If you head out to your local grocery store right now, you’ll probably see it everywhere. Jugs of it are lined up alongside pumpkins, Halloween candy, and freshly picked apples. Some say pumpkin spice is the taste of Fall, but others – myself included – prefer this golden-brown drink that, whether it’s served cold or hot, puts you in the mood to put on a flannel and enjoy the crisp, cool air blowing outside.
cider Seider season, baby.
It only took four games for fans of the Detroit Red Wings to realize it.
The 20-year-old German defender has made quite the impression on “Hockeytown” through his lovable personality, his play on the ice, and the potential that oozes off of him whenever he makes a smart play in his own zone. Quite frankly, it’s been quite some time since the Red Wings have had a defenseman as dynamic as Moritz Seider.
One team at a time, the rest of the NHL is taking note of that fact, too.
Seider Already Has the Coach’s Trust
Heading into this weekend’s games against the Montreal Canadiens and the Chicago Blackhawks, Seider ranks second in ice-time among Red Wings defenseman with an average of 20:58. The only defender with more minutes is Filip Hronek, who has been the team’s top defender over the last couple of seasons (although it’s worth noting that the 23-year-old defender was a healthy scratch last night against the Montreal Canadiens due to a “coach’s decision”.) But make no mistake: with all due respect to Hronek, the impact that the rookie has brought to the blue line has been almost instantaneous.
“One of his strengths is his inner confidence,” Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said of Seider. “Moritz has had moments of playing real good hockey, and moments where he’s had to learn, and we’re going to keep working with him to become the very best he can.”
It’s worth noting that Blashill isn’t a coach that just gives ice time away. Throughout the early days of the Red Wings’ rebuild, players like Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and others had to scratch and claw their way up the lineup and into the prime time minutes that the best players often play. Much to the chagrin of fans, the coach made these players earn their opportunities by showing an ability to make a difference all over the ice, not just in one specific area.
That’s where Seider has excelled early on in his NHL career. With four points through the first five games of the season, he has shown the ability to make a difference in the offensive zone by moving the puck quickly and efficiently, especially on the team’s second power play unit where his defensive partner is none other than Hronek.
On the other side of the rink, Seider has quickly shown that this is where he really excels as a young defenseman. Whether it’s knocking Calgary Flames forward Milan Lucic to the ground in the neutral zone, or bumping Columbus Blue Jackets forward Sean Kuraly off the puck in the defensive zone, he has shown that he is, indeed, built like a panzer tank and when he’s willing to use his physicality, there’s not much he can’t knock down. And that doesn’t even mention the numerous subtle defensive plays he has made to create turnovers and move the puck in out of the zone.
“Getting better and better every single game,” Seider said of his play so far. “I think I’m adjusting pretty quick and the boys are making it easy. It’s a work in progress, but I’m pretty happy so far.”
Seider’s Numbers Don’t Lie
Heading into this weekend, the only Red Wings defenseman with a higher expected goals-for percentage than Seider (58.4%) is third-pairing defenseman Gustav Lindstrom (67.4%). Seider’s relative-Corsi percentage (a measurement of how an individual player impacts their team’s share of the offensive chances) is 12.8%. The numbers aren’t everything, though. Even Nick Lidstrom – a Red Wings legend and one of the best defensemen to ever play the game – has been impressed by what he’s seen out of the 20-year-old defenseman.
Whether Seider is pushing the pace by carrying the puck through the neutral zone, or he’s using his body to box out an attacker in the defensive zone, he stands out for all the right reasons. The best players look good on both the eye test and on spreadsheets, and this is a player that fits that criteria.
This isn’t Seider’s Final Form
As he alluded to, Seider’s game is still a work in progress. There was that moment during the preseason where Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine turned him inside-out on his way to a pretty goal. There will be some small mistakes along the way this season, as is customary for first-year players. And yet, Seider exudes a certain confidence that mutes even the biggest concerns observers may have about him. The kid just gets it, and stories have been told of how committed he is to becoming the very best hockey player that he can be.
It can be a lot to bestow the title of “best defenseman” on a rookie player. Defense is a difficult position to be okay at, let alone excel. There’s also the fact that fans live and die on hyperbole; one good game and a player can become the second-coming of Wayne Gretzky, and one bad game will have a player being compared to the most obscure players that even diehard fans will struggle to recall.
This isn’t the case with Seider. Maybe it’s a reflection of how far the Red Wings’ defense has to go before it becomes a top-tier group in the NHL, but the sixth pick of the 2019 draft has quickly established himself as a cornerstone piece as the team heads into the next phase of the rebuild.
Tell your family that hasn’t watched the Red Wings in a while. Tell your friends that cheer for other teams. No. 53 in red is must-see tv.
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.