Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk and Every Red Wings' Midseason Grade

Jordan MatthewsAnalyst IIIJanuary 9, 2012

Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk and Every Red Wings' Midseason Grade

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    For the past 20 years, playoff hockey has been the norm for the Detroit Red Wings.

    After crossing the midway point of the season on Sunday, the Red Wings are currently first in the Central Division, holding tiebreakers over the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

    The Central race is tight, and Detroit wouldn't be there without an outstanding performance from their mainstay players.

    With that, here are the midseason grades for all of Detroit's regular skaters.

Jan Mursak: Ungraded

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    Jan Mursak has yet to play a game for the Red Wings this season, but he still makes the list because he will likely be a frequent skater.

    Mursak has missed the first half of the season after suffering a fractured ankle in a preseason game against the Blackhawks.

    For this reason, Mursak obviously cannot be given a grade, but after some conditioning, you can expect to see Mursak getting some playing time in Detroit, and look for him to make an impact on the depth lines.

Ty Conklin: F

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    One word describes Ty Conklin. Bad. Really, really bad.

    Conklin started out the season great, with a shutout against the Colorado Avalanche, and he's been bad ever since.

    Detroit has won just two games under Conklin, and he currently has a 3.01 GAA and a .897 save percentage. When comparing those numbers to Vezina hopeful and teammate Jimmy Howard, Conklin's status goes from bad to worse.

    Conklin did get a win in Chicago on Sunday, and while he let in one very bad goal after allowing the second one five minutes in, he was rock solid. Hopefully he can continue this trend and build some confidence in himself.

Jonathan Ericsson: C-

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    Jonathan Ericsson never quite panned out the way the Red Wings wanted him to.

    When he made his debut in the 2009 NHL Playoffs, he showed a lot of promise, but he had a dismal 2010-2011 NHL season and received a hefty contract anyways.

    It's likely that Ken Holland was hoping for Ericsson to return to his 2009 level of play, but thus far, despite some improvement from last season, Ericsson hasn't gotten back to that point.

    Ericsson has just eight points in 41 games, and he leads the Red Wings' defense in turnovers.

Jakub Kindl: B-

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    Why Kindl isn't playing right now is somewhat bewildering. He hasn't been outstanding, but eight points in 32 games for a third-line defender is nothing to be ashamed of.

    Kindl has put a decent amount up offensively, and his plus-eight rating isn't easy to complain about, either.

    Defensive errors take his rank down a notch, but Kindl hasn't been too bad of an asset for the Red Wings this season.

Niklas Kronwall: B-

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    Niklas Kronwall hasn't done anything bad this season, but he hasn't done a whole lot to earn a higher ranking than a B-, either.

    While his 19 points are a nice number, more is expected of Kronwall as the team's No. 2 defender, and even more will be expected of him if and when Nicklas Lidstrom retires.

    Currently, his even plus/minus only puts him over Fabian Brunnstrom and Brendan Smith.

    Look for Kronwall to improve over the second half of the season. While those numbers aren't awful, they're not the norm for the Swede.

Henrik Zetterberg: B-

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    I rank Zetterberg here with caution. A week ago, he would've been a C- rather than a B-.

    Like fellow Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk, Zetterberg had an awful start to the season. The difference here is, Zetterberg took a much longer time to come out of his slump.

    In Zetterberg's first 18 games, he only managed to put up seven points. That pace would've made him finish the season with 32 points total.

    However, slowly but surely, Zetterberg has come surging back to stardom with 25 points in the 23 games following his slump.

    Still, for a player who was once considered one of the best defensive forwards in the league, Zetterberg leads the Red Wings in turnovers with 31. That's something he needs to fix.

Darren Helm: B-

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    Darren Helm is a great role player, but with his great speed, you have to think of the player he could be if he knew how to stick handle worth a damn.

    Helm's rating is somewhat low because of the fact that he only has 12 points in 37 games. Although his main role is to be a penalty killer, Detroit's penalty kill is in the league's bottom 10 overall.

    His plus-four rating isn't too sharp, either. Helm is a good player, but it wouldn't hurt him to step up his game a bit.

Cory Emmerton: B

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    Cory Emmerton is a guy the Wings tossed in this year at a permanent role. He's not a star in the making by any means, but he hasn't done bad, either.

    Emmerton has seven points in his 31 games played at a fourth-line role. His plus-six rating isn't bad, either.

    Unfortunately for Emmerton, he's a small fish in a big pond. With all the current talent on the Red Wings' roster and all the upcoming prospects, Emmerton could find himself traded to another team before the deadline passes.

Drew Miller: B

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    Drew Miller may be the less popular of the Miller brothers, but he's still an effective NHL player.

    Miller went on a mini-surge a few weeks ago when he scored five goals in six games.

    He has 14 points total in 39 games and a plus-11 rating. That's good considering the plus/minus means the Red Wings don't surrender a lot of goals while he's on the ice.

    He could absolutely be better, but he does what is expected of him, and that's all that counts.

Danny Cleary: B

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    Danny Cleary is having what could be considered a good year with Detroit. He's doing everything he's supposed to be doing, even if he could do a little more.

    Cleary has 19 points in 41 games, and he posts a plus-nine rating. That's not a bad stat sheet for him at all.

    A promotion to the Datsyuk/Franzen line would be nice for his stats, and it could be something to look for in the future.

Brad Stuart: B

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    Brad Stuart is another guy who fulfills his role pretty well. He's a PK guy.

    Ask Stuart to block a shot or go out and hit players, and he'll do it. Stuart leads the Red Wings in hitting and is second only to Niklas Kronwall in shot-blocking.

