speed afterwords.
Salei and Kindl, who each played in the team’s 6th defense spot at different times this season, never really had that one game that blew you away and earned a three star spot. Salei was basically a steady presence on the backend, while Kindl has shown tremendous growth throughout the year without ever really lighting it up.
Jan Mursak played about a quarter of the year with the big club, but contributed more in an energy role than anything else.
One 3 Star Vote:
Two players fell into this category: Kris Draper and Brad Stuart. These two players, along with Ruslan Salei, having so few star selections between them is the reason why next season I will be implementing a new feature to my game recaps. In addition to the Three Star Selections, I will be picking an “unsung hero”. This player will be one who may not have lit the lamp that night, but whose contributions were crucial to the team. That way, guys who play a no frills game like the three I just listed will have their chance to be recognized.
Two 3 Star Votes:
Only one player in this category, the Wings 6’5″ Swedish defenseman, Jonathan Ericsson. Big Rig picked up both of his nominations in early December, going +4 with a goal and an assist in a 4-0 win over Anaheim and a 3-2 OTL to Los Angeles. December was Ericsson’s best month of the year, going +5 with a goal and 7 assists in the Wings 16 games.
Three 3 Star Votes:
Patrick Eaves and his 20 points earned three nods this year, while Chris Osgood also took home three votes.
Eaves shining moment this season was his hat trick against the Dallas Stars on December 29th, earning all of Red Wings Nation an order of Curly Fries. He then missed a week and a half with a shoulder injury, presumably from carrying the whole team on his back that night.
Eaves finished this year on an extremely cold streak, however, and hasn’t scored since January 20th. He needs to contribute more offensively to keep himself in the lineup come playoff time, especially with the strong play of Drew Miller lately.
Osgood’s crowning achievement on the season was his 400th career victory, which came against longtime rival Colorado. Other than that, the season was a disaster for Osgood, as he missed all of November with a nagging groin injury which ultimately turned into a regular-season ending hernia surgery in January. It remains doubtful that Osgood will be able to return for the playoffs, and despite his insistence that he wants to play next year, it will all depend on him having a successful recovery this summer..
Four 3 Star Votes:
A pair of Swedes and a prematurely grey American make the list of players with four nominations this year.
The Demoliton Man, Tomas Holmstrom, registered 18 goals and 19 assists this year, and probably should have had closer to 25 goals if it weren’t for numerous goals called off for bogus reasons.
Niklas Kronwall had his healthiest season of his career, playing every game except for the final 5 when the Wings decided to give him some rest, and let Salei and Kindl battle it out for the final spot. He also set a career high in goals with 11.
Drew Miller, who early in the 2009 season found himself on the waiver wire, parlayed a strong season with the Wings into a contract extension in the summer of 2010. He put up nearly identical numbers to last season this year, and may have earned himself another deal with the Wings next year.
Five 3 Star Votes:
This group of three players has a pair that really underachieved, and a guy who quietly had a fantastic year.
Johan Franzen, despite leading the team in goals, never really got things going. That sounds weird, but it’s true. He didn’t have his A game this season, because he really should have no problem hitting 30 goals every year.
His top moment of the year was his 5 goal outburst against Ottawa in early February, but that was followed by a horrendous streak that saw him go goalless for 14 games.
Jiri Hudler put up 57 points in 2009 before bolting for Russia for a year. While overseas, he put up a point per game in the KHL. He was expected to come back into the Wings top 6 forwards and put up somewhere north of his point total from his last NHL season.
That never really materialized as it took him until November 13th to tally his first goal.
He did enjoy some success while on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary, but he never really found the groove Wings fans were hoping he would.
Brian Rafalski, on the other hand, very quietly put together a fantastic year. The undersized defender’s 48 points rank him in the top 10 among all NHL defensemen, despite missing a quarter of the year with various bumps and bruises. Had he been healthy, he could have very well been in the top 3.
Six 3 Star Votes:
Justin Abdelkader is the Wings lone representative in this category. He picked up his game a lot towards the end of the year, earning second star honors in March, and just missing the cut in April.
Despite missing nearly the entire first month of the season with a shoulder injury, he led the team in hits with 188, and proved he can handle more responsibility by centering Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi on a scoring line in recent games.
Abdelkader’s 19 points are more than triple his total from last season, and he is quickly proving he is capable of more than being just a fourth line grinder.
Eight 3 Star Votes:
In a strange twist, all three players who had eight 3 star votes scored 16 goals this season.
Valtteri Filppula battled groin and knee injuries all year, which probably contributed to his point total being lower than expected.
