Season after season, Valtteri Filppula has been the bane of many hockey fans who have been trying to break the habit of yelling at their television screens. But at least once per game (sometimes more, sometimes less), Red Wings fans jump out of their seats, throw their arms up, and scream, “SHOOT THE PUCK!”
And season after season, we wait for the breakout season Filppula is destined to have. But season after season, fans are disappointed. The potential is there – we can see it in the way he handles the puck, a mix between Pavel Datsyuk‘s deke-ing and Henrik Zetterberg‘s finesse – but it has never come in full force.
Last year, Filppula had 23 goals and 43 assists for 66 points in 81 games, his career high. He finally hit the mark where fans have wanted him to be for years – right around sixty points, someone similar to Johan Franzen but a little more consistent than the Mule. Yet it was marred by how he disappeared in the last few games of the regular season and played like he was sleeping in the playoffs.
Last year was also the first time in a handful of seasons that Filppula did not fall to a moderately lengthy injury. His curse for a few years was similar to Franzen’s: He would get on a point streak, poised to have that “breakout year,” only to fall to a broken wrist, a sprained ankle, something that kept him sidelined for six to eight weeks. And when he would return, it would take him a month to warm back up. But it wouldn’t be the same as before.
This year, in the Finnish league, Filppula looked poised to have that solid breakout season. He had 21 points in fifteen games after joining the team in mid-September. That’s pretty darn good for a guy that should have been that productive three seasons ago.
And then, he was sidelined with a sprained knee and is in the midst of missing six to eight weeks of hockey. Granted, an injury really can’t be faulted to Filppula. But it seems to happen quite a lot.
So does Filppula actually have a curse or is it that us fans expect so much from the Finn that we’re constantly disappointed by his output? It seems to be a mix of the two.
The Finn has been a solid player for the Red Wings since he broke into the roster in 2006-2007. Every season, he has racked up at least 35 points (even in 2009-2010 when he only played in 55 games), but every season, coaches and fans alike expect so much more from Filppula.
Could this have been the year Filppula proved himself? Whether it was overseas (due to the lockout) or on the Red Wings roster, had he not fallen to injury, would he have stayed so consistent and kept the offense coming?