Should the Red Wings Have Held Onto Andreas Athanasiou?

Octopus Thrower

Just two seasons ago, Andreas Athanasiou tallied thirty goals and it appeared that he would be another critical piece in the Detroit Red Wings rebuild. All that needed to be determined was whether that 30 goal season would be the norm or the outlier.

A season later, he was traded, leaving town with just ten goals and fourteen assists.

When Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News wrote about the deal to Edmonton that involved two second round picks, Dylan Larkin called it “jarring” because it showed no one, especially a player coming off of a 30-goal season, was untouchable. But after falling off a bit statistically during the 2019-20 season, it was only a matter of time before he was gone. Let’s go back into a time where masks weren’t necessary and social distancing wasn’t even a conversation piece:

  • Athanasiou was a Restricted Free Agent, owed north of $3M if qualified. His numbers at that point couldn’t justify it.
  • His Points/60 was down from 2.51 to 1.89 , while his xG/60 fell from 1.05 to .96.
  • He was considered a defensive liability, and was seeing ice time cut as a result.

Flash forward to a year since the trade deadline and the Red Wings are thirsting for goals. Sure Thursday’s 5-2 victory over Nashville provided a feel good story for Sam Gagner’s hat trick, but it remains to be seen who else will provide the scoring when the teams they face are better than Nashville (sorry Smashville, it’s true).

Wings for Breakfast Co-host Prashanth Iyer was kind enough to provide some extra insight as he’s one of the best when it comes to analyzing the Red Wings, as well as Athanasiou.

Would Athanasiou have helped the Red Wings this season?

Playing for Los Angeles this season, Athanasiou has six points (4-2) in ten games. Slowed by a stint on Covid protocol, AA was a point-per-game player through the first four contests of the season for the Kings. He scored just the other night in just his third game since leaving protocol. His G/60 is  already up from .79 to 1.84 while his Points/60 is at 2.76. Athanasiou’s xG/60 is just a hair shy of last year’s mark in Detroit, clocking in at 0.93.

If still with Detroit, Athanasiou would be just one goal away from being tied for the team lead. He would have also been featured on the power play, and since he averaged 16:32 last season with Detroit, it’s safe to say he’d be close to those numbers if not higher, even while missing time and averaging over three minutes less a night on the ice.

Iyer supported this, commenting that while he would be still leave something to be desired defensively, pairing him more of the skilled Wings would have helped offensively:

I think even with the Red Wings’ offensive acquisitions a “best” case scenario for him would be playing him with Robby Fabbri and one of Bobby Ryan/Filip Zadina assuming you try to keep Athanasiou on the wing. I don’t think that would be enough defensive support/structure to protect him although you may see an uptick in his individual scoring numbers

Herein lies the problem. This season alone, head coach Jeff Blashill has been lambasted by many

More from Octopus Thrower

fans for his lineup choices and then deployment of those lineup choices. Frans Nielsen immediately comes to mind. Even if Athanasiou was still wearing the Winged Wheel, it’s not a stretch to think he’d be in Mantha territory when it comes to ice time or even being a healthy scratch.

Prashanth adds that:

Athanasiou’s sort of like a “gunner” in my opinion. He’s a guy where you have to actively seek advantageous situations for him (offensive zone draws, OTF shifts where his team is transitioning up ice, PP1 minutes) and actively avoid heavy defensive minutes in order to get the most out of him. I think a lot of teams are capable of doing that but it does require some thought to carve out those minutes. Detroit did it with Thomas Vanek but seemed reluctant to do it with Athanasiou.

Taking Blash at face value with some of his comments regarding the play of several players this season, it seems Athanasiou would most likely have been on the outside looking in–something we saw plenty of when he was in Detroit.

So if it wasn’t going to work out with the Red Wings, did they at least win the trade?

If there’s anything we know about Ken Holland, it’s that he loves his former players and veterans. Yzerman flipped him for two second round picks and by the end of last year, especially after he wasn’t qualified, it looked like the deal was an absolute heist.

Not to mention the Wings took Theodor Niederbach (after moving down in a trade with LA), which is looking like another great selection by Yzerman.

Iyer believes the trade will be one continuously lauded as time marches on:

In hindsight, I think that becomes an outstanding trade given that Edmonton gave up two 2nd round picks for what was ultimately 10 games of Athanasiou. I don’t think his 30-goal season was an anomaly as I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit that mark again but like I mentioned above, I think you need to have the right deployment scenario for him in order for that to work. The other thing to consider is that Athanasiou is now 26 and was due another contract and it’s usually around this time that we start to see forwards enter their decline so it was unlikely that he was going to be a significant contributor to the next Wings’ playoff team which is all the more reason why they were right to get some draft picks for him

Final Thoughts

Athanasiou was always one of my favorite Red Wings, a player who brought excitement to a team that was pretty vanilla. Between his speed, and ability to turn a game with a quick goal, I miss seeing 72 fly around the ice.

However, there is no disputing what Prashanth said: it’s an outstanding trade and one that has the potential to really serve Detroit well as the rebuild transforms into contention. Armed with Edmonton’s 2021 2nd round pick as well, the Wings have another chance to capitalize. Besides the trade value, I think watching Athanasiou having to adjust to the defensive insistence at the expense of his explosive offensive potential would have been an exercise in frustration.

Many thanks to Prashanth, who generously gave his time.

And all the best to AA, who will remain one of my favorite former Wings to watch from afar.

Articles You May Like

Detroit Red Wings: Contract Projections for 2024 RFAs
Griffins Notebook: Kasper, Mazur, Danielson & More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *