The Detroit Red Wings have lacked secondary scoring all season long. Several players have not lived up to expectations thus far, and many have even been a disappointment. In order for the Red Wings to continue their pursuit for a 26th consecutive playoff appearance, several players need to step up.
Dylan Larkin leads the team with five goals through the team’s first 16 games. Behind him are Tomas Vanek, Darren Helm, and Andreas Athanasiou each with four. Names that many would expect to be at the top of this list, such as Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Justin Abdelkader, and newcomer Frans Nielsen, have been underwhelming for the team and have had trouble finding the back of the net.
The Red Wings organization and fans alike expected both Nyquist and Tatar to bounce back in a big way this season after each of them had disappointing campaigns last year. Nyquist is tied for the team lead in points with 10, but has only scored three goals. Given his reputation as a sniper, this number must increase. As for Tatar, he has only scored twice this season after an impressive World Cup performance. He has only six points, even though he has seen more action on the top line. Tatar is a free agent after this season, and the Red Wings will have no reason to bring him back if he fails to find his scoring touch.
Justin Abdelkader signed a 7-year deal worth $30 million last season after a 23-goal campaign. He failed to reach 20 goals last season, and as of right now it looks like he will come up short once again this season if he doesn’t pick it up. Abdelkader plays on one of the top two lines for the team every night and sees a lot of action on the power play, which makes his measly three goals a concern.
It has been well documented that Riley Sheahan has yet to score a goal this season. Head coach Jeff Blashill has defended Sheahan, saying his value goes beyond statistics. While this is true and Sheahan is a responsible defensive forward and strong on the forecheck, zero goals through 16 games is unacceptable. Sheahan is not a 20-goal scorer. But after scoring 14 goals last season, the Red Wings would like to see him around that mark once again. Along with zero goals, Sheahan also has the worst plus-minus rating on the team (-8).
After signing Frans Nielsen to a 6-year deal worth $31.5 million to “replace” Pavel Datsyuk, the Red Wings expected Nielsen to provide both secondary scoring and a strong defensive game. So far, he has disappointed on both sides. Nielsen has recorded just two goals and tallied seven points. Oh, but what about his strong defensive game? Well, Nielsen currently has the second-worst plus-minus rating on the team (-7). Granted, he sees a lot of time on the penalty kill (he scored a shorthanded goal against St. Louis). However, he also plays on the second line and on the power play. So far, Nielsen has not been worth his contract.
As the Red Wings prepare to take on a familiar foe in the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night at home, they know they need several players to step up. All of these players mentioned above must take their game to the next level and play at their full potential if the Red Wings are going to be playoff contenders this season.