It wasn’t the prettiest season for the Detroit Red Wings. Defensive breakdowns, offensive inefficiencies, dumb penalties, and even own goals were commonplace for the once-dominant franchise. However, there were a few instances when the sunlight broke through the gloomy, dark clouds. Yes, the Red Wings indeed did a few things right.
In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, the Red Wings’ coverage team shares its picks for the Hockeytown highlight of the year. Be sure to comment on which pick you thought was the high point of the otherwise ugly 2016-17 campaign.
Tony Wolak: Petr Mrazek’s Glove Save Versus Montreal
Petr Mrazek has a tremendous skill set for a goalie. One of those skills is the ability to make saves that he has no business making. Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen discovered this during a Nov. 26 matchup with the Red Wings.
Highway robbery. There’s no way that puck should’ve stayed out of the net. Mrazek thought otherwise.
Mrazek’s excellent positioning put him in the right spot to make that save on what basically turned out to be a broken play. His quick lateral shifts after butterflying, a strong right-leg push, and stretch were the right moves to make in that instance. The following glove save was pure insanity.
These kinds of saves reaffirm Mrazek’s status as a franchise goalie. He needs to work on a few bad habits—eliminating the “Reverse-VH” positioning, rebound control, and seeing through screens, for example—but is not far off from returning to his consistently elite form.
Brandon Peleshok: Ken Holland Selling at the Deadline
While the Red Wings had plenty of memorable highlights on the ice this season, my personal highlight during the 2016-17 season occurred off the ice. The team missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 seasons, and general manager Ken Holland embraced the team’s role as a seller at the trade deadline.
Holland is not exactly known for his willingness to make deals—he’s made just 27 trades since the NHL implemented the salary cap during the 2005-06 season. Arguably, his inaction on the trade front is part of why the Red Wings’ roster is in its current state, so it was refreshing to see management willing to do business.
Holland shipped out four players from the active roster: Tomas Jurco, Brendan Smith, Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott. In return, the Red Wings received defenseman Dylan McIlrath, three third-round picks in the 2017 draft, as well as a second and sixth-round pick in the 2018 draft.
While the Wings’ general manager made it clear he is against a long-term rebuild, he has some options heading into the NHL Entry Draft. Whether Holland is actually going to use the picks in the draft remains unclear. He could very well use the picks to acquire a player he believes can help the team right now. In either case, Holland has the resources to begin steering the team back in the right direction this summer.
Tom Mitsos: Andreas Athanasiou’s Coast-to-Coast Goal
There weren’t many highlights for the Red Wings during the 2016-17 season, but the most memorable moment for me was Andreas Athanasiou’s coast-to-coast goal on Jan. 14 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It was an amazing individual effort by the 22-year-old, as he outskated a coasting Evgeni Malkin, deked around Justin Schultz while avoiding a poke check from Carl Hagelin, and had just enough time to go top-shelf on goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for the highlight-reel goal.
This goal put Athanasiou on the radar for those outside of Detroit. Fans and reporters in Detroit have seen this kind of special play before from him, as he had a stunning goal against the Dallas Stars last season.
Athanasiou had 18 goals and 11 assists in 64 games in his second season. He also led the Red Wings in five-on-five goals per 60 minutes at 1.31, despite averaging just under 11 minutes per game.
He has some defensive issues that need to be ironed out, as coach Jeff Blashill made him a healthy scratch Jan. 4 against the Anaheim Ducks. But Athanasiou responded well, scoring eight points in the next seven games after being a healthy scratch.
The Red Wings will need to see continued growth from Athanasiou; he will be one of the key pieces for the team down the road as they attempt to get back into the playoff conversation.