It’s time to continue our trek though the Red Wings lineup to end the 2016 calendar year. If you missed our review of the top six, you can check that out here. For now though, we’re going to attempt to tackle what can only be labeled as the bottom six (plus some extras). As we covered before, figuring out who is assigned to which line is impossible with this team. The line juggling has become out of control but we’re going to do our best here to straighten some things out for you. Regardless of where they may land in the lineup, we’re going to get an unclose look at everyone on the roster.
Coming into free agency everyone had believed the team was moving on from Darren Helm. After another incredibly disappointing season with only 26 points despite getting tons of time in the top six alongside Datsyuk had left Wings fans feeling as though it was time to let the dream die. He had never even broke 35 points in his entire career and has been plagued by injury. Just when you thought the team was in the clear, minutes before free agency opened, Holland inked a loyalty contract for 5 years at $3.85M.
More of the same this year. Helm’s 7 points in 17 games would put him on pace for a low 30’s point total over 82 games but again, injuries have kept him out of half the season already. His possession is bad at 46% and his PDO is through the roof at nearly 107. With seemingly every single bounce going his way at 5v5, he still only managed 7 points to start the season. Worst part is that PDO is 100% unsustainable and when that comes back down to earth Helm is going to be in rough shape. This is just another anchor in this lineup that will stifle any attempt to rebuild this roster when they miss the playoffs this year.
Reading popular Detroit news media you would think that Gus Nyquist is single handedly running this team into the ground. He capped off a disappointing season last year by getting shade tossed his way by Ken Holland, saying he sat back after inking a nice new contract. But if you’ve followed the Red Wings closely at all, you’ll understand by now that the headlines coming from the team and their media people are often very misleading.
The reality reads more like this:
Gus Nyquist is 35th in 5v5 pts/60 with 2.16 (>300 mins). T-71st w/ 1.48 5v5 primary pts/60. Either way, that’s 1st line production https://t.co/PIoXDYR9Yq
— Prashanth Iyer (@iyer_prashanth) December 28, 2016
Nyquist is once again getting buried in the lineup despite playing well with Zetterberg when the opportunity arises. He’s got a 59% goals-for percentage, and 54% of scoring chances are going Detroit’s way when he’s on the ice. We have to watch his PDO at 103 but his shooting percentage is only at 5.3%. If those two both balance out, he’s still going to be seeing the points come in. What’s truly worrisome though is how poorly Nyquist is used. They expect first line production, which he’s giving them in terms of 5v5 points/60, yet they refuse to use him on the top line or structure a power play around getting Goose the puck. He’s only two seasons removed from notching 24 power-play points in a single year but the leagues worst power-play still chugs forward, ignoring one of their best snipers. His 18 points is a tie for third on the team but still only on pace for a 40 point campaign. We’re stuck in this horrible middle where management expects the world of him and even when he delivers with the weak line mates he’s been assigned, it still isn’t good enough.
If Nyquist is used as trade bait come deadline, it will be a mistake the team will surely live to regret and a deal I’m sure Holland will undersell on.
Vanek was a little bit of a shock this offseason when it was reported he had signed a one year deal. I was surprised but excited for him to potentially use the Wings for a bounce back campaign. The sole fact he shot right was enough to have me excited. His numbers have been almost identical to Nyqvist’s as they’ve been probably the most consistent line pairing on the team this year. He’s second on the team in points at 19 and second as well in power-play points at 6. Underwhelming numbers on the surface, but not bad for the $2.6M cap hit. He had a hot start but ran into some injury trouble. Again, we have another potential solution to the power-play woes. I’d love to see the Wings stop running their power-play to get the shot from the forward on the point and set up Vanek high slot or on a dot with everything running through him to end at a Nyquist one timer. That right handed shot and his play making skills are being under-utilized and depended on far too often at 5v5. His lack of speed really shows but he greatly makes up for it with his vision and when playing alongside faster line mates. For the price tag and the fact he’s notching more points than almost everyone else on the team in less games, Vanek has been a fine addition. Should this season go down the drain though, the Wings should be selling hard on this incredibly affordable rental.
