First things first, the ongoing suspension of the NHL season is a necessity. The coronavirus is spreading like wildfire and isolation seems to be our only defense at the moment. As days fall off the calendar, we are reminded of what this pandemic has taken from us, including our favorite athletes.
In the case of the Detroit Red Wings, the team was in the midst of a season that fans were ready to watch fade in the rear-view mirror. Although the team struggled, the last 11 games of the season could/would have its repercussions on certain players.
Some players could miss the opportunity to finish strong and turn around a season of mediocrity. Others are missing the opportunity to build a stronger case for their next contract. There are many other situations at play here, but given the state of this pandemic, all anyone can do is wait and see if these players receive those opportunities.
Arguably the team’s most lethal offensive weapon, Mantha had just recently returned from a double-dip on the injured reserve list. Despite missing 28 of the team’s 71 games, he still comfortably ranks third in team scoring, with 16 goals and 38 points.
At this point, Mantha’s ability in the offensive zone is known. However, given that his highest point total over his five-year career is 48, the final 11 games of the season presented him with the opportunity to establish a new career-high. His points-per-game ratio this season suggests that he might have been able to pull it off – or at least come close.
Now, even if the season resumes, Mantha will likely fall short of that goal. It’s not a given that he, or any of his teammates, would hit the ground running. With a looming contract negotiation ahead of him, the season suspension may have cost him A LOT of money.
It’s not just the NHL that’s feeling the effects of this virus. The AHL, following the lead of its parent league, also closed its doors for the time being, with reports surfacing that league officials said they likely won’t re-open before May at the earliest. This affects the Grand Rapids Griffins and all the prospects on the roster.
After being selected sixth overall in the 2019 Entry Draft, all eyes were on defenseman Moritz Seider and how the young German was adjusting to life in North America. As it turns out, he adjusted pretty well:
There seemed to be a possibility that the Red Wings would give Seider a chance to impress in the NHL. While it likely wouldn’t have been for the rest of the season, any amount of games against NHL competition would have helped Seider’s progress.
Furthermore, with the Griffins making a big playoff push, ranked third in their division and in a playoff spot, Seider and his peers would be gaining the experience of scratching and clawing for the playoffs. Whether he was with the Red Wings or the Griffins, he had plenty left to play for. Hopefully, his season isn’t over yet.
At this point, everybody knows about how bad Jimmy Howard’s season has been. With a stat line that perfectly reflects the struggles of the team in front of him, the long-time Red Wings goalie seems destined to end his up-and-down career with a squeak.
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Surely, Howard would like the opportunity to finish this season on a brighter note. While it’s too late to salvage the season, the opportunity was there for him to finally record a victory in 2020, and possibly remind fans how he was able to man the Detroit crease since 2009.
When a player pours his blood, sweat and tears into an organization, it’s nice to see them not only finish their career with that team but finish strong. Although, when a season has gone as bad as it has for Howard, a season suspension probably seems like a gift of mercy.
Dmytro Timashov/Cody Goloubef/Sam Gagner
The newest members of the Red Wings were barely acquainted with their new teammates before the stoppage occurred. Because of this, their futures in Detroit is anyone’s guess.
The only member of this trio to record a point with the Red Wings is Sam Gagner, who scored a goal in his second game. The 30-year-old is the type of veteran that general manager Steve Yzerman is likely interested in keeping to serve as a cheap, long-time pro who is capable of producing from time to time. The time between the trade deadline and the end of the season was supposed to serve as a glimpse into whether Gagner had a future in that role in Detroit.
Cody Goloubef, the 30-year-old defender acquired off waivers from the Ottawa Senators, has only seen action in two games with the Red Wings. The team likely acquired him so that they wouldn’t have to call up a defender from Grand Rapids in the middle of the Griffins’ playoff push. Realistically, unless Goloubef really impressed during the home stretch he wasn’t going to stay beyond this season. Now he may not get the chance to impress.
Dmytro Timashov was the Red Wings’ other deadline acquisition, who was claimed off of waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although the 23-year-old winger appeared in five games with the Red Wings, he was unable to record a point.
A pending restricted free agent, the Red Wings will hold his rights whether the season resumes or ends. However, five games are not enough to get an idea of whether a player fits with the team. Given that the Red Wings have a few young wingers in Grand Rapids who are likely NHL-ready, Timashov is missing an opportunity to cement his spot as a bottom-six winger for the future.
Out of Their Misery
For some, the season ended much earlier than March 12. In their eyes, the league and Mother Nature simply put the Red Wings out of their misery ahead of time. It’s a fair point.
However, when players have millions of dollars and, in some cases, their careers at stake, the potential of missing the end of this season is catastrophic. We hope that everyone stays healthy during this uncertain time, but we also hope that this moment in history isn’t the end of a player’s career.
For the Red Wings and every one, this time should be used to focus on personal health, as well as to re-calibrate the system. (from ‘Little Caesars Arena disinfected; no Detroit Red Wings players have reported coronavirus symptoms,’ Detroit Free Press, 03/16/2020) It’s been a draining season on everyone involved, so perhaps this break is an opportunity to rediscover the love of the game that this season stole.
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.