The calendar is now turned to 2012, and the Detroit Red Wings continue to play exemplary hockey. Balanced scoring and a 15 game home winning streak are amongst the accolades this team has for this season. The All-Star Break is right around the corner, and an easier schedule is in the sights of the Red Wings before a much needed prolonged break from playing.
The grades given are from the start of the season to the Tuesday Night game against the Stars. All grades are just opinion of course. We will start with the Forwards. Players will go alphabetical order in their respective category.
Justin Abdelkader (LW) #8- The Michigan State alum is mercifully punishing opponents again this season, as the young 24 year old winger is near the top in Hits this season in the NHL. Darth Kader’s unique role on the Penalty Kill and a true Grinder along with his Michigan ties make him a fan favorite. Has 12 points in 46 games. Hopefully can reach 30 points in his third full season in the NHL. Grade: B
Todd Bertuzzi (RW) #44- Even though Big Bert is 36 years old, he continues to score at the most crucial of times for the Red Wings. The games against Chicago this past Sunday and Thursday night against Phoenix and the spin-o-rama goal only attest to the skill Bert has. His 24 points in 40 games along with a +21 has landed the veteran forward playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. Should post up another 50 point season. Grade: B+
Danny Cleary (RW) #11- Cleary has struggled for much of the season. Found his stride middle of the season, but has struggled recently to find consistency on the point sheet. Hard skating right winger who plays a good two way game for the Red Wings. Talent allows him to play on all four lines. Grade: C
Chris Conner (RW) #41- One of the less notable acquistions for the Red Wings this summer, the Westland native displays good speed, grit, and goal-scoring ability in a limited role this season. Has played strong on the Penalty Kill and also on a third line with Darren Helm and Drew Miller. Conner suffered a broken hand injury in late December and has been in Grand Rapids ever since. Grade: Inc.
Pavel Datsyuk (C) #13- Whether you are a Red Wings fan or not, you most likely have seen Datsyuk’s prolific game on Youtube and Sportscenter multiple times. At the prime age of 33, Datsyuk has already won 2 Stanley Cups, 4 Lady Byng Trophies for Gentlemanly Play, and 3 Selke Award Trophies, given to the best defensive forward. Not bad for a player drafted 171st Overall in the 1998 NHL Draft. Leads the team with 49 points and has recently scored his 700th career point. Grade: A
Cory Emmerton (C) #48- The rookie hasn’t lit up the points chart this season, but has been very valuable for the Red Wings this season. The 23 year old has displayed a solid defensive game on the fourth line this season. His roles in the faceoff dot and play along the boards is beneficial for this team. He won’t be a mainstay, but it’s nice to have some youth. Grade: C+
Valterri Filppula (LW) #51- It is always a risky business trying to move a player to a new position. As Filppula was moved to Left Wing starting this season, that pure playmaker ability has been harnessed thanks to Coach Mike Babcock. Filppula is an underrated passer with soft hands around the net. He also will be an asset in the faceoff dot on a second line with Henrik Zetterberg and Jiri Hudler. More is to come from this budding star. Grade: A-
Johan Franzen (RW) #93- “The Mule” has been a vital part of the Wings overall scoring this season. After dealing with multiple game scoring droughts last season, Franzen seems to have found his niche on a line with Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi. Second on the team with 38 points and contributing more on both sides of the ice. Will be counted upon to land Red Wings high seed in the playoffs. Grade: A-
Darren Helm (C) #43- If there is one guy who is classified as a speed demon, Helm fits the bill. He is a relentless grinder for the Red Wings who has struggled to find point production this season. Helm has taken 78 shots this season, yet only 4 have been goals. Helm’s progression in the NHL might be more for his physical capabilities then his puck handling. Helm should be able to pick up the pace the remainder of the season. Grade: C-
Tomas Holmstrom (LW) #96- For almost 15 seasons, Holmstrom has been the goalie’s worst friend. Holmstrom steals the limited space in front of the net to belittle goalies and give the Red Wings a safety valve in front of the net. Holmstrom was injured for a portion of the season. Homer will still be a key cog to the success of the Red Wings in a contract season. Grade:B-
Jiri Hudler (C) #26- Last season wasn’t a season to remember. Hudler struggled to regain the NHL gameplay and travel rigors after leaving for Russia for a season. Hudler is a true goal scorer and plays with a snarl. Hudler has been extremely effective this season, scoring 13 goals on 66 shots, which is a 19.7% shooting percentage. Hudler will be the biggest asset and most improved amongst the current squad. Grade: B+
Drew Miller (LW) #20- Miller, a Michigan native will remain a vital part of the Red Wings after re-signing with the club for 3 more seasons this summer. He is a hard working, no holds barred player that has shown more of his offensive skill set this season. Had an assist against his brother Ryan which knocked him out of the game. Grade: B-
Jan Mursak (RW) #39- A late preseason injury has slowed the young Mursak. Jan has only played 2 games this season because of the injury, but will be able to play at an NHL level after a short 19 game stint last season. When healthy, Mursak and fellow teammate Helm may be the two fastest skaters in the entire NHL. Grade: Inc.
