The Detroit Red Wings 2016-17 season has not gotten off to the best start. While it’s easy to get frustrated and trash talk management and the players, it’s also important to remain positive. Looking at the positive side of things will keep your blood pressure down, help your liver out on game nights, and make what’s surely going to be a long season feel a little more bearable.
So, without further ado, here are five positives of the Detroit Red Wings 2016-17 season so far:
5 POSITIVES OF THE DETROIT RED WINGS 2016-17 SEASON
1. The Revival of Jimmy Howard
Petr Mrazek was expected to be the starter in Detroit this year. Going into the Red Wings 2016-17 season, no one had any doubt that Mrazek would be the number one guy in net. He started the first three games of the season and the Wings went 1-2-0. The losses were not Mrazek’s fault, though. The Wings were badly outplayed and outshot by their opponents. If anything, Mrazek gave them a fighting chance to come back. He escaped the first three games with a .915 SV%.
Then, Howard got a start against the New York Rangers. He already had great career numbers against the Rangers and he just added to them, posting a 32-save shutout in a game where the team in front of him was badly outplayed.
Since then, Howard has been a bright spot for this team in net. The 32-year-old was the talk all summer of a possible trade piece or the obvious goalie choice for the Las Vegas expansion team. Red Wings fans would take anything to get his $5+ million contract off the books. He hasn’t technically stolen the starting position back from Mrazek, but Howard has the seventh best save percentage in the league at .940%.
Mrazek isn’t out of the picture yet, but he’s definitely in a bit of a slump right now. Howard has had one bad game (the 5-0 embarrassment by the Montreal Canadiens) in which his save percentage dipped below .920, otherwise it’s been save after save. When the Wings find their scoring touch, and they will, having a hot goalie behind them help reel in the wins.
2. The Kids are Getting A Shot
And they look good. Before falling to injury, Andreas Athanasiou was playing an average of 12:01 per game, a whole three minutes more than last year. He put up five points in thirteen games. His two-way game has improved and he was scoring highlight reel goals.
Other young forwards who are getting a look are Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi. Mantha, who arguably should have started the season in a Red Wings jersey, got the call up and has played in the last four games, posting a goal and an assist. He was one of the bright spots in the Red Wings 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames the other night. Bertuzzi was also called up for four games to play a bottom six role. He failed to record any points, but his energy and defensive play were good. His overall game still needs some work, but he’s on his way to being a solid depth forward.
Finally, on defense, the Red Wings have been holding Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul. They started the season rotating into the lineup while Niklas Kronwall recovered from a knee injury. They both looked pretty good, but Sproul seems to be emerging as the favourite. He’s been getting more starts as of late and has posted four points in eight games. Now with Alexey Marchenko out for three weeks, these young guys will get even more ice time.
3. Jonathan Ericsson Has Been Good
Jonathan Ericsson has always been a touchy subject for Red Wings fans. He’s never scored more than 15 points in a season and has led the team in giveaways for the last two years. Compounding all of this is his six-year, $25.5 million dollar contract which won’t expire until 2020. Ericsson was one of the worst and best-paid defensemen on the team.
So when the Red Wings 2016-17 season started, fans expected Ericsson to be the source of their wrath and frustration. But here’s the thing: Ericsson’s been good. He hasn’t been great, but he’s been good. Through the first 18 games of the season, he has four assists, which is four times the amount he had last year. He’s actually on pace to score 18 points, which would make this the most productive season of his career. He also leads the team in penalty minutes and fighting majors. As far as his puck control goes, Ericsson is not leading the team in giveaways. In fact, he has the least amount of giveaways among all active defensemen (Smith has the most). In addition to this, he leads all active team defensemen in possession with a 48.1% Corsi for percentage (CF%).
Ericsson has the potential to be better than his last couple of seasons, but is it sustainable? Only time will tell. For now, enjoy this wave of good hockey from him.
4. Thomas Vanek Has Been A Welcome Surprise
Before falling to injury, Vanek was scoring at 1.14 G/GP rate. When the Wings signed the 32-year-old to a one-year, $2.6 million contract, it was perceived to be low risk, high reward. After a shaky season with the Minnesota Wild where he found himself as a healthy scratch in more than one game, some thought Vanek had maybe passed his prime and was on the way down. So far, he’s proving those doubters wrong. And he’s doing it in a Red Wings jersey.
Vanek exploded out of the gate, scoring two goals in the team’s season opener. He immediately found chemistry with linemates Gustav Nyquist and Darren Helm and brought some much needed production to a power play that suffered through the previous season.
When Vanek was out, the team was hurting badly in the goal scoring department. Hopefully he’s brought his scoring touch with him now that he’s back.
5. Overall, They’re Doing About the Same As Last Year
Last season, the Red Wings got off to an 8-6-1 start in their first 15 games. This year, the Red Wings got off to an 8-6-1 start in their first 15 games. It may seem worse this year because they’ve been losing more games consecutively, but the Red Wings 2016-17 season is actually off to a scary similar start to last year.
It should be concerning that they’ve lost their last four games, but if their season continues down the same path that it’s been on, then they’ll win a string of games and catch up to where they were last year. The team is very streaky right now and they are playing nowhere near their potential. Their play will even itself out as their scorers find their confidence. They still have a good chance of just squeezing into the playoffs again.
Once they’re in, who knows what could happen?