The Grind Line: Addressing the Filip Zadina Situation

What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. This week Devin Little, Patrick Brown, Kyle Knopp, and Brian Oldani are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

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Winger Filip Zadina’s struggles this season have been well-documented, to say the least. After drawing attention to his offensive abilities on the draft floor back in 2018, he has since struggled to truly break out in the NHL. At just 22 years old, there is still hope that he can realize the potential that made him the sixth pick of that year’s draft, despite his lack of production.

Is it just a matter of patience? Is there a lineup change that should be made? Or is it time to rip the band-aid off and trade Zadina while the allure of his draft day scouting report is still around him? Our panel shares their thoughts on what to do with Zadina:

Tony Wolak: Be Patient with Zadina

When thinking about Zadina’s recent struggles, I can’t help but be reminded of a scene from Avengers: Infinity War. As Thanos’ Outriders are landing around Wakanda, T’Challa begins to mobilize the team. “Evacuate the city! Engage all defenses!” Then he points to Steve Rogers, “and get this man a shield!” Except for Zadina, it’s a goal, not a shield. Just get this man a goal already. 

In my recent deep dive into the forward’s game, it became clear that the offense was there – Zadina has just been unlucky with regard to the puck going in. The return of Jakub Vrána will help, as would deployment alongside Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond.

Related: What’s Wrong With Filip Zadina?

Jakub Vrana Detroit Red Wings
Jakub Vrana, Detroit Red Wings (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

But until then, be patient with Zadina. He’s doing everything he can—offensively, defensively, positionally—albeit without success. And based on his historical shooting percentage and the various expected goals models, you can expect a few more goals in the near future.

Devin Little: Go Big or Stay Home

For the most part, I completely agree with Tony’s assessment of the Zadina situation. In an earlier post, I said that the Czech winger was far from a problem. While his struggles have continued well past the publication date of that article, I still believe it’s too soon to give up on a player that is generally showing well. It’s not like he has looked completely flat this season, he’s just had zero puck luck.

Related: Red Wings’ Zadina is Far From A Problem

With only 123 games to his name, we do not yet have the full picture on Zadina. Considering a normal regular season consists of 82 games, he has only played in a season and a half’s worth of games. Players develop in different timeframes, and at 22 years old, he still has plenty of time to put it all together.

All of this being said, I think general manager Steve Yzerman can certainly entertain offers for the young forward. In fact, Yzerman could utilize Zadina in a deal similar to the one he struck during his time in Tampa Bay that sent Jonathan Drouin to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Mikhail Sergachev. A month ago, I wrote about how the Red Wings should be in on Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. My personal preference is to exercise patience with Zadina, but if he can be packaged in a deal to land a talent like Chychrun, I say go for it.

Patrick Brown: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Look, I’m truly not being intentionally hard on Zadina. I constantly remind people that at the time of his selection, the pick was universally celebrated. On top of it, he said the right things, and for many, myself included, it was the first real glimpse for Red Wings fans that there was a light at the end of the rebuilding tunnel, even if it was barely visible.

Filip Zadina Detroit Red Wings
Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Perhaps fans’ expectations were too high, or maybe he just hasn’t had the proper supporting cast to highlight his strengths. There’s even been commentary recently suggesting the team needs to wait until Vrána returns from injury to see the impact he can have on Zadina’s play, but it just seems illogical to think one player holds the key to his eventual success. If that’s the case, the Red Wings are banking on an extremely fragile player.

Whatever the reason, it’s time for Yzerman to sell, because this is as high as Zadina’s stock is going to be in Detroit. It pains me to say it, because I wish nothing but success for him, but a fresh start is what would be best for both sides at this point.

Kyle Knopp: Sell, Sell, Sell

It seems that Zadina, like Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha in previous seasons, has reached the end of his potential with the Red Wings. While this isn’t a knock on Zadina, Athanasiou, or Mantha, it is the byproduct of a type of player not fitting into his team’s system. We could argue that it is because of head coach Jeff Blashill’s defensive-first mentality or that Zadina isn’t the player we projected him to be, but the basis of this question is what to do with him.

Jeff Blashill Detroit Red Wings
Is Jeff Blashill’s system stifling Zadina? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Therefore, I think the Wings need to sell and sell for as much as possible. A few teams could be buyers with a few sweeteners added in, and knowing Yzerman, there are likely others under the radar. It happened last year with the Mantha trade when he got a return for a player who had run his course. If Yzerman can pull something similar off with Zadina, then now is the time to take advantage. While I think Zadina will eventually become the player we expected, it won’t happen in Detroit. 

Brian Oldani: Out Performed by Yzerman Draft Picks

Ever since falling to Detroit at sixth overall in 2018 the fans, myself included, had over the top expectations, expecting Zadina to come to Detroit and be a top class goal scorer. Of course, it would be nice for the team and himself if he did find the back of the net with regularity, he is still only 22 on a below average team. 

Yzerman is making visible progress in a short time with Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider performing well. Seeing these two rookies play at high levels in the NHL also influences fans’ opinions on Zadina’s overall performance. However, this success in a short spurts has bamboozled some fans into thinking we can truly compete in this league again. Detroit is still very much a rebuilding team with lots of holes needing to be addressed. Zadina is young and can change the course of his career with some confidence and momentum.

Personally, I think Zadina deserves more time before Detroit goes their separate ways. He hasn’t even completed two full seasons of games left. With the talent Yzerman is going to bring in through trades, free agency and the draft, I am confident there will be a line pairing that Zadina can be a productive NHL player on.

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