    His point total of nine points in 41 games isn't bad, but it's a bit less than what Stuart normally gets.

    It's worth noting that Stuart is seemingly on his way out of the Detroit Red Wings' organization. Stuart's contract will end this season, and with his family still living in California, there are rumors that he'd like to play for a team closer to home.

Tomas Holmstrom: B+

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    Tomas Holmstrom is the best in the NHL at what he does, and what he does is piss off the other team's goaltender...a lot.

    Nearly every game the opposing goaltender is guaranteed to see a ton of Holmstrom's backside while the puck is in their zone.

    With 15 points in 34 games, Holmstrom is meeting expectations, and maybe even then some.

    Still, his even rating isn't good on a team that has a very good goal differential, and it would suggest that the vast majority of his effectiveness comes from the power play and not during even-strength play.

Justin Abdelkader: B+

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    Justin Abdelkader knows his role on the Red Wings' roster. Hit people. He does it, and he does it well.

    Abdelkader leads the Red Wings' forwards in hitting by a wide margin. He has also gotten into a few scrums this season.

    Justin Abdelkader's 10 points in 40 games certainly isn't a great stat, but for his role, it is sufficient. He can score when he needs to, and his goals usually come at a time when they're needed.

Todd Bertuzzi: B+

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    For his age and salary, Bertuzzi has been a good piece to the Red Wings' puzzle.

    Bertuzzi has 18 points in 35 games and a plus-17 rating, which is just four shy of a career high for him.

    Not bad for the 36-year-old. His penalty minutes are nothing out of the ordinary for him, but they could always use less time in the box.

    Nonetheless, Bertuzzi hasn't been a bad buy for the Wings at all.

Ian White: B+

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    Acquired during the 2011 offseason, Ian White has proved to be a pretty good addition for the Red Wings' defense.

    He's made some careless mistakes at times, but his plus-24 is the best plus/minus rating for the Detroit Red Wings and is second only to Zdeno Chara amongst defenders across the league.

    In addition to his plus/minus, White's 20 points in 37 games is outstanding when you consider his cap hit. If you're a fantasy hockey fan, he was a great final-round steal.

Jiri Hudler: A-

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    Jiri Hudler is a rather interesting story. After going to arbitration in the 2009 offseason and then booking it to the KHL after being awarded a two-year, $5.5 million contract, there were high expectations for the small forward upon his return in 2010.

    He met none of them. The 2010-2011 season was an awful year for Hudler. So awful, in fact, that there were rumors that the Red Wings tried to trade Hudler during the 2011 draft to anybody who would listen, for pretty much anything, and nobody wanted him.

    My how things have changed...Hudler has 27 points and is on pace to put up 54 points, which would be nearly 20 more than he logged last season.

    It's certainly good for Hudler. It seems as if he's gone from nobody wanting to take him to the Red Wings not wanting to give him away to anybody.

    It's quite a turnaround for Jiri. Let's hope he keeps it up.

Johan Franzen: A-

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    Franzen can do more than just make awesome Dodge Ram commercials.

    The Mule has 36 points in 41 games, putting him on pace to eclipse his former season high of 59 by 13 points.

    Franzen is also just behind Ian White in plus/minus with a rating of plus-23.

    The only real knock on Franzen's game is his consistency. The Mule leads the team in goals with 16, but he has only scored twice in his last 13 games.

Pavel Datsyuk: A

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    Pavel Datsyuk may very well be the best player in the league.

    At 33 years old, he's just six points out of the scoring lead and with 43 points, he's currently on pace for 86 points, and very likely to get another Selke Trophy nod.

    Not bad for a guy labeled to be past his prime.

    And don't let the pace fool you, Datsyuk had a horrible start to the season with just 10 points in his first 16 games.

    If Datsyuk continues at a pace Detroit fans are more familiar with, 33 points in his last 25 games, he could very well finish with his third career 97-point season.

Nicklas Lidstrom: A+

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    Playing the way he does at the age of 41, you can't not give Nicklas Lidstrom an A+ for the season.

    His 23 points in 41 games and plus-18, on top of his solid defensive play, are remarkable for a man of his age.

    Sure, Lidstrom may not be as good as he was 10 years ago, but he's still one of the best defenders in the league.

    Maybe he's not the Norris front-runner this season, but at his age, he does more than he's required to do.

Valtteri Filppula: A+

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    Valtteri Filppula's season has been shocking to a point, and not so shocking at the same time.

    On one end of the spectrum, Filppula is finally becoming the player he was expected to be. On the other hand, he took so long to get there that many people had given up on him.

    Nonetheless, Filppula has finally made it there, and with 35 points in 40 games, not only is he on pace for a 71-point season, but he currently has more points than NHL stars such as Alexander Ovechkin, Marian Gaborik and Ilya Kovalchuk.

    Not bad for a guy who is only making $3 million a year.

Jimmy Howard: A+

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    It's been said more than once this season, and it's absolutely true: Jimmy Howard is the MVP of the Detroit Red Wings this year.

    Howard has posted a league-leading 24 wins while averaging a 2.0 GAA and a .924 save percentage.

    Some people may disagree, but those numbers are worthy of a Vezina nomination, at the very least. He's already been snubbed from the All-Star ballot for goalies such as James Reimer and Corey Crawford.

    While Howard's save percentage may be a bit short of elite, his work load has been far more strenuous than most other goalies in the NHL.

    Fact of the matter is, Howard has been one of the biggest stars for the Wings this year, and anything less than a Vezina nomination at this point would be a crying shame.

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    Jordan Matthews writes for the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings. You can read his recent articles here:

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