Tomas Tatar was given a lot of nicknames during the 2013-2014 NHL season. Mickey Redmond liked to call him “hot sauce” and “water-bug”. During HBO’s 24/7 Mike Babcock called him “tots”. No matter what you prefer to call Tomas Tatar, there is no denying that the 23 year-old Slovakian has become the lifeblood of the Detroit Red Wings in their current rebuilding phase.
After having an outstanding breakout season that helped Detroit continue their playoff streak to a 23rd consecutive appearance it’s easy to forget that in September of 2013 Tatar was battling for a roster spot and even felt that he could be traded if he didn’t make the team. Luckily for everyone in Hockeytown the 2013 Calder Cup MVP’s fear of being moved did not come true and Tatar was able to solidify his job with the Red Wings while becoming a new fan favorite for many in Detroit and around the world.
So what makes Tatar so popular and valuable to the Detroit Red Wings?
Putting all statistics aside, the thing that impresses me and many others about Tomas Tatar is the amount of heart and energy that he plays with. Listed at 5’10″ and 186 pounds, Tatar plays a larger game than his physical size would indicate. If you didn’t know anything about Tatar or the Red Wings it wouldn’t take you long to notice that number 21 was one of the hardest working/skating players when he was out on the ice. In any sport there are always players that you can question their work ethic and/or grit but Tomas Tatar is not one of those players.
There were times however when Tatar’s desire to make something happen out of nothing would occasionally get him in trouble by making an unnecessary move leading to an expected and forgivable rookie mistake. Being the class-act that he is, Tomas was always quick to apologize for his errors, often in a joking manner and often at his own expense on one his social media accounts. Tatar’s social media presence was a delightful and many times comical insight into his and the Red Wings’ mindset during the turbulent 2013-2014 season.
When you look at Tatar’s stats it becomes clear why he was so important to the Red Wings last season. In 73 regular season games played Tatar tallied 19 goals, 20 assist and 39 points. His 19 goals ranked him second on the team and his 20 assists and 39 points finished him sixth place in both categories. As any Detroit fan knows, goal scoring was extremely hard for the Red Wings to come by during the 2013-2014 season and Tatar’s modest 19 goals were some of the most important and most memorable.
If you break down the 19 goals scored by Tatar during the regular season you would see that the Red Wings had a record of 11-8 when #21 lit the lamp in regulation, 8 of his 19 goals were equalizers (4 of which were against Original 6 rivals), and 3 of the goals were go-ahead goals. So while 19 goals may not seem like a lot, you can see just how important Tatar’s 19 goals were for the Red Wings to continue their 23 year playoff streak.
You can’t talk about Tomas Tatar’s 2013-2014 goals without mentioning his TSN Play of the Year goal against Dallas and his emotional go-ahead goal against LA the day after his father passed away. I know that I am not alone when I say that both of the goals were two of my personal favorite highlights from last season. Tatar’s goals and celebrations were more than just goals and celebrations, they were exciting, pivotal, game-changing, and passionate.
So as we inch closer everyday towards October and the new NHL season and as the Red Wings continue to rely on their “kids” to carry on the tradition of excellence that has become Detroit hockey, I expect to see a lot more #21 jerseys in the seats of The Joe this year. I’m even thinking about investing in one myself. With Tatar signing a three-year contract extension with the Red Wings in July I can only imagine that we still haven’t seen the best of what Tomas Tatar has to offer.