I previously talked about what was next for the Wings. But I do think it’s important to look at what they need most as well.
For starters, Detroit needs to become a younger hockey team. They were among the leagues oldest teams, and a half a year older than the league average, per Hockey Reference. Something else linked to getting younger is the fact that their best player was Henrik Zetterberg. Someone at 36 years old can be your best player, sure, but it should not be by a landslide by any stretch of the imagination.
Detroit struggled mightily scoring this season. They scored just 198 goals this season, which may seem like a respectable number, but it’s absolutely terrible when you realize that that puts them 24th in the league, and they gave up 244 goals in just 82 games. Detroit wasn’t very good at even creating shots either, being outshot 2481-2311 this season. Only outshooting opponents in the third period and overtime. All of the scoring woes can be blamed on Jeff Blashill, but why make him the scapegoat? I am a firm believer that Jeff Blashill is a good head coach, and that the scoring woes can only be blamed on him so much. The Red Wings had just 9 players scoring goals in the double-digits, one of which was Mike Green. Guys like Riley Sheahan and Darren Helm were both expected to have respectable, at worst, seasons this year, but their performances were so bad, they stuck out like a sore thumb. Granted, Helm played in just 50 games, it does not excuse the fact he scored just 8 goals and had 9 assists. He is someone that the Red Wings need to have perform at a high level and create for both himself and teammates. He’s one of the faster players in the league, so a season that bad is inexcusable. Dylan Larkin also struggled, hitting the sophomore slump, but still managed to score 17 goals and have 15 assists. He is the fastest player in the league, so you expect more, but most NHL players have that sophomore slump, and he should improve drastically next year. However, the sophomore slump is no excuse for having a +/- of -28.
But neither scoring nor getting younger is Detroit’s most pressing need. That is the fact they need their next Pavel Datsyuk. It’s no coincidence that the year after Datsyuk retires, Detroit misses the playoffs, and has an embarrassing season in terms of standards fans have come to expect. Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Andreas Athanasiou could all fill that role. Although, I expect Larkin and Mantha to be like Zetterberg and Holmstrom were, high volume scorers, and Mantha a net front monster. That leaves Athanasiou. Like the ‘Magic Man’, Athanasiou can turn nothing into something, But it’s not even that that reminds me of Datsyuk. It’s the crazy toe-drags and dangles, as seen here, despite being from the 2015-16 season, the point stands. The kid can handle the puck like no other, and score crazy goals. He was a healthy scratch a lot this year for absolutely no reason other than Blashill being dumb, and I’m a big fan of Blash. Despite all that, he still managed 18 goals and 11 assists in 50 games. He scored the second most goals on the team, and while his assist number leaves a lot to be desired, I feel with 25+ more games, he can bring that number up.
And I know, it’s no secret, they need someone who can step up and play the role that Datsyuk played. But I think a lot of people don’t realize that Athanasiou is a VERY good hockey player. He could very well be one of the best players in the league if given a leash longer than my pinky-toe.
All statistics are from Hockey Reference