Through four games this season, our Wings have gone 2-2. There’s been some negatives, some things to work on, and some major issues highlighted. We’ve had complaints about usage, roster selection and silly in-game management, but we’ve also soon some good enough hockey played to sit the Wings at .500 through the early portion of the schedule.
So we asked our staff: What’s been your most pleasant surprise of the season so far?
My most pleasant surprise for the Wings thus far was how quickly Blashill realized that he needed to switch up the lines. Despite many fans knew some of the lines would be bad right off the hop, I was surprised as to how quickly he realized that they were bad, and he changed it up. After one game, he took AA from the press box and on the first line, dropped Abby to the fourth line, and scratched Ott. After a training camp that saw the team lose two promising young players to waivers, this is a better sign for the team, that could provide some potential hope for them
The most pleasant surprise of this season’s opening has to be the instant impact that Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek have had with the team. Detroit’s penchant for signing average-to-slightly-above-average free agents (see: Richards, Modano, etc) seemed to have continued this offseason when they missed out on the Stamkos Sweepstakes and signed these two instead. From what we’ve seen, however, this isn’t a typical case of the Red Wings housing ageing vets on their way out.
Vanek’s playmaking abilities have floored everybody thus far, meshing well with nearly everybody he plays with in an instant. Added bonus: he and Mike Green can be a force on that powerplay. Nielsen’s two-way game is far better than he’s given credit for, and is exactly what Detroit needed with the departure of Pavel Datsyuk.
There are still a lot of kinks, holes, and glaring issues to be dealt with, but these two have been a shining point for the Wings so far.
My most pleasant surprise has been Detroit’s power-play. It got killed last year and eventually did them in vs Tampa in the first round. It was frustrating to watch, it just seemed like chaos before with little movement and lacking in key areas (effective point shot and net front presence specifically).
This year so far it has looked like a whole new beast. With John Torchetti on board now I think it has really helped Blash get ahold of this team a little more. We’re past the point of passing the team on from Babs and we’re finally starting to see some of Blashill’s changes enacted. Having Vanek (a right handed shot) has opened up a whole new realm of their power-play where multiple one-timers are a constant threat and you don’t have half the unit taking passes on their back hand anymore. Credit where credit is due, Vanek does have a killer offensive instinct but I think overall everything about the PP has been better. For a team that lacked scoring all last season, having a bounce back on the PP could be huge. The Wings currently sit at 4th in the NHL at 33% and hopefully it can stay in that top five. The PK still needs work and more teams should be looking to Florida who have been playing some of their best young players on the PK and have yet to concede a PP goal. Athanasiou was seeing PK time in preseason and I’d love to see that tried out again. Creating chaos can be a great recipe for thwarting something most teams rehearse down to the smallest detail.