The NHL All-Star Game might have its critics, and often, the reasons make complete sense. But there are benefits to its existence, especially for the players who aren’t playing. Some take short vacations while others use the time to recover from bumps and bruises.
In Niklas Kronwall’s case, his bumps were more than just bumps. As such, the Red Wings have given him a head start, sending him out for arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday morning.
Knee scope for Niklas Kronwall, out 2-4 weeks per Jeff Blashill. #RedWings
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) January 19, 2016
According to Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, the first time that Kronwall has gone in for this type of repair. “He had this similar type scope done a number of years ago.” said of Kronwall’s history before explaining why they elected to send him for another. “One, to relieve some of the pain and two, probably more importantly, we wanted to make sure it wasn’t something that three weeks from now would creep up and be a bigger deal.”
The Red Wings have a have a schedule that’s geared towards making a decision like this. Certainly, you don’t want someone on as on-the-fence as Kronwall playing four of the next six nights, and Detroit follows that stretch up with eight days off. With a 2-4 week recovery time, a best-case scenario could see him back in time for their first post-break game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Even if he requires the full four weeks, though, he’d likely only miss a dozen or so games; a drop in the hat when you consider that he’s played in every game this year.
Ultimately, it’s not like Kronwall is having a mindblowing year; his even strength point production is the lowest it’s been in over a decade, and while his relative possession numbers are better than they were last year, they’re still among the worst in his career. The team manages 49.6% of shot attempts when Kronwall is on the ice at 5-on-5 compared to 50.9% when he’s on the bench. Interestingly, the gap isn’t as big when looking at high-danger chances, proving that despite the injury, Kronwall is still most effective when he’s focused at clearing traffic away from the front of the net.
Miller out 4-6 months major surgery. ACL
— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) January 19, 2016
As for Drew Miller, his time as a member of the Red Wings might come to an end before he’s ready to play another game. In order to ensure that he can continue playing the game in the long-term, Miller has opted to go for an in-depth reconstructive surgery on his ACL, while also repairing the meniscus in his knee.
Blashill feel’s that losing Miller will be felt most on the penalty kill, going as far to describe him as an elite penalty killer. The numbers disagree with the theory; Miller has been less effective at chasing the powerplay away from the net than his teammates have been in nearly every year of his career, producing positive relative possession numbers just once in his time in Detroit back in 2010/11. Evidence shows that he’s even less effective at keeping the puck out of danger zones, and at no point in his career has he been statistically better than the average Wings penalty killer at preventing goals.
Relatively speaking, Miller is more effective on the penalty kill than he is at even strength, but the harsh reality might just be that he’s not terribly effective. Looking to somebody like Dylan Larkin or maybe even Tomas Tatar to take on some more responsibility might not be the worst idea for the team.
A timeline of 4-6 months puts Miller out until May to July, likely meaning that his season is done. With the combination of age and skill level that he has combined with the severity of this injury, it may not be the wisest move for the Red Wings to pursue an extension with the soon-to-be UFA. But that’s a story for another day; in the meantime, one hopes for a speedy and full recovery.