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DSN REPORT CARD: Red Wings first half individual grades

The Detroit Red Wings will kick off the second half of the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins after amassing a 17-17-7 record, six points out of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. At this point last year, the team was 17-18-6. 

Head coach Jeff Blashill has stated multiple times that he believes this year’s version of the team is better than last year. Only time will tell whether or not this year’s edition of the Red Wings will begin a new playoff streak after it was snapped last year.

Let’s check out the DSN report card for each player as well as the coaching staff halfway through the 2017-18 season.

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FORWARDS

  • Justin Abdelkader: The hard-nosed forward always brings a valuable presence of grit to the team, and while he isn’t Detroit’s main offensive focus, he could stand to contribute more in the goal scoring department. Currently on pace for 40 points, it isn’t unreasonable to expect him to chip in a bit more, especially given the contract he signed not long ago. GRADE: B
  • Gus Nyquist: He’s enjoying a bounce-back year after his offense dried up last season, and is currently on pace to match his career high in goals that was set in 2014. Detroit will need him to keep up his positive offensive numbers if they’re going to make a playoff run. GRADE: A-
  • David Booth: The Detroit native was signed to a one-year contract after entering training camp with a professional tryout invitation. He’s typically used on the 4th line in an energy role (though is usually the healthy scratch candidate), and he’s chipped in a few goals as well. GRADE: C
  • Tomas Tatar: He’s on pace to break the 20-goal plateau once again, but could stand to score more in even strength situations. He’s also got a couple of fights under his belt this season. GRADE: B-
  • Luke Witkowski: The tough heavyweight was suspended for 10 games for re-entering the ice during a brawl against Calgary in mid-November. He’s provided energy when he’s in the lineup. GRADE: C
  • Anthony Mantha: Mantha’s biggest issue is consistency. He can go for stretches where he’s the dominant forward the team envisioned upon drafting him, and then subsequently go through dry spells. His 6’5 frame enables him to win puck battles, and has a great shot. GRADE: B+
  • Henrik Zetterberg: The Red Wings captain started the season hot, but then trudged through the longest goal drought of his career (22 games) afterwards. Though he’s not putting up points like he did last year, he still excels in a leadership position and is still racking up top minutes. GRADE: B-
  • Luke Glendening: The energizing forward was enjoying a career offensive season, having already doubled his goal total from last year before being sidelined by a hand injury in late December. He excels in the faceoff dot and on the penalty kill, as well as shutting down the opposition’s best forwards. GRADE: A
  • Martin Frk: In his first full NHL campaign, Frk has quickly become known for his booming right-handed shot that reminds fans of the likes of Brett Hull and Brendan Shanahan. He’s becoming a nice story for the team after being waived last year, claimed by Carolina, and then subsequently re-claimed by Detroit: GRADE: B+
  • Darren Helm: The speedy forward leads the team in hits but has seen his offensive production slip, though he remains a key member of the penalty kill. GRADE: C
  • Frans Nielsen: In his second year with Detroit, Nielsen has remained consistent, on pace to break the 20-goal plateau again. Plays a key role in the penalty kill and continues to hold the spot as the NHL’s top shootout performer. GRADE: B
  • Tyler Bertuzzi: Though it’s a small sample size, Bertuzzi has impressed enough that he was told to find a place in the area after being called up from Grand Rapids. His grit and skill should have fans excited. GRADE: Incomplete
  • Dylan Larkin: Though his goal scoring has dipped, he still leads the team in assists and has adjusted well to playing center. GRADE: A-
  • Andreas Athanasiou: After ending a contract standoff, Athanasiou’s biggest struggle has been consistency. The past four games, though, have been among his most brilliant in the NHL. He remains dangerous shorthanded, and still possesses blazing speed that makes him a threat. GRADE: B-

