Valtteri Filppula has left this Detroit Red Wings team leaving a bad taste in fans’ mouths. From wanting $5 million a year for a contract renewal with his recent state of play to when he stated the morning of free agency that he believed he was a first line center and wanted to be paid as such, he has not won the hearts of any more Red Wings fans. In fact, most are saying, “Good riddance.”
But it was not always like this. There was a time when we regarded Filppula as a hidden gem, one of the quietly underrated players in the NHL. His problem was that he was streaky and always seemed to have some sort of injury that took him away from the sport for too many games at a time. We talked about his potential all the time.
There was a time when he scored goals like this:
He was a solid second-line center. He usually average a forty-point season, but last season managed to hit a career-high 66 points. We always knew he was capable of getting a sixty-point season. We always had high hopes.
Playing on a line with Pavel Datsyuk certainly helped him on ridiculously good chances like this one:
Or how about when Marian Hossa was on the team and actually decided to do something:
And you have to root for him on a breakaway, because you know there’s a better chance of him finishing than if it was Darren Helm…
Even his shootout attempts, few and in between, were pretty darn good:
And perhaps the best goal of all by him…
I can tell you this one has special meaning to me. I was in Walt Disney World for the first three games of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, and the night of Game Two, my family and I sat ourselves down at the ESPN Club at the Boardwalk to watch the game. Our table was surrounded by Penguins fans, but the rest of the place (including the standing room in the very back) was Red Wings fans.
After this happened, the entire place erupted into cheers and started chanting, “Let’s go Red Wings!” at the top of their lungs. It’s one of those moments that will never fade from my memory. It felt like I was back in Hockeytown, but I was a thousand miles away.
Filppula did his part while he was on this Red Wings team. Perhaps some felt as though he overstayed his welcome by a year or two, but that was the deal he signed, and Ken Holland opted not to make rash moves and trade him away.
He was given every chance imaginable to morph from a good player to a great player, and he seemed to miss every chance. But if his comments about being a number one center are true, it seems to me that he started working under the mentality that he had Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg standing in his way. And that’s not a good thought to have in your head.
It’s always so easy to focus on the bad times rather than the good that came of something. Don’t be too harsh on Filppula – after all, he’s playing under Steve Yzerman‘s regime now.