Red Wings: Filip Zadina Needs to Ease Up on Himself

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It was midway through a Detroit Red Wings powerplay that everyone saw it. Another scoring chance turned away on Filip Zadina. With 1:38 remaining in the second period, Zadina snapped a shot that Darcy Kuemper gobbled up and the fourth-year Red Wings forward twirled in the right circle, and headed back to the bench, chirping himself for most of the skate back.

It hammered home the point–at least for me anyway–that the biggest deterrent on the ice right now for Zadina is himself.

Zadina is Pressing–and shouldn’t be…yet

About a month ago, Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen penned an article talking about head coach Jeff Blashill’s advice to the forward. Everyone knows the backstory of Zadina, who fell to Detroit in the 2018 draft and famously stated that he would fill the nets of those who passed on him. Blashill had this to say more recently:

 “We get over-excited when things go well and we get over-excited when things don’t go well, or overreact, I should say. That’s just part of the culture of today. I would say a couple of things I guess. One is let’s continue to let Seids and Raymond prove it, and two, let’s continue to give Zadina time.”

Later, Blashill gets even more specific:

“I think (Zadina) measures himself as a goal scorer,” Blashill said.  “That’s when frustration sets in, when really he should be measuring himself on the process of playing.”

And herein lies the problem. Evident by how Zadina has reacted to not scoring more goals, he views his role as first and foremost putting the puck in the net. Looking at his stats through a more advanced prism, here’s how it appears:

Zadina is snakebit. But the shots that come from the right circle are found heavily on the power play, which isn’t shocking, especially since he’s set up on the right flank, waiting for the opportunity to tee of like Alex Ovechkin.

Confidence is built when success is experienced but that’s something Zadina hasn’t had.

The Red Wings Drafted Zadina to be a Goal Scorer

At the time, it looked like a steal. The gifted goal scorer who took the world by storm during the World Juniors had fallen right into Ken Holland and the Red Wings’ lap. It was the first draft where Holland had acknowledged that Detroit was in a rebuild. So there was time–and now hope–especially since Holland would go on to take Joe Veleno, and Jonatan Berggren,  with the next two picks.

Zadina symbolized the new wave of Red Wings, the first in what would be a long line of high picks that would re-establish Detroit as a contender. In fact, he arguably had less pressure on him as fans and some pundits were bewildered by Holland’s 2017 draft that saw them take Michael Rasmussen. (This hasn’t gotten better, either, if you’re just a modest reader of social media).

But the goal scoring barrage that so many expected or anticipated with Zadina hasn’t happened. Instead, there’s been insistence by the Red Wings development team and also Blashill for Zadina to be well rounded, and not so much “fill the net,” but “filling out his game.”

This isn’t an unreasonable expectation because the best play responsible hockey.

Zadina has modest numbers for the season but digging somewhat deeper again, he’s below where he should be. At a brief glance:
Points – 10
Goals – 4
CF% – 49.6 (5v5)
PDO – 97.0% (5v5)

So what does this mean for Zadina and the Red Wings?

When I was younger and very active in sports, it was commonplace for me to overanalyze performance and get into my head. Be it baseball, hockey, soccer, or basketball, I would ride that momentum Blashill spoke of a little too much and internalize it. I didn’t have the ability to just “let things go” on the field or rink and it was a skill I had to hone. Otherwise, whether at the plate or on the court, my performance would suffer.

Watching Zadina’s body language and playing armchair sports psychologist, he needs to step back and let things go. I don’t know him personally, I only see what I see on the ice. But with every shot that doesn’t find the net, you see that familiar expression of frustration, along with what is most likely some not so positive self-talk.

Time is hardly running out on Zadina in terms of contributing how he should but he certainly doesn’t have all the time in the world to figure it out, either.

Jakub Vrana returning in a month’s time should help, and maybe some time on a line with Lucas Raymond could do wonders. Some fans have even suggested that maybe it’s time to pull the plug and deal him for Jake DeBrusk from the Bruins.

Between the numbers and the type of player Zadina can be, it seems like things will balance out in time. But it’s not unfair to wonder that if frustrations continue to build, and only minimal gains are made, a change might be in order.

But until every avenue has been exhausted, a’la extended time with Vrana or ice time with Raymond, it seems that he needs to loosen his grip on his stick, and play his game.

He’s changed equipment, but maybe, it’s just a shift of his mindset that will set things where he wants them.

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