After a season that saw them finish 23rd in the league in goal scoring, and a playoff series that saw them score just eight goals in a five game loss, the Red Wings realized that they needed to add some more offense, especially with one of their top scorers in Pavel Datsyuk retiring.
So the team went out and got Thomas Vanek, a former 40 goal scorer, in hopes that he can help the teams scoring issues from last season. Will the one year show-me contract rejuvenate the 32 year old’s career, or have Vanek’s best days come and gone?
Probably the latter, but I have to keep you hanging on somehow.
Hailing from Austria, Vanek made a name for himself in the States, playing for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the WCHA. After a 62 point rookie season in Minnesota, Vanek was drafted fifth overall in 2003 by the Buffalo Sabres. He played another year with Minnesota, putting up 51 points, and the following year played a season with the Rochester Americans, partially because of the lockout, scoring 42 goals in 74 games.
In 2005-06, Vanek made his NHL debut with the Sabres, and finished the season with 48 points in 81 games. He had two 40 goal seasons in the next three seasons, including an 84 point season in 2006-07. He was traded twice in 2013-14, first to the Islanders, and then to the Canadiens. Throughout his career, he’s been an effective point scorer, but the last two seasons in Minnesota saw him score just 52 and 41 points, two of his three least productive seasons. Because of this, Vanek was bought out of his final year.
LAST YEAR’S STATS
As mentioned before, last season he had 41 points, which is a career low for him. Even analytically his offense has taken a drop, as his 1.58 5v5 P60 is just the second time in the last nine years that it’s dipped below 2, the other time being 2014-15, the season before. He had a 45.91% 5v5 CF%, as well as a -2.19% 5v5 CRel, although he’s not exactly known for his possession game. He also had a career low in shots (excluding the lockout shortened 2012-13 season), only taking 146 last season, which is sometimes a sign of a players skills diminishing. Heck, even in his 47 game stint with the Islanders, he had 137 shots, which is a nine fewer than last season, in 27 less games. He also maintained his career shooting percentage last season, another sign of aging (last season he scored at 12.3%, his career percentage is 14.4%).
This might make some Wings fans shudder, but a solid comparison for Vanek going into this season might be Brad Richards. Not last season, but the season before that with Chicago. Richards was signed because Chicago needed a second line center, and Richards filled that role well (albeit, with Patrick Kane on his wing), and they ended up winning a Stanley Cup out of it.
That’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario would probably be Brad Richards with the Red Wings.
THIS YEAR’S PROJECTION
If I was running the Red Wings, I’d probably put Vanek on the third line, and give him some second PP unit time as well, to give him an opportunity to get some points, which is all that Vanek is really useful for. If I HAD to put him in a top 6 role, I’d probably play him with Tatar to shelter him, but it would be preferable to keep his minutes fewer and easier. If this is the case, Vanek will probably score in 30-40 point range. Perhaps a bit more if luck is on his side, or maybe a bit worse if it isn’t.