In a warm, comforting workshop in the snow-capped North Pole, a big jolly man in a red suit sips on hot chocolate, hunched over his work station, finalizing his naughty and nice list for the Holiday Season.
It’s a nice image, isn’t it? In reality, it’s a cold apartment in damp downtown Toronto, and I’m a scrawny crabby man in a red sweater sipping on neat whisky. The one thing Santa and I do have in common, though, is that we’re both working on our naughty and nice lists, only mine is for the Detroit Red Wings.
So, who on this team deserves all the presents and who will get the coal? It was hard narrowing it down, but here are my selections:
THE NAUGHTY LIST
Frans Nielsen’s game was never going to get better as he got older, but it shouldn’t be this bad now. The 35-year-old centreman has had a tough go in 2019-20. He went pointless through the first 19 games of the season before finally recording an assist on November 21st against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s since added another assist to his tally, but has yet to score. It wouldn’t be the end of the world for such a defensive player, but his 45.1% shot attempt percentage is the worst of his career so far and is an important part of a penalty kill that is second-last in the league.
Nielsen will need to be much better in 2020 if he wants a present from this jolly old man.
What more can be said for Justin Abdelkader? On one of the worst contracts in the league, Abdelkader is still one of the worst players on this team. While he does get bottom-6 minutes and is mostly deployed in the defensive zone (62.7% DZs!!), Abdelkader’s play is so lacklustre that it’s hard to even notice him out there – except for when he’s a pivotal part of a goal against.
He has no offensive upside (3 assists on the year, no goals) and a 44% shot attempt percentage, which is worse than Frans Nielsen. Yikes! The only possible thing that could get Abby on the Nice List is that he writes nice books to make children happy. It’s not enough, though. Coal for you, Justin!
After years of being a consistently good boy, Jimmy Howard now finds himself on the Naughty List. It’s not because he was injured. I would never punish someone for something they can’t control. It’s because in the 14 games he’s played, he’s allowed an average of 3.94 goals against per game and posted a .887 save percentage. These are easily the worst numbers of his career as a starting goaltender.
And, I get it, the Red Wings defense is terrible and they give Howard no support. But he’s always been a staple for them, keeping them in games and giving them a fighting chance. Without a confident goaltender, this team has no last line of defense and that’s why they have the worst goal differential in recent memory.
Cookies & milk won’t cut it this year, Jimmy.
Other notable Red Wings who have found themselves on the Naughty List:
- Jonathan Bernier
- Mike Green
- Brendan Perlini
THE NICE LIST
In terms of players on this year’s Nice List, Anthony Mantha has got to be the nicest. The young winger has taken a huge stride in his game this year, starting the season off with five goals and eight points in his first four games. It was impressive enough to have people screaming “forty!” and, until the injury bug hit, he likely would have come close. Still, having already missed a chunk of games and likely to miss more, Mantha’s on track to blow his career numbers out of the water.
So, Anthony, welcome to the Nice List!
We all kinda knew that we had something special in Filip Hronek, but the 22-year-old right-handed defenseman has really come into his own this year. In his first full season as an NHL regular, Hronek finds himself fourth in team points at the 37-game mark. Averaging over 20-minutes of ice time per game, he’s recorded seven goals and 19 points. He’s been a staple on the power play and has truly emerged as one of the young core players who are going to lift these Red Wings out of the basement of the league.
For that reason, he’s on the Nice List. And I don’t see him moving off of it any time soon.
Tyler Bertuzzi is the second person on this year’s Nice List who was on the Naughty List last year. Having secured himself a spot on the top line with Mantha and Dylan Larkin at the end of last season, Bertuzzi has continued to impress. At the 37-game mark of the season, Bertuzzi leads the team in goals (13) and points (29). He compliments every player that he plays with, contributes massively on the power play, and plays with a fire and passion that keeps fans interested in some of these terrible, terrible games.
Bertuzzi was never supposed to be a top-3 player, so the fact that he turned out to be one easily lands him on the Nice List.
Other Red Wings who have found themselves on the Nice List:
- Dylan Larkin
- Robby Fabbri
- Andreas Athanasiou