Detroit Red Wings Players Who Failed to Meet Expectations in 2014 NHL Playoffs
Detroit was unable to mount much competition after its Game 1 win and was swept in the final four games of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
As the lockers are cleaned out and sticks traded in for golf clubs, there are still plenty of questions surrounding Red Wings’ players regarding the outcome of the series.
Ansar Khan of MLive.com shared Mike Babcock’s sentiments:
We weren’t a tough out at all. We were good in Game 1 and I thought we were good for a period-and-half in Game 4…to find out how good they are you’ve got to push them. You go back and forth and win games and you get to around (Game) 6 and 7. We never did that.
The dissatisfaction was displayed on the players’ faces, expressed in the coach’s words and evident in the box score.
Hockeytown is not happy.
Sure, the team scored its 23rd consecutive postseason berth, but no professional franchise heads into the playoffs with the mindset “Hey, we’re just happy to be here.”
As children we were told that it’s rude to point fingers, but as hockey fans it’s what we do. As the Detroit Red Wings gear up for a summer on the links, here are the players who failed to meet expectations in the 2014 NHL playoffs.
There was no bigger disappointment for the Red Wings than Johan Franzen.
The man affectionately referred to as “the Mule” was hardly the patient, driven worker associated with his nickname.
Franzen accumulated just two assists in five games, while posting a minus-two. He averaged 18 minutes, 53 seconds of ice time and totaled 14 shots on goal. His performance now gives him just 12 points and a minus-11 in his last 32 playoff games dating back to 2011.
He has been an integral part of Detroit’s offense on paper, but is too streaky to be considered reliable at this point in his career.
His contract will earn him $3.95 million per season through 2019-20, but Detroit has one remaining compliance buyout. It has just this summer to use it, and Franzen is a dark horse for eligibility.
While his buyout isn’t likely, the Wings have been more than tolerant of the one-time 30-goal scorer's struggles and possess every right to consider the options.
There are some gifted forwards on the open market this offseason that could replace both Franzen’s roster spot and production. Whether or not Detroit explores this option is something to keep an eye on.
Should he stay, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him take a reduced offensive role in favor of Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar or even Stephen Weiss (if healthy).
Detroit has an array of options that may or may not include Franzen. He was initially inked to his long-term contract based on his postseason production.
A lack thereof could ultimately be his undoing in Detroit.
Like Johan Franzen, Jimmy Howard received a hefty contract based on his postseason performance.
Unfortunately, the weight of his new deal may have been the added pressure that his knee couldn’t handle—figuratively speaking.
A few injuries contributed to Howard’s poor 2013-14 campaign, but overall he was not the reliable netminder Detroit was counting on.
In 51 regular-season games Howard went 21-19-11 with a 2.66 goals-against average, a .910 save percentage and two shutouts.
Howard posted a shutout in Game 1 of the quarterfinals against Boston, but lost two consecutive games before the flu benched him for the final two. He was on pace to set personal bests in the postseason before being sidelined.
There was some speculation that Howard may have suffered a concussion, but he has since dispelled the rumor. Regardless of the malady, Howard was unavailable for the two biggest games of the series, and concerns about his stability have increased exponentially.
Although he’s signed through the 2018-19 season, Howard is 30 years old and could be heading for a decline after posting the worst statistical season of his career.
Detroit went into this year with zero apprehension about its goaltending tandem, only to have injuries and inconsistency cause issues beyond the team’s depth.
The plot thickens with Jonas Gustavsson heading for free agency and the swift development of prospect Petr Mrazek.
Howard holds the starting gig without a doubt, but Mrazek could earn the full-time backup spot this summer and steal a few extra starts next season.
With a talented youngster pushing for time and Howard battling inconsistency, his days could quickly become numbered.
One bad season doth not a career make—but NHL hockey moves quickly, and Detroit could be heading toward big changes in the coming years.
Tomas Tatar has plenty of talent and even more time to prove his worth in the NHL.