Henrik Zetterberg (C) #40- Something isn’t going right this year for the 31 year old Swedish superstar. Although the stat sheet may fool you (34 pts. in 46 games), Z has dealt with multiple bouts of inconsistency this season. His production and his confidence will need to improve as the Red Wings irk closer to the playoffs. Grade: C+
Mike Commodore (D) #22- When Commodore has been dressed, he has been nothing but a pain for opposing teams. Was injured for a portion of the season. Has been steady of late as a physical force to bolster the Defensive corps. Grade: Inc.
Jonathan Ericsson (D) #52- Despite what fans think, “Big E” has taken a major leap into becoming a rising NHL defenseman. Ericsson looks more confident with the puck, not drawing dumb penalties, and has limited his amount of fights this season. As fellow defenseman nears Free Agency for 2012, Big E has all but earned the role Stuart is in right now. Most improved amongst the defense. Grade: B+
Jakub Kindl (D) #4- Kindl is now in a full time role this season after being understudy to the late Ruslan Salei last year. Kindl does seem hesitant to play the NHL-caliber play at times, but his smooth skating and hockey smarts will keep him a valuable member to the hockey club. Grade: C
Niklas Kronwall (D) #55- The future of the franchise has been a major disappointment this season. Kronner signed a 7 year contract extension at about a $5 million dollar clip each season. The offensive numbers have tailed off (19 pts.), but Nik has continued with his fierce defensive game and his jaw-dropping hits. Kronner’s game is still premiere and will play a massive part in the rebuild of the defensive corps following Lidstrom’s retirement. Grade: C-
Nicklas Lidstrom (D) #5- The greatest piece to his illustrious career would be The Captain’s fifth Stanley Cup and his eighth Norris Trophy. Having spent all 20 seasons in the Winged Wheel, Lidstrom will be revered as one of Hockeytown’s Greats as he more than likely hangs up the skates after this season. What more do I need to say. Grade: A
Brad Stuart (D) #23- You know what Stuart will bring when he touches ice for 82 regular season games: a player is smooth skating, tough as nails, and plays a clean game. His contract is up after this season. Fellow D-man Ericsson may take his role, but Stuart has provided defensive stability and a veteran menatility to a young defensive corp. Grade: B
Ian White (D) #18- The marquee offseason addition has been a pleasant surprise for Wings fans this season. White’s unique two way style is reminiscent of Brian Rafalski, the player whom White was brought in to replace. White’s shot is heavy and accurate, and he relentlessly blocks shot after shot and killing penalties. White also is a favorite in the community, having charities like White’s Warriors and others. Grade: B+
Jimmy Howard #35- The first word might be to describe is unstoppable. Howard came into this season re-energized and focused, and the benefits have proven to be a boost. Howard with his 1.98 GAA and .926 Sv Pct is 5th and 7th, respectively. This kind of stability has helped the Red Wings through a tough six game stretch earlier this season. Howie has been selected to the All-Star Game in Ottawa. Grade: A+
Ty Conklin: #29- Conklin was another free agent signing for the Red Wings. Amid a slow start to his season, Conks’ game has picked up exponentially since the calendar rolled into 2012. Getting stability from Conklin will relieve some pressure off of Howard going forward. Has only played in limited games, but only one start was a drubbing. He will pick his game up. Grade: C
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