Next we have the organizations favourite player since Niklas Lidstrom, Luke Glendening. I have him in the bottom six because that’s the player he is. Shockingly though, he’s spent a ton of time in the top six this season, eating valuable minutes and he has a whopping 9 points and a single goal. I get that he’s not supposed to put up points, but he’s averaging almost 15 minutes a game some nights, he had a stint on the power-play and has been slowing down skilled players like Larkin and Athanasiou like at this weekends Winter Classic. I’m totally on board with Glendening centering the fourth line but that’s pretty much it. He shouldn’t play anywhere else, he definitely shouldn’t be on the PP and I think if it weren’t for his prowess in the dot, he’s not really a good penalty killer either. He’s got a brutal 45% CORSI, his scoring-chances-for and his shots against are just terrible at 5v5 and all his stats just show he needs to stay on the fourth line playing against other bottom six lines.
Steve Ott. The punching bag for all hockey fans with eyes, the belle of the ball for Red Wings media. His CORSI is brutal at 44%, his scoring-chances-for is abysmal at 30%. To put that in perspective even Kassian and Matt Martin can put together at least a 46% scoring-chances-for percentage. We get he’s the hype man, he’s there to throw mitts (in 2016?) and he’s the character guy. He’s only making 800K but the fact that he’s taking up a roster spot is bad enough. There’s not much more to write about this, he fails the eye test and the numbers are even worse.
It was only two seasons ago Detroit was hoping this guy could start the season in place of an injured Datsyuk. We’re nearly halfway through this season now and he still has yet to score a goal. All of his advanced stats from possession to scoring chances are all in the negatives despite playing almost entirely in the bottom six against lesser competition than he faced in past seasons. Granted his quality of line mates has decreased but he hasn’t shown any reason to be playing in the top six. Detroit’s power play is atrocious right now and yet the guy with no goals is still on the second unit. Sheahan is having a bad year, plain and simple. We knew the ceiling was never that high but this type of season could take the wind out of his sails completely and slump him into becoming just another Red Wings depth forward. It’s really the last thing this group needs but it almost feels like it’s not going to turn around for him. We’ve seen so many flashes of brilliance over the past two years that this one really seems to hurt.
Athanasiou was arguably one of the teams strongest forwards near the end of last season despite averaging around 8 minutes a game. This year the ice time has increased but only slightly. He’s still averaging only 12 minutes a game but at least this year it’s more than the 4th line. He’s only got 7 points on the season and started the year in the press box. He was averaging 2+ points/60 minutes last season but hasn’t quite continued at that clip. He is explosive though, he’s exciting and he has the skill set to be great. Once he can secure a top six role his ceiling is so incredibly high that there’s potential for AA to become a truly dynamic offensive talent. I also believe he should be seeing more time on the PK. It’s an easy way to bump his TOI every night, he has the speed and skill to be aggressive and deadly and his defensive game is far more sound than his peers like Larkin and Mantha. The PK needs a face lift and I believe AA could be that boost.
Drew Miller has found himself the healthy scratch a bunch this season. He’s got four goals on the year and no assists. Most people thought the team would be moving on from Miller when he looked like he was going to free agency but in true Red Wings fashion they handed out a one-year deal ensuring that Mantha wouldn’t make the team out of camp. His stats are just as bad as his typical line mates and there’s really no reason his cap hit should be on this team when there are multiple players in the minors who could probably do better for cheaper. This was evident when he lost his spot to Tyler Bertuzzi before his injury.
The bottom six showcases a lot of glaring holes in this roster and highlights a lot of what fans consider the misusage of some skilled players. It’s not hard to sift through that list and see immediately why they’re so low in the standings. Sure, there are some bright spots but then there’s also $10M a seasons tied up until 2021 between Helm, Abdelkader and Glendening alone. The cap problems can be found here in the bottom six and the worst part is so many of them can never be remedied. They’re untrade-able contracts already in year one or in the case of Glendening, haven’t even started yet. There’s also so much term on these recent deals that even if these players were trade-able at the deadline for assets, no real competitors would be able to take them on.
A close look at the bottom six really shows the gloomy realities of just how terrible of a position this team is really in.