It’s been nearly nine months since the Red Wings last played competitive hockey together. The extended off-season saw what felt like a number of changes due to multiple retirements and free agency.
Yet, as the Red Wings sit mere days away from the next season, their Hustlers are almost exactly the same.
Darren Helm will be counted on for more offense this year, which he should be considering he’d be one of the team’s top goal-scorers for the past two years if he finished half of the chances he got. But with this new role, he’s officially no longer a true Hustler. He graduated. He’s showtime. For those still around, the supporting role they’re shoved into will be very familiar.
(Todd Bertuzzi, Damien Brunner, Pavel Datsyuk, Valterri Filppula, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg are two high profile to be considered hustlers.)
Justin Abdelkader is what he is at this point. A grinder who can throw his weight around and occasionally get embarrassed in a fight. Although the embarrassments should be slightly less now due to the one new addition to the bottom of the roster, Jordin Tootoo. We’ll get to him later.
Dan Cleary: An aging veteran who can add some scoring pop. Although the “aging” is a whole lot louder than any pop he’s going to make. Remember when scored 26 goals in a season? Yeah, that actually happened. It’s not happening again. He’ll have his moments of glory, like all Hustlers should, but those moment will be further and further in between this season.
Cory Emmerton should do what he’s always done. Slightly remind you of Darren Helm, complete with the glimpses that he may secretly be kind of good. The bad news he’ll also more than slightly remind you that he doesn’t quite have all of the pieces that Helm has.
Drew Miller: The good news is he lit it up with the Braehead Clan during the lockout. The bad news is if you asked any reasonable person what country the Braehead Clan is based out of before Drew Miller went over there, nobody would get it in less than seven guesses. (It’s Scotland by the way.) The other bad news is Drew Miller still isn’t the most fleet of foot or the slickest with his hands. He’ll provide what all generic Hustlers provide — some fresh legs off the bench that go hard when they’re out there — because that’s exactly what he is. A generic Hustler.
You know when advanced stats guys try to determine somebody’s value over a replacement player? That replacement player is Drew Miller.
I’ll stop piling on Drew Miller now. He’s a friend of the website. Well, no he’s not. But maybe one day. I would love to have him be a friend of the site. He’d be the perfect spokesman.
Jan Mursak might be the sleeper to all of this. He’ll be asked to fill out the Darren Helm role along with Cory Emmerton and he might have the best scoring touch of all the Detroit’s grinders. If there’s a sleeper on the Red Wings from a goal scoring standpoint, it might be Mursak. He put up 19 goals and 29 assists (48 points) in 30 games while playing for HDD Olimpija Ljubljana in the Austrian league.
Then again, Drew Miller lit up the UK’s Elite Hockey League and Drew Miller is like the definition of a generic Hustler. Like in advanced stats when people try to determine a player’s value over — what’s that? Oh, you get the idea about Drew Miller? OK, fine. I’ll stop.
Jordin Tootoo is the only new addition to the group, and he’s the one you’ll worry will have brain damage later on in life after all the shots he takes to the noggin. The 5-foo-9, 199 pound prick (in the best sense of the word) can drop the gloves. Fortunately for him and probably Abdelkader, he’s pretty good at it too, so those shots to the head should be reduced. Other than that, he’ll be your typical, hard-hitting grinder: fly around the ice, not really paying attention to the puck but earning one big cheer from the crowd every three games. On the rare occasion he scores, his teammates will go wild. And on the common occasion he fights, the fans will go even wilder. He’s kind of what Drew Miller would be like if Drew Miller had a more physical aspect to his game.
And with that, I’ve mentioned “Drew Miller” 10 times in a single article. That’s an official internet record. My work is done here.