At this point in the season, the slow and fast starts have leveled off and we have a good idea of how the Red Wings are looking. Some would say they are doing better than expected, while others would say they are performing exactly as we thought they would. As with any team, there have been some good parts and bad parts of the season so far, which prompted me to ask our staff of writers: what has been the biggest surprise and biggest disappointment of the Red Wings season so far? Here’s what they had to say.
The Red Wings, as a team, haven’t been all that surprising. They are a middle-of-the-road team that will most likely fall short of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. However, Dylan Larkin’s playmaking ability has surprised me this season. The 21-year-old has 15 assists in 19 games for the Red Wings, after having 15 assists all of last season in 80 games. Everyone believed Larkin would help the Red Wings with their lack of goal scoring, but he’s managed to contribute in other ways, making those around him better, specifically, Anthony Mantha. Larkin has assisted on three of Mantha’s goals, two of which have come at 5 on 5, according to Natural Stat Trick.
On the other hand, Tatar has been a disappointment. He has just four goals and seven points in 19 games this season. Just one of those goals have come at 5 on 5, and he has an individual expected goals mark of 2.02, according to Corsica, meaning he isn’t expected to do much better than what he currently is doing. We’re only about a quarter of the way through the season, so there’s plenty of time for Tatar to contribute. However, so far, he isn’t living up to that four-year, $5.3-million deal he signed this summer.
Biggest Surprise? Has to be Mantha. While most predicted he would be good, he’s been stunning to date. A point per game guy, still plays with an edge. While his Corsi and Fenwick are down (from last year), he’s improving in other areas and appears to be on the verge a true breakout season.
Honorable Mention, Dylan Larkin: Tom explained many of the reasons why above but for me, it was hearing him during the mic’d up tape. At 21 years old he’s earned the respect of players nearly twice his age, he’s asserted himself and become a leader on that team. That will be a bigger deal than I think most believe as Hank fades over the next few years (or just leaves, despite reports) and will help Svech and Co. as they make their way to the bigs.
Biggest disappointment? Holland and Blashill. Unlike Tom, I believe the Wings are overachieving currently and I did not expect them to be a middle of the road type squad; moreover, they shouldn’t be. Not capitalizing on chances to move players that do nothing but prolong the inevitable and hinder the opportunity to bring in high end, young talent is…foolhardy and misguided. This team is overachieving in spite of Blashill and not because of him. We can only hope that some teams will bring offers to Holland for our wingers, Green, Howard, etc that will force him to deal so the rebuild can hit full stride.
In my first article with Wings Nation this season I wrote about how bad Detroit’s defence is. I am very surprised with their play this year. Although I disagree with Ericsson on the top pair, he has been competent this year. Don’t get me wrong, if there’s anyway to move him, I hope his play improves the odds of being traded. I think this team is a few good defence men away from being a real good team. Howard’s play in net behind this defence has been amazing. With a .930 save percentage going along with 2.32 GAA on a team who averages 3.00 GF per game, Howard is giving this team a chance to win every night.
On the other hand, I have been disappointed with Blashill’s line combinations at times. On the nights where Nyquist, Tatar, Zetterberg, Larkin, AA, and Mantha rounded out the top 6, this team had 2 lines that can score just as well as any other top 6 in the league. I cringe when I see anyone else not named Frk in the top 6. Speaking of Frk, he has one of the best shots I’ve seen. Him and Mantha have the 2 best shots on this team. On the power play, having Frk at the point is a great idea as most players with a bomb of a shot are on the point during power plays. However, his counter part should not be Green. Green is a pass-first defenceman so teams can cheat to Frk’s side of the ice to eliminate his shot. If Frk and Mantha can play both points on the same power play, they will be a lethal combination of snipers.
Biggest Surprise: There have been a ton of surprises so far this season and one of them has to be the team as a whole. However, the biggest surprise for me is Jimmy Howard. Prior to getting hurt last year, Howard was 15-5-7 with a 1.96 GAA, .934 SV% and one shutout. After returning, he was pretty good as well, going 5-4-0 with a 2.33 GAA and .916 SV% in nine starts down the stretch. Overall, it was a really great campaign, damaged by an injury but it looked like an anomaly.
Howie is a 33-year-old netminder who is still working on his craft, but he had a career 2.43 GAA and .915 SV% entering this season, so I never expected him to be sitting with a 2.32 GAA and .930 SV% through 14 starts. Those numbers are far more impressive when you consider he is doing that behind one of the worst bluelines in the NHL.
Biggest Disappointment: Despite how successful the Red Wings have been through the first month and a half, they had a handful of players who have been disappointing.The biggest disappointment for me so far has to be Trevor Daley. I didn’t like the signing in the summer and the fact that he has just one assist in 19 games makes it even worse. Daley has been getting crushed at even-strength. He has a 48.24 CorsiFor% and is a minus-36 in scoring chances. Granted, he has been playing with Jonathan Ericsson for the majority of the year, but this is a player the Red Wings were hoping to get roughly 25 points out of—he is currently on-pace for four assists…