Detroit Red Wings forward Filip Zadina circled near the bench, corralled the puck from Pius Suter who had just hopped onto the ice, zipped between two Bruins and headed to the net. In a quick motion, he flipped the puck to his backhand and flicked it past Linus Ullmark for Detroit’s first goal of the game. During the intermission, Bally Sports Detroit analyst Larry Murphy noted that the goal was a result of a good defensive play by Zadina.
It was refreshing to see the 2018 sixth overall pick register the goal because it harkens to what he was selected for–goal scoring. But it’s been impressed upon him by the coaching staff that he needs to be a complete hockey player–something that goes with the philosophy imprinted by Steve Yzerman and company.
So it only seems fair that Zadina’s time on the fourth line is a brief one.
Zadina is Better Suited for a Top Line
Back when the Detroit Tigers traded for Max Scherzer, the then young pitcher was struggling to find his stuff. He was sent to Toledo for a bit of time, which allowed him to develop more of his repertoire and when he returned, he would take the next step into what he would become–which is now a sure bet Hall of Fame pitcher. (I could write another column on how massive of a mistake it was to allow him to walk after the 2014 season. I was irritated about it then, and I’m still irritated about it now).
I can’t tell you if Zadina is going to be a Hall of Famer and there’s no way the Red Wings would send him to Grand Rapids because he would be snatched up on waivers. Nor should he be.
So the closest thing to the Scherzer scenario is putting Zadina on the bottom line and having him “show” the improvement the coaching staff desires. We are not privy to see full practices, behind the scenes work, and other factors that play into lineup decisions. We can look at stats, and game performances which of course helps tell much of the story.
But the reality is that time on the fourth line should be as minimal as possible. Zadina is a skilled forward, one who needs to be on a line where more scoring chances are available. He made the most of his line assignment, but it Suter, who is one of those players that should be on a line (and usually is) with Zadina, that fed him the puck.
But in what has been a season long tug-of-war, Zadina has his share of supporters and detractors when it comes to performance.
This fourth line assignment is a good motivational tool for sure. But now let him back where he belongs–on the second line–so he can provide the Red Wings more scoring chances and ultimately–goals–that will help this team in the long run.
He may not fill the net at the clip once expected, but there’s no doubt he has the ability to do so. Maybe the fourth line duty will unlock some things. Perhaps it doesn’t move the needle at all. But if the front office and coaching staff are studying Zadina to determine his place on the team, the fourth line can only be so telling.
Put him back in the top six where he belongs because ultimately, that will truly tell the organization what they have in Zadina.