In the wee minutes of the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline, Ken Holland surprised everyone by shipping off Detroit prospect Calle Jarnkrok, forward Patrick Eaves, and a conditional draft pick in exchange for the Nashville center David Legwand. This trade received mixed feelings from fans and analysts alike. What Detroit really needed was a defenseman, but really the only plausible option in Andrew MacDonald chose the Islanders instead. People were angered at the fact that Holland traded a then-red-hot sniper in Eaves, and a star from Grand Rapids for a sort of public enemy in Legwand(see his poke on Lidstrom’s injured leg a couple years back). However, when word reached the fans that Pavel Datsyuk would be rested for 3 weeks due to an injured knee, and Jarnkrok threatened to jump ship to Sweden if he was not a Red Wing in the near future, the trade settled down in the hockey world.
David Legwand left Nashville coming off of a 40-point season to that point, and had 6 40-point seasons in his previous 14 years in the Music Capital. In his 06-7 season, he totaled 27 goals and 36 assists for 63 points, completing the best season of his career. Not to mention, he hasn’t had the league’s best linemates.
Legwand has 3 goals and 6 assists for Detroit in 14 games so far for the Red Wings. That’s not too shabby, for switching to a very different system, and moving up to the first line. He has done more than Marty St. Louis has done for the Rangers, surprisingly. Legwand adds a gritty side to a sometimes passive Wings team. He’s not afraid to get to the net, and create traffic and deflections, in Holmstrom-like fashion. When he’s not in the trenches, he’s agitating and enforcing whenever he can. Although I like his physical game, he can often go too far. He has 27 PIMs already, and most famously was ejected for a crotch-shot on Evgeni Malkin, and almost cost the Red Wings a two crucial points that could have pushed them out of the playoff race if they were not earned. He has made a few mistakes, but I don’t want to take away from the fact that he is very well part of the reason the Wings have a playoff spot as of now.
Before the trade deadline, Ken Holland made it very clear that he wanted to partake in a “hockey trade”, which would mean a player with long-term implications, and not go after a rental. But was this trade in fact a “hockey trade”? David Legwand will be an unrestricted free agent when this season comes to a close. However, him wanting to leave isn’t the issue, as he waived a no-trade clause in Nashville to become a Red Wings. Is there going to be room for him in the future?
When healthy, the Red Wings’ centers would look something along the lines of Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Darren Helm, and Joakim Andersson. When unhealthy, the Wings have seen several other players between two wingers, like Riley Sheahan, Johan Franzen, Luke Glendening, Gustav Nyquist, Cory Emmerton; the list goes on and on. Given the fact those guys are usually wingers themselves, or are in Grand Rapids, their prospect pool is still so deep at center, and many could see permanent positions in the following years, like the aforementioned Glendening and Sheahan.This team has so heavily relied on veterans for what seems like eternity, and has not experienced this degree of an influx of young talent in two decades, let alone one at all that has been so promising and productive. With the scapegoat veterans that remain possibly heading out the door this offseason, such as Daniel Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi, and Mikael Samuelsson, Ken Holland will probably realize rather than going with experience he can survive and succeed with young-bodied, determined youngsters. Gustav Nyquist has been a perfect example of this in this season. He started the season off in the AHL because Daniel Cleary was resigned to fill a veteran role. Cleary has 8 points in 54 games this season, split down the middle between assists and goals. While Cleary was on the roster, eating away at fans’ competence, Goose was rotting in Grand Rapids, salivating for a chance to play on the team. Gustav Nyquist was called up, and did not disappoint, in fact, he exceeded everyone’s expectations. He has outscored Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and oh yeah, the rest of the entire NHL since January 27th. He leads the team with 27 goals and 18 assists, and has been the best player for the Red Wings since the Winter Classic, maybe even the best player in the league. The amount skill he has so early in his career is remarkable, and for me, he has been the most exciting “rookie” I’ve seen since Pavel Datsyuk. He is going out against any team, any night and scoring one or two goals with ease, something we all know Cleary couldn’t do.
This is a prime example of the youth talent stealing the veteran experience’s job, and the biggest issue with a possibility of Legwand’s return next year.
I really like Legwand on this team, and I definitely don’t want to lose too many veterans, because experience is irreplaceable to a certain extent. But I would not enjoy seeing him pull a Danny Cleary on us in the future.
So, what do you think? Is there room for David Legwand on this team next year, and beyond?