Now that we’ve all had a chance to decompress a bit and soak up the fact that there is no more Red Wings hockey to be played, we can finally get down to the summer long business of breaking down what went right and/or wrong in Hockeytown this year. Petrella and J.J. are already cruising along with the “Pro/No” series that focuses on the Red Wings upcoming free agents, which is definitely going to be a hot topic in Motown this offseason. But what about the rest of the guys?
The traditional method of ranking individual performance for the MSM and bloggers is usually some sort of “report card” or “A+” grading system. Not here. You see, we like to keep things simple at TPL. You either made the grade or you didn’t. No grey area. Black and white.
So with that in mind, we are setting out on what will surely be a long and arduous journey of offering up our individual player “ratings” in a simple and easy-to-digest (especially after six or seven beers) format that we like to call “Pass/Fail.” We’ll outline the numbers. We’ll share what we think went well. We’ll highlight all of the boner (not the good kind) moments that made you cringe. And we’ll even offer up a shot at some extra credit. Once the arguments have been laid out, the TPL triumvirate will head to the deepest, most secure area of TPL Headquarters – known around these parts as “The Sitch Room” (no Wolf Blitzer…yet) – and we’ll vote on whether every single player that hit the ice for the Wings this year was a “Pass” or a “Fail”. Three votes. Whichever argument gets more votes is the final grade for each Wing.
Agree? Disagree? That’s what the comments are for and we expect you to use them. Let us know if you think we are wrong. Let us know if you think we are right. Let us know if you think we need to go drink another beer. Our cards are on the table and we want to hear what you all think as well.
Don’t worry: we’ll cover all of the guys from this year, including those that are also doing their time in the “Pro/No” circle as well. However, there will be no future projections here. We live in the past and the past alone. But for now, let’s get this thing going with one of the more controversial players this season: Valtteri Filppula.
Pass/Fail: Valtteri Filppula
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Following a season that saw the Finnish forward miss 27 games due to a broken wrist, Filppula was surprisingly durable this year, logging 71 regular season games and appearing in all 11 postseason contests. He finished in the top 10 in points (#8), goals (#8) and assists (#9) for the Wings, and fell one point short of tying his best regular season points output (40 pts in ’07-’08). Despite a sluggish start in the postseason, Flippula ended up tied for 2nd in playoff points for the Wings, with his most important contribution coming in Game 6 against San Jose when he broke a 1-1 tie in the third period. That goal would eventually stand as the game winner, which is where Filppula earned his money during both the regular season (5 GWG, 31st in the league) and postseason (2 GWG, 4th in the league.)
The Not-So Good
Despite a solid statistical season, Filppula remained mired in in the middle of the statistical pack in the NHL. Besides the aforementioned prowess for scoring game-winning goals, Flip’s only other “Top 100” placement in the league was placing 92nd in shooting percentage. Granted, Filppula is a 2nd/3rd line guy who isn’t expected to post major numbers, but this is the third straight year we’ve heard the coaches say he was primed for a major step forward and subsequently the third straight year he failed to post the numbers to back it up. While not expected to be a disruptive forechecking force, Filppula was often soft along the boards, failing to win battles for pucks and maintain the zone. The biggest complaint, however, may be his lack of shooting. The coaches have harped on him to take more shots, yet Filppula still continued to pass first and shoot second. Offensive JUGGERNAUT Justin Abdelkader finished the regular season with more attempts at the net than Filppula, which left the fair-haired Finn outside the Top 10 in shots for the team. While not awful, finishing -1 over 71 games also isn’t exactly inspiring. Consistency remains an issue.
When the game is on the line, Filppula knows how to finish. Of the seven Wings postseason wins this year, Filppula had the GWG in two of them and none bigger than in Game 6 against San Jose.
Disch: Thought Flip did well during the playoffs and not expecting him to be the next “great.”
Petrella: It’s not Flip’s fault that fans expect him to be another Henrik Zetterberg. On his own merits, Valtteri Filppula is spectacular.
Hollis: If Bertuzzi is hitting 40+ points, I find Flip’s 39 to be completely indefensible. He was great during the playoffs, but his lack of consistency is concerning. The fact that we are on Year 3 of the “breakout” discussion really hurt his grade. He’s borderline underachieving now.
Final TPL Grade
Check in tomorrow when we grade Niklas Kronwall.
If we’re not considering the playoffs, he gets a fail from me. As it stands, the hot streak he ended on pushed him just over the line to pass.
I hate to do it because I like Valtteri Filppula possibly more than I should, but Hollis’ line about lack of consistency rings true. I’ve passed on expectations that Filppula is going to be the Red Wings’ next top-flight scorer and I’ve come to expect solid 2nd-line minutes where he meshes well with whomever his linemates are on any given night while making a positive difference in the flow of the game.
I think he did that this season.
Unfortunately, there comes a time in Filppula’s career where simply “looking good” is not good enough. Despite being defensively good, a good passer, and very effective at making space for his linemates, we’ve gotten to the point where his contributions need to come in the form of more points and during the regular season, he regressed.
Detroit scored 34 more goals this season than they did during the injury-plagued hell that was the previous year. While Filppula was part of that injury parade in playing only 55 games, his 35 points in that span gave him an excellent 0.64 points-per-game clip. This year in 71 games, that rate stat fell to 0.55. While that still makes for the 2nd-best per-game pace he’s put up in his career, it’s a step backward.
However, the idea of scoring big points when big points matter came alive. Valtteri Filppula is clutch in ways that many teams wish their higher-paid guys would be (*cough* Alex Semin *cough*).
The expectations for Fil are understood because he is obviously highly skilled. What seperates him from that next level is he doesn’t make others around him better. He needs to play with other skilled guys to be effective. He is (can be) the Wings version of Scotty Pippen which is not a bad thing. Note the time he shared the ice with Pav. He in no question is on Pavs level but they share traits. The excel with players who instinctly grasp, time, space and forward vision (they see the play developing before others)
If judging Flip solely on this post’s contents, I think he gets a “Fail.” However, I think you completely overlooked his defensive contributions, which were definitely “Passing.” I would not have thought Flip ended the year a -1, and this boggles my mind. I think this is a systemic problem, rather than Flip’s individual fault, I recall many incredible backchecking efforts on his part this year, and very few defensive gaffes.
Flip on offense: Fail
Flip on Defense: Pass
Overall: Pass (barely)
Not to toot my own horn here, but Flip’s CSSI numbers bear this out. He had an total of +36.5 in the adjustment category, putting him behind only Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Helm for defensive rankings among forwards for the Wings this season.
Not disagreeing with either of these points and I probably did overlook his defensive contributions a bit. That said, I think alot of us have felt that he’s a solid defensive player and maybe I’m just guilty of taking advantage of that assumption here.
If Flip is the regular 3rd line center, I’m going apeshit over his year and giving him passing numbers across the board. But for a guy who is the de-facto 2nd line center, his “two-way” game needs a bit more consistency, which can only be gained on the attack, IMO.
Absolutely, it’s the blessing and the curse of pass/fail. I could easily see giving him the rating you did because I think you’re absolutely right about his inability to consistently create offense (which is a 2nd-line Center’s primary job). I don’t think we’re very far away in opinion on Filppula’s value.
At least you didn’t say something outlandish like “trade him to another team because I know he’d be a first-line center anywhere else and playing under Datsyuk and Zetterberg is holding him back.”
Man… wouldn’t that be ridiculous if somebody said that?