As the off-season rolls on and the calendar turns to August many hockey fans gain a bit more energy in the morning, a bit more anxious happiness around the campfires as the days go by. Only for the simple fact that it means only one more month until the prospect and training camps for their favorite NHL teams will be kicking off and hockey will begin again in earnest.
Until then the Detroit Red Wings like many other teams still have many questions about their roster which need answering. After signing Dan Cleary, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan this off-season the forward core of the roster has become quite crowded. One of those spots currently belongs to third round pick Joakim Andersson(25). at 6’2 and 206lbs he is one of the larger Red Wings forwards on the roster. But as training camp approaches and the glaring need for help on the defense along with the pending signing of his fellow countrymen and current UFA Daniel Alfredsson, its highly possible that he starts the new season in the press box, or used as a sweetener in a trade for a highly sought after right-handed defenseman.
The Red Wings used their 88th overall pick in 2007 to draft the center from Munkedal, Sweden. Red Wings fans got their first look at Andersson as he appeared in 5 games in 2012 scoring zero points but gaining a +1 rating. In those games he appeared to be comfortable enough to play at the NHL level after spending most of his time in the SHL.
In the following lock-out shortened season he carved out a name for himself on one of the Griffins top lines as the Players Union and NHL Owners stalemated in negotiations. Once the season started he earned a full-time spot appearing in 35 games for the Red Wings after Darren Helm was lost for the season to injury, totaling 8 points and a +2 rating. While playing in Detroit he became a go to guy on the penalty kill and could be counted on to win face-offs in his own zone, and to play well enough if he didn’t.
Andersson was one of the better stories of the 2013-14′ campaign. While he lacked the foot speed of Darren helm, and seeming to match his hands of stone, he acquitted himself quite nicely in his absence. Then as the Wings moved to the Eastern Conference, signed Stephen Weiss and welcomed back a healthy Darren Helm. Andersson was bounced around the bottom of the line up, appearing as a winger in several contest and even found himself as a net front presence on the power play as the injury totals mounted. As the season continued he suffered several injuries of his own and on occasion found him self a healthy scratch in favor of the speedy Luke Glendening and the more offensively gifted Riley Sheahan. He appeared in only 65 games collecting 8 goals 9 assists and a -11. As the playoffs loomed the Wings were handed their lunch by the Boston Bruins and Andersson through either injury, lack of belief from the coaching staff or some combination there of found himself appearing in only one contest in the post-season and posting a -1 rating.
Looking ahead to training camp for the 14′-15′ season the present roster boast: Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, Riley Sheahan and Joakim Andersson at center. While many people may believe that Mike Babcocks strange affinity for the plucky Glendnning will be what undoes Joakim Anderssons hold on a roster spot, one only has to look at Sheahan’s numbers and can see that the gritty forward out matches Andersson in every offensive category, and on a team that at times was starved for goals offense like that will win out every time. Even the fancy stats don’t look good for Andersson, who per Extraskater.com posted a 49.9%cf and a -1.6% rel compared to Sheahans 56.4%cf and +11.4% rel. While Sheahan was heavily sheltered, meaning he didn’t face off against the opposing teams best players, Andersson wasn’t necessarily drawing Zdeno Chara or Duncan Keith every shift either.
While no one should be expecting him to steal a first or second line job, do to his sheer lack of mobility, he still possesses great assets to the team on the defensive side of the game. He is bigger and has more utility than the older Drew Miller, who is responsible in his own rite in his defensive zone coverage but lacks Anderssons ability as a natural center and if Andersson possesses hands of stone Miller’s must be cased in Uranium giving an edge in both categories to Andersson. He also out performs Justin Abdelkader in the defensive end, who has been used more recently as a power winger but
he too will be hard pressed to find time on the top lines thanks to the rise of players like Tatar, Nyquist and the looming shadow of Anthony Mantha. Abdelkader also lacks discipline at times and has seen his success in the face-off dot diminish as his role as a winger increased.
Andersson obviously has his work cut out for him. And while he can only control so much, the one thing he can not control is how training camp will pan out for other players. If none of the Wings defensive prospects stand out or Mike Babcock is not satisfied with his current defense in any way, Ken Holland might have to add Andersson to a package to obtain a higher caliber of defenseman. With only one year left on his contract and coming in at a small $732,500 cap hit, per Capgeek.com, Andersson could be ideal for a team looking to add depth down the middle and in need of help on the penalty kill. When his current contract ends he will still be an RFA, which means what ever team he could be traded to has exclusive negotiating rites with him when it comes time for a new contract, a definite plus for Ken Holland in trade negotiations.
As we move closer to September and our patience as hockey fans is pushed to the limit as it is every year, this year will most likely be the most frustrating for Wings fans. Alfredsson’s camp has said that it wont be until the end of August if he decides to return for another season. General Manger in a recent interview on 105.1 Detroit said he is still looking for a trade partner for a defensemen. And Mike Babcock and his new staff won’t be able to do anything involving players but scheme and plot until Training camp starts on September19th. Add that to all the other teams trying out new their players, prospects, systems and coaches it may very will take up till the eleventh hour before Ken Holland cements his roster at the deadline when the preseason concludes.