The traditional method of ranking individual player performance 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. This is “Pass/Fail.”
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I’d imagine that wherever he is right now, Brad Stuart may finally not be walking with a limp anymore. Stuart prides himself on doing the dirty work for the Wings, blocking shots and sacrificing his body more regularly than any other defenseman out there. He was a regular staple on the penalty kill this season, and his defensive responsibility was a stabilizing force at many points this year. While it took some time for him to get acclimated, Stuart and Nicklas Lidstrom eventually found very solid chemistry with their defensive pairing. Despite a lack of offensive output, Stuart finished a very respectable +10 for the regular season and playoffs combined (-6 combined last season). Statistically, he finished with a better point-per-game production than he did last year, in which he played a full 82 games. In similar defensive roles, Stuart clearly out-shined counterpart Ruslan Salei with much smarter and more physical play.
If it wasn’t apparent before, there’s no question now that Stuart just isn’t a guy who is going to put up points on a regular basis. That said, for the amount of money he’s being paid ($3.75 million cap hit) one would surely like to see Stuart earn some more of his cash by finding the back of the net. Stuart’s knack for defensive responsibility also cost him at certain points this season, leaving him out of position and looking lost on the ice. Unfortunately for him, his first instinct seemed to be to stand still when he felt the scheme breaking apart, which essentially negated his talents and left the Wings exposed in front of the net. While not his fault, Stuart did miss a number of games due to a broken jaw and it’s hard to imagine that he’s going to be able to play 82 games again with all of the wear and tear on his body.
To his credit, Stuart didn’t let his broken jaw keep him down for too long, bouncing back and maintaining the edge in his game. There’s alot to be said for putting the body back on the line after an injury like that, but Stuart didn’t seem to miss a step, and his presence continued to be felt by the competition.
Disch: No Vote
Disch: *At Spin Class*
Petrella: I was always a little hesitant to put much stock in Brad Stuart’s skill set, wondering (to myself) if he was more a beneficiary of the system… or if he was one of the reasons the system was beneficial. After his jaw was broken, it became apparent that he was a valuable member of a very talented blueline. That’s saying something.
Hollis: I continue to hope for more scoring from Stuart, but this year more than ever his defensive chops were evident for the Wings. While he’s not the fastest or most skilled guy on the blue line, his physical play and omnipresent mean streak keep him in this lineup for a reason. He’s entering a contract year this year and one would hope that he’s primed for his best season yet.
Final TPL Grade
Up Next: Pavel Datsyuk