We’re almost at the end of the road in our forward evaluations, as we take a look at what the 4th line players contributed to the Detroit Red Wings in the 2013-14 season. Some of these players were good catalysts for the penalty kill and played a grinding style, while others were just depth guys who just did not have it in the performance department this year.
Detroit Red Wings 4th Line
Drew Miller – Left Wing/Right Wing
A solid waiver-wire pick-up from the ’09-10 season continued to be valuable for Mike Babcock’s group this season. Miller has fallen off a bit in the points department with a measly 15 this past year, but that is not his role. His role is to kill penalties and outhustle others for the puck, and he lived up to that role again last season. Interestingly enough, he was one of two Red Wings to play all 82 regular season games, with Kyle Quincey being the other. The now 30-year-old Miller will not have to worry about his future at least for the next two years, since he signed an extension through 2015-16 season.
Luke Glendening- Center/Winger
Some kind of heart this kid plays with. A call-up from Grand Rapids to fill a hole at center due to injury, Glendening was not expected to be up in the bigs for very long. He ended up totalling 56 games played in Detroit, netting seven points. It seemed like he would never score his first NHL goal, with chance after chance after chance, but on the night of April 5th, he got his first against the Canadiens. He’s still smiling after that one. The former Michigan Wolverine was rewarded for his grit and hard work, getting a 3-year extension to be with the big club. The 25-year-old Grand Rapids native can feel comfortable about his future now that, at this point, it is secured for a period of time with his hometown team.
Justin Abdelkader – (Left Wing/Right Wing)
Another hometown guy, another solid player. Over the years we’ve seen Abdelkader mature from scoring floaters on Marc-Andre Fleury in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals as a 22-year-old to a hard-nosed 4th line grinder. Abdelkader put up 28 points this year in 70 games played which is a bonus for a guy that loves to hit…maybe too much. Early on in his career Abdelkader was criticized for not taking the body to other players and using his physical play as a weapon. The last two years, we’ve seen “Abby” come out of his shell. Another sign of maturity for the Muskegon native. There is one thing that Abdelkader still needs to work on as he enters his prime: avoiding penalties. There were numerous times this past season when he would take that one extra step or lunge that he did not need to, sending him to the box. His penalties seemed to come at the worst of times, and this spring in Belarus at the World Championships we saw an huge example of this. All in all, Abdelkader can keep evolving into a physical presence, but at the same time he must improve his discipline in the coming years.
Darren Helm – (Center)
Over/under on how many games he plays next year?
Evidenced by at least the last couple seasons, you never know what you’re going to get with Helm, durability-wise. (SIA Profile)
Limited to one game in the lockout-shortened 2013 season and 42 in a full 82 game slate in 2013-14, Helm has his doubters. He’d play a few games, miss a few weeks. He’s come back again, miss a lengthy period of time again. It’s a real rollercoaster ride with this kid. However, in the games he played, he was a phenomenal spark. He put the puck in the net frequently, and that speed is still Top Thrill Dragster type. An outstanding penalty killer, Helm can use that valuable weapon of speed and turn a penalty kill into an offensive opportunity. Totalling 20 points in half a season’s time, fully healthy you’re looking at a 20+ goal scorer who can touch 50 points as he reaches his prime. For the 27-year old Helm, it comes down to health. Entering the third year of his four year contract he signed back in the 2012 offseason, Helm’s biggest key to making Detroit his home for years after that is health. If he works those issues out, look out.
Joakim Andersson- (Center)
It was a season filled with growing pains for Andersson.
After earning his spot on the Red Wings in the 2013 season, forming a formidible trio with Gustav Nyquist and Swiss sniper Damien Brunner, the 25-year old Swede had to get accustomed to playing a full 82 game season.Through 65 games, Andersson totalled a measly 17 points and was a dismal -11. With the emergence of Glendening and Riley Sheahan as depth centers, Andersson faced some competition to stay on the roster. With Stephen Weiss and Helm out for lengthy periods of time, Andersson saw his role elevate, even up to the first line when the injury situation for the Red Wings was laughable. Not known for scoring ability, Andersson struggled in those elevated roles and it showed with his point total and plus/minus. Entering his second year of a two-year deal signed with Detroit, time is certainly ticking for Andersson to show that he belongs on a roster that boasts good depth at the center ice position.
David Legwand- (Center)
Known as “The First Predator”, Legwand spent 15 years in the Music City before being traded to an injury-riddled Detroit team who, around the time of the trade deadline, had five centers out of the lineup. To acquire Legwand, Detroit gave up prospect center Calle Jarnkrok, forward Patrick Eaves, and a conditional 3rd rounder. Through the first week or so, slotted in with Nyquist and Johan Franzen, Legwand provided a spark that the Wings needed. He went cold after a while however, and ended up with 11 points in 21 games with Detroit. Not bad, but probably not what Ken Holland ideally had in mind. Looking towards the future, the 33-year old center has a hazy future in Motown. He is an unrestricted free agent, and the Wings have way too many centers. He looks to be headed to the free agency waters at this point, but in his short time with Detroit, he offered a depth player that helped the team make it to the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive year.
Depth players is up next. After, my Detroit Red Wings Summer Prospect Series will be kicking off pretty soon with the NHL Draft just weeks away. A preview of the special day in Philadelphia will be coming along with the prospect series with Detroit picking smack dab in the middle of the pack on June 27th.
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Stats and bio information courtesy of DetroitRedWings.com
Contract information courtesy of capgeek.com