Todd Bertuzzi provided exactly what the Wings were hoping for in terms of point production when they re-signed him. Todd is a streaky scorer, but when he gets hot he is capable of carrying the team for games at a time.
Finally, Nicklas Lidstrom clocks in with 8 votes, which seems extremely low, looking back on the season. I chalk it up to the fact that he is so good defensively that a lot of times it goes unnoticed. Still, for a defenseman to have 62 points and only 8 times be among the top three players in any given game feels like I may have missed the boat on this one. Sorry Nick!
Nine 3 Star Votes:
Only one player on this list, the Wings resident speed skating champion, Darren Helm.
Helm hit career highs in goals, assists, points and plus/minus this season, and really came into his own as an important piece of the Red Wings puzzle. I really hope he is a Red Wing for life. Recently, the Wings front office made the comment that they see him assuming the role Draper had had with the Wings as a leader for the past decade or so. I would be more than thrilled to see Darren wearing an A on his jersey a few years down the line.
Thirteen 3 Star Votes:
Danny Cleary, with his career high goal and point totals, is what we will call the Wings “4th Star” this season. He finished just outside of the top three on the year, pulling in 13 votes despite missing January with a broken ankle. Cleary was the first star for the month of April as well.
Well folks, this is what it all comes down to…the moment you’ve all been waiting for all season. The Red Wings top 3 stars for the 2010-2011 season, as voted on by yours truly. I appreciate all of you taking the time to read my game recaps all season long, and for voicing your opinions along the way. As always, please share any thoughts you have with me in the comment section and I’ll be more than happy to talk some hockey with you!
2010-2011 Detroit Red Wings Third Star
Henrik Zetterberg 24G, 56A, -1, 40 PIM
Zetterberg is one of the only reasons that the Wings didn’t fall completely out of the playoff race when the injuries started to mount in December and January.
In the 80 games he played, he was one of the three stars 16 times. Not bad at all.
He carried the team through that stretch until the reinforcements came in and could shoulder some of the load.
He had multiple occasions were he went four or more straight games with at least one point, including an 11 game point streak that spanned December and January, that saw him accumulate 16 points.
He also lead the team in points on the season, and was second in points per game to this man…
2010-2011 Detroit Red Wings Second Star
Pavel Datsyuk 23G, 36A, +11, 15 PIM
Datsyuk’s 59 points is at least 30 shy of where the Wings hoped he’s be this year, after seasons of 70, 97, 97, 87 and 87 points his last 5 seasons.
However, he missed an extended amount of time with a broken hand, and then with a lower body injury. In fact, his points per game total puts him closer to 90 points, which is right about where he should be.
His points per game average is 11th in the NHL, and he was 11th in takeways as well. Everyone in the NHL who has more takeaways than the Red Wings Russian magician has played at least 18 more games than he. Had he played the whole year, he would have finished the year in second to only Joe Thornton. In my opinion, he should still get heavy consideration for the Selke.
I said earlier that when Datsyuk went out, it was Zetterberg who carried the team through the rough patch almost entirely on his own. There was one player who, though his personal stats may have taken a hit during this time, still managed to keep the team in games and ultimately win more games than they lost with an important part of their lineup on the shelf.
2010-2011 Detroit Red Wings First Star
Jimmy Howard 37-17-5, .908 SV%, 2.79 GAA, 2 SO
Howard finished the year with 37 wins, the second best total in the NHL. While his save percentage and goals against average are not elite, stellar numbers, I believe that has more to do with the fact that he was missing key defensive pieces like Datsyuk, Cleary, Stuart and others in front of him.
It also reflected a disturbing tendency the Wings had this season of giving the puck away in their own zone, often leaving Howard on his own facing a barrage of shots.
Where the Wings had been so strong in years past was keeping shot totals down for the opposing team, and the shots they did allow generally came from low percentage spots. This year, as the salary cap continues to bring the league closer and closer together, the Wings allowed far more shots than they have in the past, as well as more quality chances on their netminder.
Couple that with the injury problems the Wings had, and it’s not difficult to see why his numbers aren’t where he’d like them to be.
The important thing, though, at the end of the day is to get the W. And that he did, better than all but two other goaltenders in the league. Roberto Luongo, who boasts the leagues deepest team in front of him, and Carey Price who played 9 more games than Howard, had 38 wins to his 37.
Out of all the goalies in the top 15 in wins this year, only Luongo and Tim Thomas, the two biggest front-runners for the Vezina trophy, had fewer losses than Howard’s 17.
If the Wings are able to ice a healthy lineup next year, after two consecutive seasons of consistent injury problems, you will finally get a look at what Howard is truly capable of as an NHL netminder, and don’t be surprised if he joins the upper echelon level goaltenders in other categories than just wins.