To date, the Detroit Red Wings’ 2020-21 season has not had much to celebrate. They again rank near the bottom of the league in goals scored, as well as goals allowed, and it’s fair to say that a blue line that was supposed to be markedly better after the additions of Troy Stecher, Jon Merrill and Marc Staal has been consistently inconsistent. One of the biggest difference-makers on defense this season, however, was a much less heralded waiver claim in January by General Manager Steve Yzerman.
Christian Djoos has since rewarded Yzerman’s faith, all while reigniting his own career.
Djoos has used his vision and puck movement ability to become a regular in Detroit’s lineup, just months after being placed on waivers by the Anaheim Ducks. The 26-year-old Swede played in just 11 NHL games during the 2019-20 season; he has already played 21 games prior to Thursday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Simply put, he has proven he deserves a regular spot in the lineup and will likely keep that status as the season presses on.
Djoos Provides Spark, Helps Power Play Break Slump
Djoos broke into the league in the 2017-18 season, appearing in 63 games en route to winning a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals. That season was his best to date, in which he recorded three goals and 11 assists while finishing with a plus-13 rating. The following season, he put up 10 points in 45 games before essentially falling out of the NHL but still kept his stock relatively high by notching 32 points in 42 games last season with the Capitals’ AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.
Washington traded Djoos to Anaheim in February 2020, where he played quite a bit, averaging over 21 minutes of ice time in nine games. His season was cut short after COVID-19 forced all games to pause, and the Ducks did not qualify for the NHL’s playoff bracket. Heading into this season is when he was placed on waivers, and Yzerman scooped him up.
With the Red Wings, Djoos has restored his professional career. He’s 10th on the team in total points (6), second among defensemen behind Filip Hronek. His two goals are tied with Staal for the most on a team by a fellow blue liner, and he recently helped reignite an abysmal Red Wings power play after the team went 40 straight attempts without scoring on the man advantage. He broke the team’s slump on February 27 after scoring a power play goal and assisted on another two games later.
None of this is a surprise to Red Wings’ coach Jeff Blashill, who told the Detroit Free Press earlier this season about Djoos’ power play ability.
“He’s kind of come as advertised,” Blashill said in early February. (From: “St. James: How Christian Djoos went from waivers to regular for Detroit Red Wings” – Detroit Free Press – 2/11/2021) “He’s a really good puck mover. He’s got really good poise with the puck. He’s a little different than what we have in a lot of ways on the back end. We have a lot of guys that are good defenders that are fine with the puck. He’s a really good passer, has good poise.”
Djoos’ Offensive Stats This Season Approach Career Bests
Djoos has made the most of his time after falling out of favor with the Capitals last year. His six points in 21 games this season is almost half of what he accomplished in 2017-18 with the Capitals when he recorded 14 points in 63 games. He’s just one goal shy of tying the career-best three goals he scored that same season.
His goals this year have highlighted good vision, as both came after Djoos found open ice, made a quick move and sniped it past the goalie. It’s clear he can continue to help the team’s rebuild on the power play.
He is, however, not without his flaws. His minus-eight rating is second to last on the team, only ahead of Anthony Mantha’s minus-14, and although his point share of 0.7 places him in the middle of the pack on the team, it puts him ahead of only Stecher’s 0.5 among defensemen. His 19 shot blocks are eighth-best on the Red Wings, though again, last among all regular defensemen. He also needs to protect the puck more – his 15 turnovers are the third-most on the team, behind Staal (21) and Dylan Larkin (23).
Djoos’ Future In The League Still Being Established
Djoos is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, and may fit the bill to help young defensemen adjust to life in the NHL (See: Moritz Seider and Albert Johansson). One thing is for sure – an unheralded waiver claim by Yzerman back in the early parts of 2021 has certainly had an impact on the club this season, and if he continues to produce, Djoos will solidify his stature as a regular defenseman in the league.
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.