If there’s one thing the Red Wings didn’t need more of on their roster, it was grit and toughness. If there’s one thing Luke Witkowski had more than everybody else on the roster, it was grit and toughness. You see, even though the Red Wings had a lot of grinders on the roster, they didn’t have a lot of fighters. Witkowski brought fists of fury to a bench that really didn’t have any. He registered five fights through the 34 games that he played.
Jeff Blashill used Witkowski flexibly, bouncing him between forward and defense, but he was never really relied on for any kind of offensive or defensive skill. Witkowski can fight. That wasn’t why he was inserted into the lineup, but that’s what’s gotten him so far in hockey.
Unfortunately for him, that is a trait that is less and less important in today’s game. No matter how loved these players are in the room – and Witkowski was loved by his teammates – they are slowly making their ungraceful exit from the professional game.
As mentioned above, Witkowski wasn’t relied upon too heavily for any speed or skill that he brought to the table and his stats support that.
Defensively, he was very bad. To be fair to him, the Red Wings as a unit are pretty bad defensively. With one of the worst D-lines in the league, I wasn’t expecting Witkowski’s defensive metrics to be positive. He is a guy whose stats live and die by the performance of his teammates and his D partners won’t flatter him here.
Offensively, I was surprised to see his goals-for and corsi-for metrics slightly in the positive. My initial gut reaction is to claim small sample size, as he didn’t play that many minutes at forward and would have spent most of them in the bottom-6 with the likes of Christoffer Ehn and Martin Frk. Still, a positive is a positive and Witkowski should get credit for that.
I’m not going to spend too much time here simply because there’s not much to say. Witkowski got half of the points this year than he did last year and that’s likely because he spent more time at defense this year.
As a fighter who only really slides into the lineup when an injury occurs, I don’t expect any more than this from him. Any points or goals he adds are bonus to what we’re already getting, in my opinion.
As I write more of these player reviews, I feel like I am starting to repeat myself. The Red Wings were one of the worst possession teams in the league and, as such, the players are going to have some pretty poor possession stats. Witkowski’s were among the worst on the team, but again, he was playing with poor teammates against better competition.
The same can be said for the shot and goal metrics, although I am impressed that he was even on the ice for 12 goals this year. It always looked like he was struggling in his own end, grinding against the boards when he was on the ice.
I think that Luke Witkowski has played his last game in a Red Wings uniform. Steve Yzerman has already parted ways with him once in Tampa Bay, which doesn’t bode well for Witkowski.
If you look at the Lightning, you can see what kind of players Yzerman likes to keep around. They ain’t fighters. If the Wings need a real tough guy to call-up for a game, they just extended Dylan McIlrath to a two-year extension with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Witkowski always brought energy with him to the rink, but the lack of skill is ultimately going to be his demise as the Red Wings take a new direction with the roster. He’ll certainly be missed by the players and even some of the fans.
I gave him the “plus” because of how much gusto he played with.