The final quarter of the 2017 season for the Detroit Red Wings was easily the most enjoyable portion of the season for Red Wings fans as it became less about dealing with an inconsistent team and turned it into a joyful celebration as the Red Wings said goodbye to Joe Louis Arena.
The trade deadline occurred at the very beginning of this final chapter and saw the Wings selling many pieces to accumulate a solid assortment of draft picks for both the upcoming draft and the 2018 class.
A combination of players being traded away as well as injuries created one positive outcome for fans who got the opportunity to witness many new faces in the Detroit lineup as several players were called up to make their NHL debut including Evegeny Svechnikov, Ben Street, Matt Lorito, Dan Renouf and Robbie Russo while Mitch Callahan and Tomas Nosek also came up to join the Wings roster.
Aside from no longer having to stress about the Wings trying to continue their playoff streak to 26 years it seemed as though the team was beginning to perform better on a nightly basis and a future number 1 line for next season was also discovered. It was indeed a different experience as the season winded down and although the Wings were way out of the race for the final playoff position, the home games still involved fans cheering frantically as if they were watching playoff hockey.
To put an end to the developing story all season, Riley Sheahan scored his first goal in the final game of the year. Sheahan decided he wanted to end the season on a strong point and potted two goals including the final goal that will ever be scored by a Red Wing at the Joe.
The Wings made some moves this year as sellers at the deadline for the first time in a years and accumulated some decent draft picks in the following trades:
- Tomas Jurco to Chicago for a 2017 3rd round pick (Feb 24th)
Brendan Smith to the Rangers for a 2017 3rd and a 2018 2nd round pick (Feb 28th)
Steve Ott to the Canadiens for a 2018 6th round pick (March 1st)
Thomas Vanek to the Panthers for a 2017 3rd round pick* and Dylan McIlrath (March 1st)
My overall grade for this years deadline was a C+ as I was surprised in the value we got for Brenden Smith but found it pretty disappointing that the market was not looking to buy a productive Thomas Vanek for a higher price. In the end, it was smart for them as Vanek only produced 2G and 8A in 20 games for Florida… Not exactly worth a 1st round pick price tag.
9-10-3 for a total of 21 points
The Red Wings had many opportunities to become spoilers for other teams down the stretch but for the most part they lost all the games that other teams needed more than them including losses to Edmonton, Toronto (2), Boston, New York Rangers, Colorado(What?), Buffalo, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Ottawa while also taking OT losses against Calgary, Tampa Bay and Montreal.
The wings won some pretty entertaining games as well with six out of the nine coming after regulation had ended in either the shoot-out or OT. Their victories included wins against Vancouver (OT), Chicago, Arizona(SO), Colorado, Montreal (OT), Minnesota (OT), Carolina (OT), Ottawa (SO) and New Jersey to close out the final game ever at the Joe.
Goals: Tomas Tatar (11)
Assists: Henrik Zetterberg (19)
Points: Henrik Zetterberg (22)
Wins: Jimmy Howard (5)
The line of Nyquist-Zetterberg-Tatar was put together down the stretch and they were hot on a nightly basis. Zetterberg finished the final quarter at a point per game pace to give him a season total of 68 point to lead the team.
Jimmy Howard returned to action after missing a few month’s of the season and continued to play very well despite having a team in front of him that constantly gives up dangerous scoring chances. With Jimmy’s play this season he should be entering next year as the leading candidate to be the Red Wings number one starter.
Players that Impressed
It took until the season was no longer meaningful for Tatar to finally hit his scoring stride and he sure got it going down the stretch to end up with a very respectable season total of 25 goals despite playing the majority of the year having a hard time finding the twine.
Z as usual was a rock for his squad and was performing well every single night. It is clear any opinions that he is getting too old to keep up in today’s NHL are completely false as he finished the 4th quarter not only refusing to slow down but actually increasing his scoring pace. Whoever lines up on the wing with Zetterberg next year is sure to post solid numbers.
The third member of the new top line trio was coming off his first career suspension and returned to the tune of 19 points in his final 20 games. Nyquist reminded us of his excellent offensive capabilities and with his and also Tatar’s hot finishes it will create more questions this off-season about possible trades involving these players or if that will not be the course of action then at least scoring expectations have increased going into 2017/18 season.
Players that Disappointed
Many people may argue with this choice as a player who disappointed because he was not given a chance to play in all of the games due to being a questionable healthy scratch for a few games and then getting hurt for the final 5 games. The fact that his coach had to question his work ethic to me shows that he was not playing up to his full potential and that’s what we all want to see out of the young talented Red Wings. Mantha posted 4G and 1A in his final 15 games of the season.
Although he is always playing behind a suspect defensive unit, the goaltender who is supposed to be the future of this franchise should not be posting numbers like he did this year. In the final quarter Mrazek posted a stat line of 4 wins, 0.898 SV% and 3.23 GAA in 13 games played. It will be critical going forward for Mrazek to improve his performance next season for the Red Wings to have any chance of at a playoff appearance.
You could argue the Red Wings could have received a better grade by losing more games at this point of the season but the players refused to “embrace the tank” and kept pushing down the stretch with a lineup that was full of many AHL players.
The wings went to overtime in 9 out of the final 22 games to close the season and oddly enough ended the year with a 9-0 record in games decided by a shoot-out.
The final quarter of the season was less about a win-loss record and became a spectacle of celebrating all the good times in the history of Joe Louis Arena. The organization did an excellent job of getting all the important people involved throughout this fantastic 25 year streak to appear and pay their respects to the the Joe and the players continued to play entertaining games with full efforts despite being eliminated from playoff contention.
The Red Wings finished off the season with a record of 33-36-13 (79 points).
As enjoyable as the party was in saying goodbye to the Joe, Red Wings fans should be very worried about the direction that their beloved franchise is heading into. There are still many issues with this club that will not be solved over one bad year and a quick reload. The blinders are up right now as we remember the historic streak and unforgettable Joe Louis Arena atmosphere but once the dust settles and the team can be re-evaluated there remains many serious concerns including bad contracts, aging players and a lack of highly talented youth in the pipeline. It is not impossible for the franchise to turn around quickly but there are many things that need to work out in the Red Wings favor this off-season or else we may see the beginning of a new streak with consecutive seasons without playoff hockey in Detroit.
Thanks for reading our season in review series. If you missed the previous articles, you can find them here: