Detroit News 2020-21 Red Wings midseason grades

Detroit News

Ted Kulfan
 
| The Detroit News

Detroit — The record isn’t much better.

But if you’ve watched the Red Wings this shortened NHL season, there has been improvement.

By one point, actually.

The Wings were 7-17-3 after 27 games last season — and 7-16-4 this season (Thursday’s 28th game is the actual halfway point this season).

The Wings are harder to play against and more competitive, though victories are still difficult to come by.

Here are the midseason individual grades, based on expectations for each player heading into what’s been anything but a normal season.

Goalies

Jonathan Bernier

Stats: 6-5-0, 2.94 GAA, .910 SV%

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $3 million salary cap hit

Analysis: Arguably the Wings’ most valuable player this half-season. He has consistently given the Wings an opportunity to win games. Key question: Will Bernier be made available in talks at the trade deadline, with free agency looming?

Grade: A-minus

Thomas Greiss

Stats: 1-11-4, 3.41 GAA, .883 SV%

Contract: Signed through 2021-22, $3.6 million cap hit

Analysis: Greiss was expected to form a formidable goaltending tandem, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Greiss didn’t get offensive help the during first month, but overall, the statistics largely tell his story.

Grade: D

Defense

Danny DeKeyser

Stats: 18 games, one goals, two assists, three points, minus-1 rating

Contract: Signed through 2021-22, $5 million cap hit

Analysis: The Wings shut down DeKeyser for a couple of weeks and the strategy worked. DeKeyser is coming off back surgery and a period of adjustment was expected. It’s worked out that way.

Grade: C

Christian Djoos

Stats: 23 games, two goals, four assists, six points, minus-9 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $1 million cap hit

Analysis: A good offensive defenseman who can help a team’s power play, but mostly struggles on the defensive end. For a waiver acquisition, Djoos has provided an upgrade at the position.

Grade: C

Filip Hronek

Stats: 27 games, no goals, 12 assists, 12 points, minus-12 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $714,166 cap hit

Analysis: Eats a lot of minutes and goes against the opposition’s top players, Hronek has been the team’s most important defenseman. Still, overall, Hronek hasn’t been as effective as last season, and the snarl in his game has been missing.

Grade: B-minus

Jon Merrill

Stats: 21 games, no goals, three assists, 3 points, plus-1 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $925,000 cap hit

Analysis: The Grand Blanc native has proven to be a shrewd free-agent signing. Merrill doesn’t excel in any one area, but he does a lot of things well. The Wings probably will look to re-sign him.

Grade: B

Patrik Nemeth

Stats: 26 games, two goals, two assists, four points, minus-4 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $3 million cap hit

Analysis: Nemeth is the type of sturdy defenseman who contenders will be happy to add for a mid-round pick at the deadline. He has a sneaky, powerful shot, and his defensive attributes remain fine. The penalties this season have been a concern.

Grade: C

Marc Staal

Stats: 27 games, two goals, two assists, four points, minus-5 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $5.7 million cap hit

Analysis: Staal has basically played to expectations, providing the defense with experience, savvy and stability. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Staal flipped at the deadline, adding to what the N.Y. Rangers gave the Wings to take his contract.

Grade: C

Troy Stecher

Stats: 19 games, no goals, four assists, four points, minus-5 rating

Contract: Signed through 2021-22, $1.7 million cap hit

Analysis: An injury has stalled Stecher’s season, but until that juncture, he was a pleasant surprise. Stecher formed a dependable duo with Staal, and Stecher’s compete level is never in question.

Grade: C-plus

Forwards

Tyler Bertuzzi

Stats: Nine games, five goals, two assists, seven points, even rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $3.5 million cap hit

Analysis: Bertuzzi hasn’t played since Jan. 30 because of an undisclosed upper-body injury. Bertuzzi got off to a fabulous start, and the Wings dearly miss the intangibles he brings.

Grade: Incomplete

Mathias Brome

Stats: 24 games, one goal, no assists, one point, minus-10 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $925,000 cap hit

Analysis: Brome has provided a few elements like speed and checking, but given the opportunities he’s had from an offensive standpoint, that part of the game has been a dismal disappointment. Brome hasn’t shown an ability to finish around the net.

Grade: D-plus

Adam Erne

Stats: 19 games, three goals, four assists, seven points, minus-2 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21 season, $997,500 salary cap hit

Analysis: After a forgettable season last year, Erne has shown glimpses of the player the Wings likely envisioned when they acquired him. He could be solidifying a bottom-six forward role for the near future.

Grade: C-plus

Robby Fabbri

Stats: 18 games, four goals, six assists, 10 points, even rating

Contract: Signed through 2021-22, $2.95 million cap hit

Analysis: Still not sure if Fabbri is better at center, or wing, but then again, he’s been a help at both forward spots. Fabbri was knocked out for a bit with COVID-19, but quickly returned to speed. The Wings are deeper with him in the lineup.

Grade: B

Valtteri Filppula

Stats: 20 games, two goals, three assists, five points, minus-4 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $3 million cap hit

Analysis: Filppula’s return to the Wings last season has turned out to be a disappointment. He’s clearly been passed over on the depth chart. The only question is whether a playoff-bound team is willing to take him for a low-round draft pick.

Grade: D

Sam Gagner

Stats: 19 games, four goals, four assists, eight points, plus-3 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $850,000 cap hit.

Analysis: The production has been lacking, but the underlying numbers are solid and it wouldn’t be shocking to see a playoff team interested at the deadline. Gagner can help teams. Maybe a return to Edmonton? Good veteran presence.

Grade: C-plus

Luke Glendening

Stats: 25 games, two goals, five assists, seven points, minus-2 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21 season, $1.8 million cap hit

Analysis: The best faceoff man in the NHL this season, Glendening has provided a bit more offense and his leadership is evident. The Wings could trade Glendening at the deadline, then re-sign him in the summer, but would the organization even risk doing that?

Grade: B-plus

Darren Helm

Stats: 18 games, one goal, two assists, three points, minus-4 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $3.85 million cap hit

Analysis: You get the sense Helm’s long, respectable career with the Wings is coming to an end. A contender could be interested at the deadline, for a player who can adequately fill a bottom-six role.

Grade: C

Dylan Larkin

Stats: 23 games, five goals, seven assists, 12 pts., minus-7 rating

Contract: Signed through 2022-23, $6.1 million cap hit

Analysis: Larkin seemed to carry the weight of being named captain for a few games, then he lost Bertuzzi, which affected production. Overall, the offensive production is down from what would be expected.

Grade: C

Anthony Mantha

Stats: 26 games, six goals, four assists, 10 points, minus-16 rating

Contract: Signed through 2023-24, at $5.7 million cap hit

Analysis: So much more was expected of Mantha at this part of the season. Armed with a new, hefty contract, Mantha started the season slowly and has yet to recover. Hasn’t been nearly noticeable or impactful enough.

Grade: D

Vladislav Namestnikov

Stats: 25 games, four goals, five assists, nine points, minus-5 rating

Contract: Signed through 2021-22, $2 million cap hit

Analysis: As advertised, the versatility has been a nice ingredient to have, and he can effectively play either special team. The only blemish has been offensively, where Namestnikov has failed to convert opportunities.

Grade: C-plus

Frans Nielsen

Stats: 21 games, one goal, four assists, five points, minus-1 rating

Contract: Signed through 2021-22, $5.25 million cap hit

Analysis: Another Wings’ veteran forward whose days in the organization could be dwindling. Nielsen has been fine defensively this season, but his offensive contributions the last several seasons just haven’t been enough.

Grade: C-minus

Michael Rasmussen

Stats: 11 games, no goals, three assists, 3 assists, minus-4 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $894,166 cap hit

Analysis: Might not ever be an offensive force, but could still develop into a big, burly shutdown center who can be an effective net-front presence. Probably a better center than wing.

Grade: C

Bobby Ryan

Stats: 26 games, six goals, seven assists, 13 points, minus-10 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $1 million cap hit

Analysis: Four goals in the first three games, then got relatively quiet offensively, though was noticeable creating. Has met expectations, given the low-cost signing. Ryan’s veteran presence could fit with so many contenders at the deadline.

Grade: B-plus

Givani Smith

Stats: Eight games, one goal, three assists, four points, even rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $714,166 salary cap hit.

Analysis: Smith had a few sparking games during his call-up, but hasn’t been able to claim a lineup spot. With so many prospects on the way, you wonder if Smith’s best chance might be elsewhere.

Grade: Incomplete

Evgeny Svechnikov

Stats: Four games, two goals, two assists, four points, minus-2 rating

Contract: Signed through 2020-21, $894,167 cap hit.

Analysis: Another big forward who might be ultimately headed elsewhere. Appears to be consistently crowded out of the lineup. Had four points in four games, then a healthy scratch Tuesday.

Grade: Incomplete

Filip Zadina

Stats: 20 games, three goals, six assists, nine points, plus-2 rating.

Analysis: Started real slow offensively, but appears to be heating up and is becoming more of a factor with the puck. It’s been a pleasant surprise watching Zadina on the defensive side of the puck. Slowly growing into a more complete forward.

Grade: C-plus

Coach

Jeff Blashill

Given what Blashill has had to work with, he’s again gotten as much out of this roster as possible. They’re more competitive game to game, unlike last season. Mantha’s struggles have hurt, and the special teams have been largely ineffective again. With Blashill in the last year of his contract, the future is definitely cloudy.

Grade: C

General manager

Steve Yzerman

Yzerman wanted to see improvement this season, and there has been some in regard to individuals (Zadina, Hronek, maybe Rasmussen), and the free-agent acquisitions have done their job making this team more NHL competitive. It’ll be interesting to see what Yzerman does at the deadline. There’s still so much work to do in the future.

Grade: C-plus

tkulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan

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