This is part 2 of 3 in the series where three players are chosen, described, and you, the reader choose whether or not you would keep or trade him. (Part 1 on Jonathan Ericsson may be found here). Today we focus a player who is coming up on free agency: Jiri Hudler.
The trade deadline of Monday February 27th is just around the corner.The buzz of rumors, speculations, and fantasies are in the air. In all the excitement my question to you is: what would you do with Jiri Hudler?
Hudler, or "Huds" (həds) as he is known to his teammates is a 28-year-old 5’10’’, 186 pound left handed forward that comes to the Wings as the first pick (58th overall) in the 2002 entry draft.
Starting the 2003-04 season, Hudler spent his time between three teams and two continents. He played in the WJC-A league in his home country of the Czech Republic, the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate team the Grand Rapids Griffins and 12 games for Wings where he tallied three points.
In 2004-05, Hudler again spent time with the Griffins where he accumulated 34 points in 52 games and in the Czech Republic putting up seven points in seven games.
Deciding to stay in the United States for the 2005-06 year, Hudler played a season that the Red Wings could not ignore. In 76 games with the Griffins, Hudler put up 97 points by way of 36 goals and 61 assists. Hudler was then awarded a full time spot on the Red Wings in the following 2006-07 season.
His rookie year was certainly something to get excited about. While 25 points in 76 games is by no means impressive, the fact that he did it in an average ice time of ten minutes and two seconds is quite impressive. So impressive in fact, the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association gave him the team’s Rookie of the Year Award.
Hudler only improved from there, with 42 points in the Stanley Cup winning year of 2007-08. With 57 points in 2008-09, he was quickly becoming a fan favorite. He is small, which becomes evidently problematic on occasion, but he is agile. He also had a knack for finding the back of the net with a 14.8 shooting percentage in 2008-09. That was highest on the team for anyone who played over 55 games.
Fans even admired his demeanor outside the rink. He was shy and his English was at a novice level. He was so nervous in front of the camera that he asked for all interview questions in advance so he could practice his answers beforehand. Later on at the Stanley Cup celebration in Downtown Detroit, he would shed that shyness and lead thousands of Wingnuts in a “Let’s Go Red Wings” chant.
All seemed well and good for Hudler, the Red Wings, and their fans until Hudler filed for arbitration against the Wings in the 2009 offseason before leaving to play the 2009-10 season in the Russian KHL league for substantially more money.
The Detroit Red Wings are league renowned for treating their players right. It is a fact even the fans take solace in. If you as a player do right by us, we will do right by you. Ask currently playing lifelong Red Wings like Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom. Or even Kirk Maltby, Kris Draper and Steve Yzerman, who all took jobs within the organization offices immediately following retirement. Fans liked Hudler; the arbitration case along with leaving the team was a metaphorical slap in the face.
This was why Hudler was not exactly welcomed back with open arms when he returned to the Wings for the 2010-11 season. And, when he failed to deliver throughout the season, fans were not only calling for a trade but a beheading.
Nevertheless, Hudler returned for the current 2011-12 season and has been making his comeback with 18 goals and 17 assists equaling 35 points in 57 games and an again team leading shooting percentage of 22.8 percent.
Here is the question; would you keep or trade Jiri Hudler?
Hudler is playing better and has all the makings of a solid forward. However, this only complicates the question as playing better only serves to increase his trade value and salary requirements. He did also leave a bitter taste in the Red Wing mouth with his KHL stint.
Jiri Hudler: keep or trade? I leave you to the poll.
Tell me your thoughts in the comment box below.