It’s been a mixed bag of results for the Detroit Red Wings, who are currently riding a three-game losing streak coming into Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Stars. However, one of the early bright spots from the Red Wings has to be D-man Filip Hronek, who’s played about as well as anyone early in the season. While the point totals won’t show the contributions Hronek has been making, he certainly is someone to keep an eye on as the season progresses. Let’s discuss why he’s been the best D-man on the team and what makes him great.
Driving the Play Like He’s With Chevrolet
Fellow THW Red Wings writer Tony Wolak noted earlier in the week that Hronek has been driving shot attempts more than any other D-man has on the team. So far, his preseason prediction of Hronek outscoring every other Detroit D-man combined is correct as he has four points while the rest of the back end has scored a combined three points. While you’d like to see more production from other defensemen, it speaks to how well the 23-year old from Hradec Kralove has played.
Through the first seven games, no one has put more shots on goal than Hronek, who has 14 already. The total puts him just in the top 30 league-wide for shots on goal (SOG), ahead of some of the better defensemen in the NHL like Victor Hedman, Cale Makar, and Shea Weber. As the saying goes, put pucks on the net, and good things will happen, which hasn’t quite worked out for Hronek himself (he’s without a goal this season), but it’s happened for those around him.
Two other stats that I should mention are his Corsi For % (CF%) and his defensive zone start % (dZS%). Entering Thursday, Hronek has a 54.5 CF%, meaning the Red Wings control the puck nearly 55% of the time when he’s on the ice. That’s better than Kris Letang, Charlie McAvoy, and Rasmus Dahlin this season. All of this while Hronek’s dZS% is 58.2%, which means he starts in the defensive zone 58% of the time. That’s more often than PK Subban and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and it’s 10% more than Marc Staal, who’s playing on Detroit second defense pair.
It’s quite impressive (and valuable) having a defenseman with a CF% above 50% while starting in the defensive zone at least 50% of the time. That’s what Hronek has brought to the table so far for the Red Wings, and hopefully, it can last for a whole season. It could be asking a lot from him but looking at who’s playing below him, Detroit doesn’t really have much of a choice right now.
There’s Still Room to Grow and Get Better
I love Hronek as much as the next person, but there’s still room for improvement. He’s shown that he has quite a bit of talent, especially playing for a Red Wings’ team that has been bad every season he’s played with them, and Detroit is counting on him to be a part of their success whenever it comes around. There’s nothing serious or major wrong with his games, just a couple of changes I’d like to see.
One area where I’d like to see Hronek improve is on the powerplay. As the man running the top of the umbrella closest to the blue line (i.e., the quarterback), it’s his job to control play and what direction the puck goes. It seemed like in the first couple of games, Hronek was looking for the slap pass at the point, even forcing it to Larkin or whoever was in the bumper position. I mentioned on a THW ‘Grind Line’ episode a few weeks ago that it’s hard to be unpredictable when you keep doing the same, and that was an issue (among other things) with their powerplay.
Lately, Hronek seems to be firing it into traffic from the point and hoping it goes in that way. Again, I don’t mind him doing that every once in a while, but when you’re doing it regularly, you’ve become easy for the defense to play against. His performance hasn’t been awful on special teams, as he got two assists against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, but if he can be more consistent so that the powerplay becomes an asset instead of a liability, I’d be ecstatic.
This last issue I’d like to see resolved, and it’s just me being picky, is more takeaways from Hronek. He hasn’t registered a single takeaway this season, and as a top pair D-man, I’d like to see him create more on the back end. It’s not the worst problem to have in the world, considering Hronek makes up for it offensively, but other players on the team (especially the fellow defenseman) will appreciate the extra effort defensively. These issues are small in comparison to the rest of the defense core.
Best to Jump on the Bandwagon Now
Hronek is no joke. His performance is appreciated every night and probably doesn’t get enough attention since he’s been playing for an extremely underwhelming Red Wings’ team for the last three seasons. While he does have a few things he could work on, he’ll be relied on heavily when this team begins to contend, and that’s going to happen sooner than most think. That’s why it’s smart to get on the Hronek bandwagon now before it gets too crowded (socially distant with COVID-19 precautions obviously).
Currently writing about the Detroit Red Wings for THW
Content Creator for Speak Your Peace