Damien Brunner's Success Will Make or Break Detroit Red Wings' Season

Garrett KolodziejContributor IISeptember 8, 2012

Is Brunner the Swiss Sensation?
Is Brunner the Swiss Sensation?

Adapting to something new as an athlete can be difficult. Some athletes embrace the change and excel in their new positions or sports. Others fail to make necessary mental changes, and their careers inevitably take turns for the worse. 

Damien Brunner is hoping that his transition to the NHL will help him fortify his game. 

An older "rookie" at the age of 26, Brunner is a right-handed shooting winger who uses his speed, crafty moves and good hands to stuff the stat sheet.

He played four seasons for Zug of the Swiss Elite League and found much success. In his four seasons playing in his native country, he amassed a total of 190 points in 168 games (via nhl.com).

Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock was impressed with the Swiss forward and told Ansar Khan of Mlive the following:

I know a lot about [Brunner] because I went to the world championships and watched him play...The thing for us is he’s high, high paced, he scored, looks like he has tons of skill...Can he adjust and play the North American game? We’re going to give him every opportunity. He’ll be a top-six forward to start with us, and [we will] see where he goes with us.

Should Babcock's words come to fruition, Brunner would give the Red Wings a viable scoring threat with the right-handed shot they have sought for years.

Adding a pure goal scorer like Brunner gives the Red Wings' already lethal offense more punch.

Even if Brunner is given top-six minutes, some younger guys are also going to have to step up.

The first player that comes to mind is left wing Gustav Nyquist.

After playing three seasons with the University of Maine and one season in Grand Rapids, he has met expectations. In 18 games last season, Nyquist showed flashes of dominance, with a goal and six assists in two stints with the Red Wings.

He was named a Hobey Baker Award finalist in the 2009-2010 season after leading the NCAA in scoring. He also was nominated in 2010-2011. 

Nyquist showed that his smarts and speed make him worthy of playing in Babcock's top six. Yet there were many nights last season in which Babs stuck him on the team's fourth line, and he struggled to find consistent play. 

If it's not this young pivot, there are several veterans that can contribute. 

Secondary role players like Danny Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson will all be expected to produce more offensively. 

Valtteri Filppula looks to repeat his 66-point season from a year ago, and Johan Franzen looks to find a stroke of consistency, as well.

There are also lingering questions about the defense after the losses of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart. Not to mention that Brunner's spot means that potentially one or two veteran forwards may be subject to waivers or used as trade bait.


Babcock has many options to choose from, so Brunner has to make his case to stand out. Is he capable of making his name in the NHL? Absolutely. In fact, he has committed to growing his game, telling Mlive that he will continue to play in Grand Rapids, pending the resolution of the lockout. 

All signs point in the right direction going forward for Damien Brunner. 

And that's something good for this Swiss transplant looking to become one of the NHL's newest European stars. 


Follow Garrett Kolodziej on Twitter @gkolodziej248 for all things Red Wings and the NHL.