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DEFENSEMEN

  • Mike Green: The team’s lone All-Star, Green has had a solid season overall. Currently pacing all Detroit blue-liners in goals (four), assists (20), and points (24), his offensive production has been his strength. Although he is still prone to untimely turnovers (another category he leads the team in with 54), the Red Wings knew what they were getting when they brought him in. Green is in the final year of his contract, and it is likely that the team tries to move him at the deadline. GRADE: B
  • Niklas Kronwall: Gone are the days of Kronwall being a force from the back end. It also seems that the better days of his offensive output are gone, as well. Not to say that he has had a bad season, but his two goals and eight assists at the halfway mark of the season definitely make us miss the days when he was a centerpiece in the team’s offense from the point. Currently averaging 17:59 of ice time per game (fifth among d-men on the team), he is far from a liability at this stage of his career. GRADE: C+
  • Jonathan Ericsson: Oh Big Rig, how you hurt my heart. I’d love to tell you that this 6’4’’, 220 pound defenseman is a beast, but I can’t lie to you like that. He’s never been a guy who is relied upon for his offense (career high of 15 points in 2010-11, 2014-15, and 2015-16), but if you’re not going to contribute offensively, at least be something other than a hindrance defensively. Despite his 37 giveaways (and only six takeaways), he currently remains the only regular player on the team with a “plus” rating (+4), which does indeed count for something. Despite his common tendency to make your face end up in your palm, Ericsson does have a role on this team that he manages to play regularly, and sometimes he is even halfway decent at doing so. GRADE: D-
  • Nick Jensen: Another prototypical stay-at-home defenseman, Jensen has quietly been quite solid at times this season. Though he is indeed another blue-liner who will never be relied upon to be a big offensive contributor (as evidenced by his zero goals and seven assists this season), for a third-pairing d-man, the team could do much worse. He averages 14:20 per night, stays out of the box, and although the -7 rating could make one feel as though he’s not carrying his weight, one must also remember that the entire team (minus Ericsson) is minus. GRADE: C+
  • Trevor Daley: When the team brought Daley in last offseason on a three year contract, the thought was that his veteran status in the league would bring with it some leadership for the younger players on the back end of this team. Currently sitting on two goals and four assists on the year, there is certainly more to be desired from the 14 year veteran, who regularly topped 20 points a season just a few years back. His 28 giveaways (compared to just five takeaways) also disappoint. Again, we must remember that the team as a whole has struggled through large portions of the year so far, but the veterans on the team need to flat out be better than they have. GRADE: C-
  • Xavier Ouellet: Though he has not been a mainstay in the lineup this season (32 games played), Ouellet has shown that he is capable of playing on this roster on a regular basis. When in the lineup, he makes good decisions with the puck (evidenced by only 11 giveaways), and is not a hindrance in the defensive end (-1 rating). Why doesn’t he get to play more often? Your guess is as good as ours. GRADE: C+
  • Danny DeKeyser: After missing a large chunk of time earlier this season with an ankle injury (24 games played), DeKeyser finally returned to the lineup in November. Initially thought of as an eventual top-pairing defender, he has found a steady home on the second pairing. Another blue-liner on this team who is not relied on heavily for offense (just three points this season), he is capable of defending second-tier opposition, and makes good decisions with the puck (10 giveaways on the season). Although his progression probably isn’t happening as quickly as some would like to see, he could still become that top-pairing guy in the future. Just not yet. GRADE: B-

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GOALTENDERS

  • Jimmy Howard: Going into training camp, Petr Mrazek was touted as No. 1 in net. Veteran Jimmy Howard responded with some of the best play of his career, continuing the outstanding performance we saw last season despite little goal support. In 34 games this season, he’s put together a 14-12-6 record and given his team a chance to win in each appearance. With a .916 save percentage and 2.64 goals-against average, Howard has defended his role as starting goaltender for Detroit. GRADE: A-
  • Petr Mrazek: While Mrazek’s attitude and work ethic have improved from last year, his play has not. It was apparent in training camp and has continued through the first half of the season. His inconsistent play could be to blame, but he’s been unable to perform when given opportunities, giving Jeff Blashill little a reason to find him playing time. In just 12 games this season, he has a 3.78 goals-against average and career-low .885 save percentage with a 3-5-1 record. Without a playoff push, there’s a chance Mrazek is traded at the deadline (if there are any takers). GRADE: D

COACHING STAFF

  • Head Coach: Jeff Blashill; Assistant Coaches: Pat Ferschweiler, Doug Houda, John Torchetti: The Red Wings coaching staff has a 17-17-7 team at the halfway point of the season. What’s more shocking is that the Wings are better than they were at this time last year and even at the end of last season. Despite the team’s record, Blashill and his team have spurred improvements from a number of players.Leading up to the midpoint of the season, we’ve seen an improved special teams and better play across the lineup. From Larkin’s successful transition to center to growth among our young forwards, it looks like Detroit’s coaching staff is on the right track. Yet, the team continues to struggle winning at home, specifically against opponents playing back-to-back games. This group needs to continue challenging their players and find a way to get more consistency out of them. GRADE: B

     

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