Expectations for Tatar were not prodigious, but the results were certainly not indicative of his ability.
After posting 19 goals and 39 points in his first full season with the Red Wings, Tatar was held pointless in his first NHL postseason series.
As a member of “The Kid Line,” Tatar was expected to shoulder some of the secondary scoring, but instead finished with a team-worst minus-three and eight penalty minutes. He did lead the team with 19 shots on goal while averaging 15:06 of ice time.
The 23-year-old Slovak will have a lot to take away from this series, as the NHL playoffs proved significantly tougher than his 2013 Calder Cup championship with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
The learning curve in the NHL is tough, but after a series like this he’ll have a significantly better understanding of what it takes to win at the professional level.
Tatar’s regular season was certainly an excellent debut with Detroit, and is sure to receive a larger role on offense moving forward. While his performance this postseason lacked, the future for him is bright.
A loss like this stings for a younger player, especially one that loves to produce the way Tatar does. Heading into the summer with this year’s disappointment in mind should pay dividends come training camp in September.
At this point in his career, any learning opportunity is valuable. It will be no surprise to see Tatar improve upon this performance in 2014-15.
After leading the team with 28 goals during the regular season, Gustav Nyquist was smothered—and subsequently blanked—by the Boston Bruins in the postseason.
Sure, it's tough to place expectations on such a young player, but after the regular season he had, expectations rise.
He finished with 48 points in 57 games but was held off the scoresheet in five playoff games. He averaged 15:22 of ice time, recorded 13 shots on goal and a minus-one.
Nyquist had a particularly tough go of it in Game 4, missing an assignment that led to the tying goal by Milan Lucic early in the third period. He mustered only one shot on goal and finished minus-one in a series-high 17:14 of ice time.
Like Tomas Tatar, this season was a hockey re-education for Nyquist. He played in 14 playoff games in 2013, but tasting this season’s bitter first-round exit will be invaluable to his progression as a professional.
Perhaps Detroit leaned too heavily on the 24-year-old after his stellar regular season. Playing alongside playoff rookies Tatar and Riley Sheahan may have been a handicap for Nyquist.
He also saw time alongside Johan Franzen near the end of the series, which may have hindered his production as well (see slide two).
A summer to regroup and heading into training camp with a roster spot nearly guaranteed will be good for the young Swede. With more than half of an NHL season under his belt, Nyquist can expect similar, if not improved production in 2014-15.
With a clear look at the transcendent style of play exhibited in the NHL playoffs, he and the Detroit Red Wings will benefit from the shared learning experience in 2014.
Justin Abdelkader flew under the radar for the majority of the series, at least between the whistles.
He was involved in many post-whistle scraps throughout the series, but didn’t amount to much on the stat sheet. He registered just two assists, both coming in the final two games while skating alongside Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
Abdelkader finished as one of four players in the black for plus/minus (plus-one), but mustered just seven shots in five games. He finished the regular season with a career-high 28 points in 70 games.
During the 2013 postseason, Abdelkader established a physical presence and was a pest for Detroit’s opponents. He caused significant problems for both Anaheim and Chicago then, but was unable to duplicate that performance in 2014.
He appeared to be the lone enforcer for the Red Wings for the first three games of the series, which proved ineffective against a portentously larger Bruins lineup.
He knows his role on this club and plays it well. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to establish his style of play this postseason, limiting his impact.
There is quite a bit for Abdelkader to build upon from the 2013-14 season. He tied his career high in goals (10) from a year ago, while setting new personal bests with 18 assists and 28 points.
It is possible that he could line up with Datsyuk and Zetterberg in 2014-15, pending any offseason transactions. His work in the dirty areas makes him a quality complement to the “Euro Twins.”
There will always be a spot for him as a penalty killer and depth winger otherwise. He has established himself as a tough competitor, earning the respect of his teammates and the scowls of his opponents.
*All statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise specified.