To say things aren’t going well in Detroit right now might be an understatement.
The Red Wings have lost five straight games, are averaging a mere two goals per game over that span and, though it’s still early in the campaign, find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. That’s to say there are very few glimmers of hope at the moment in the Motor City, and the news isn’t getting any better.
It was announced Monday that Thomas Vanek, who has missed the past five games with a reported groin injury, has been placed on long-term injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 25, which was when he was last able to suit up for Detroit.
While the Red Wings knew that Vanek would be missing more time than was initially expected, it’s not promising to see him hit the LTIR considering that the nature of his placement on the list means he won’t be allowed to return to action until at least mid-November. In fact, according to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, the earliest Vanek will be able to return from the LTIR is Nov. 18 against the Washington Capitals.
All told, that would signal another four games on the shelf, making for nine total games on the injured list for Vanek. But that’s the most hopeful scenario and one that sees Vanek return in the shortest amount of time. The reality is the injury could keep Vanek out beyond the middle of the month.
One wouldn’t have expected Vanek’s loss to greatly impact the Red Wings before the season began, but it turns out the veteran winger has been about as lethal an offensive weapon as Detroit has had in the early season. Despite the fact he’s played just seven games — roughly half of the team’s schedule — Vanek is second in scoring for Detroit with four goals and eight points and the loss of his presence on the power play has hurt the Red Wings, too.
Even though he was new to the system, Vanek became an early season fixture on the man advantage, and the only forward in the Detroit lineup averaging more ice time on the power play than Vanek’s 3:14 per game is Henrik Zetterberg. Altogether, almost a quarter of Vanek’s total ice time had come on the power play and his production had mimicked that, with two goals and four of his eight points coming with the man advantage.
It stands to reason, then, that Vanek’s absence would impact the Red Wings’ conversion rate on the power play, and that has been the case. While Vanek was still in the lineup, Detroit’s power play was clipping along at 24 percent, but that has slipped to a mere 15 percent with the Red Wings connecting on just three of their past 20 power play attempts with Vanek on the shelf.
The Red Wings are bringing in some support, though. Tyler Bertuzzi was called up by the Red Wings upon the announcement of Vanek hitting the LTIR, and the 21-year-old will be looking to make his NHL debut as early as Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers. In nine games, Bertuzzi has managed two goals and four points for the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Get 10 issues of The Hockey News magazine for just $15.99!