Hockey

Detroit Red Wings, Filip Zadina Need to Practice Patience

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Filip Zadina of the Detroit Red Wings has not scored a goal since November 30th, 2021. The right-winger from Pardubice, Czech Republic has had plenty of help from the team to break this prolonged scoring drought. Could the Red Wings decide to trade Zadina ahead of the NHL trade deadline on March 21st? It is worth remembering that Zadina is in the final year of his entry-level contract and as such will be a restricted free agent after the end of the 2021-22 NHL season.

It was not thought that the Red Wings would even be in a position to draft Zadina going into the 2018 NHL draft. This was before he fell all the way to number six in the draft. As with all drafts, it is easy to base opinions on a player on how they have performed for their team. At the time of the 2018 draft, it was thought that the Ottawa Senators would draft Zadina. The Senators instead opted to draft Brady Tkachuk out of Scottsdale, Arizona because of his intangibles. The fact remains that while Tkachuk has scored 72 goals during his NHL career, Zadina has only scored 19.

In his 32 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman recently said that Zadina is another situation to keep an eye on. The thing to keep in mind is the fact that “Steve Yzerman never tips his hand.” This is true. The Red Wings general manager is notorious for not saying anything of merit. He has also weaponized the team’s abundance of salary cap space to make deals with teams who are up against the cap. The NHL’s salary cap will be flat for the near future due to the fact that the teams played in front of no fans last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his draft year, Zadina scored 44 goals and added 38 assists in 57 games played for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. At only 22-years-old, Zadina has plenty of time to grow into the NHL player that he can become. He certainly has the skills as an intelligent hockey player who is defensively sound and has the ability to move the puck and play in all three zones.

Zadina’s reaction to not being drafted by the five teams before the Red Wings in the 2018 draft was that he was going to “fill their nets with pucks.” This has not been the case during the first half of the 2021-22 NHL season. Perhaps Zadina can find this motivation to prove to the teams that passed on him during the second half of the season. Or, general manager Yzerman finds the perfect deal and moves Zadina before the trade deadline.

Yzerman will likely feel more comfortable moving on from Zadina as he was not with the Red Wings’ organization when he was drafted. Ken Holland, who drafted Zadina, has since left to take the general manager job with the Edmonton Oilers. Yzerman has made it known that in his time as Red Wings general manager he is willing to do whatever needs to be done to improve the team’s roster. The job of every general manager is to improve the roster of the team that employs him.

The last time the Red Wings traded one of their star players before a trade deadline was when the team sent Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals before the trade deadline during the 2020-21 NHL season in exchange for Richard Panik, Jakub Vrana, a first-round draft pick, and a second-round draft pick. I wrote at the time that a potential Mantha trade would accelerate the Red Wings rebuild. The unfortunate piece of this trade is that Vrana has not played in a regular-season game for the Red Wings yet as he injured his shoulder in the first 10 minutes on the ice during training camp. The Red Wings could wind up getting Vrana back near the trade deadline without having to give up any players or draft picks to another team.

Recently the Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill healthy-scratched Zadina in a game against the Anaheim Ducks. This was likely to give Zadina a chance to see the game from afar. Often times a player seeing the game from the press box is able to understand where they need to be on the ice. The fine line that Blashill needs to walk with this healthy-scratching is that Zadina said he was frustrated by the development. The development of Zadina into a player with a great shot who is able to move the puck up and down the ice is something that the Red Wings brass needs to be wary of.

Apart from not providing offensive output in two months, Zadina had played well for the Red Wings at the beginning of this season. He has seen his defensive play slip of late. This must be in part due to the fact that he is thinking about how he has struggled to put the puck in the net. Recently, Blashill has placed Zadina on the same line as Pius Suter. Unfortunately, the two just have not clicked. It seems that the two produce more when they are separated.

Perhaps a fresh start is just what Zadina and the Red Wings need. The team will likely miss the playoffs for the seventh straight season. That being said, the team has punched above its weight as they started off the season playing for each other. Zadina may or may not be a part of the team when the Red Wings are in their window to win another Stanley Cup. However, if the right deal comes along, Yzerman has proven that he will not hesitate to pull the trigger.

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