Detroit Red Wings:Athanasiou talks the talk but will he back it up?

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 29: Andreas Athanasiou
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 29: Andreas Athanasiou /

The first two days of Detroit Red Wings training camp have been completed.  Jeff Blashill is expected to put together a line today which may start the season as his third line. Andreas Athanasiou between Thomas Vanek and rookie Filip Zadina.

We have lobbied for Athanasiou to have a more prominent role.  Now with the departure of Henrik Zetterberg, AA is set to see that expanded role.  If Filip Zadina is as advertised, it becomes a third line for the Detroit Red Wings that could produce 60 or more goals this up and coming season.

Andreas Athanasiou has depressed his coaching staff in the past for his lack of defensive ability or maybe the better way to phrase it is his lack of effort.  Thomas Vanek isn’t exactly a stellar defensive winger, and Filip Zadina is a young rookie.  For this line to work, AA needs to commit to being more of a two-way center.  We can’t have AA floating around his own blue-line looking for a breakaway pass that doesn’t find its way to him.  Floating often backfires and the puck many times ends up in your own net.

Athanasiou recently caught up with Helene St. James of  Andreas doesn’t lack confidence and says if he plays more consistent minutes he will produce.  We’ve been saying that too, it’s a subtle shot towards Jeff Blashill.

"“I think it’s just consistently playing – I think when I get those consistent minutes, I consistently produce,” Athanasiou said. “So as long as those minutes don’t fluctuate from a lot to a little, if it’s a comfortable amount of minutes, I definitely can produce with it.”"

Jeff Blashill needs to get Andreas Athanasiou to commit to being an all-around player before the consistent minutes come.  Last season started with a holdout, then a bang for AA.  Anthansiou began the season on fire once the contract dispute was solved, then he cooled off drastically. Andreas only recorded 1 power play goal; he is much too talented to not produce on the power play.

Athanasiou finished the season with 33 points.  AA recorded 16 goals, but the statistic that stood out the most was his -15 rating.

Jeff Blashill to his credit fired back challenging Athanasiou;

"“I think any player would argue more minutes will equal more production,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “I don’t know that’s necessarily always true. I’d also argue there’s lots of players in the league that have found ways to be very, very good without lots of minutes, and then what generally happens then is more minutes follow.”Blashill said he plans to be vigilant that “whatever line is really going, they have to keep getting lots of ice time.”"

Although I would like to see Athanasiou gain more minutes, it’s hard to disagree with Blashill here.  If you produce and are not a liability in your own end, the minutes and trust will follow.  Athanasiou needs to work hard and earn the trust of his coaching staff.  Blashill and his staff need to coach Andreas up and help him develop into a reliable top three center in this league.

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Playing with Thomas Vanek will help his production.  Vanek seems to always settle around the 25 goal mark.  Vanek should bring some depth scoring to a Detroit Red Wings club who often struggled to score especially down in the line-up.