What If Damien Brunner Doesn't Pan Out Right Away?

Before I get into this, let me assure you that I’m as excited about the start of the Damien Brunner era as anyone. I want to believe that Ken Holland and company have unearthed another hidden gem, that the Red Wings front office can once again leave everyone else shaking their heads.

I know that newly appointed captain Henrik Zetterberg has given Brunner his seal of approval and that they spent the lockout as linemates. That should mean something.

Yet this is a guy who is 26, wasn’t drafted by any NHL team, and is smaller than Darren Helm. We’d be foolish not to consider the possibility that he won’t be a smashing success from day one. What if it takes some time for him to find the spaces he was used to on the larger European ice? How about if the lightest forward on the roster simply gets pushed around during his first tour of the NHL?

It’s not fun to think about, but it could happen. And while Brunner is still young enough to think that he could be a valuable scorer given a season or two of adjustment, the truth is that the Wings need him to chip in some goals right away.

There’s no surefire way of figuring out exactly how much production Detroit could use from Brunner in 2013, but that’s not going to stop me from using some psuedoscience at the question. Here are the Red Wings’ goal totals from last year, pro-rated for the 48-game season we’re about to start. You can check my math, but I feel pretty good about solving for ‘y':

And here are the pro-rated goal totals for the team’s off-season additions:

The newcomers almost make up for what’s lost without Lidstrom, Holmstrom and Stuart. Pro-rating Samuelsson may actually be doing him an injustice, as he scored 14 times in just 54 games last season. He could hit double digits if he’s healthy for the whole year.

So we’ll call that a wash. What still stands out is Hudler taking his career best numbers to Calgary. Ideally, Brunner slots in to replace those goals, lights the lamp at least 15 times, and the offense doesn’t suffer at all.

If he doesn’t, we start getting into the “could” scenarios. Cleary could bounce back from a relatively quiet campaign. Datsyuk could suit up for every game, and Helm could all of a sudden start converting breakaways. Maybe Abdelkader takes a step up, Smith contributes more than we assume from the blueline, or Gustav Nyquist is called up and starts scoring right away.

That’s without considering what will happen if the lines need wholesale juggling, Zetterberg and Datsyuk need to be split up, or what have you. All I know is that it will be so much simpler if Brunner is as good as advertised right out of the gate. The Wings are going to need multiple other things to go right if he isn’t.

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Tags: Damien Brunner Detroit Red Wings Henrik Zetterberg

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