Red Wings: Filip Hronek is quietly having a bounce-back year

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 07: William Carrier #28 of the Vegas Golden Knights battles for the puck with Filip Hronek #17 of the Detroit Red Wings during the first period at Little Caesars Arena on November 07, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 07: William Carrier #28 of the Vegas Golden Knights battles for the puck with Filip Hronek #17 of the Detroit Red Wings during the first period at Little Caesars Arena on November 07, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Of the Detroit Red Wings defensemen, Moritz Seider has stolen a majority of the limelight (rightfully so), but Filip Hronek has quietly been one of the better defenders on the roster.

Last season was a bit of a disapointment for Hronek. Just glancing at the point sheet, it seems as though it was a stellar year. He led the team in points, with two goals and 24 assists on the year. However, both goals were empty netters and a majority (18) of his assists were secondary. Hronek struggled with his given role as a team’s number one defenseman. This year, things are starting to turn around, according to both the eye test and statistics.

A look at the stats

Possession metrics are not truly reflective of Detroit’s defenseman this year – almost all of them possess Corsi and Fenwick for percentages on the wrong side of 50. Even Moritz Seider, clearly a fantastic defenseman, has a sub-50 percent Corsi-for, and only a 50.2 percent Fenwick-for. And he’s the only starter with a percentage above 50. For whatever reason, the Red Wings defenseman just do not have great possession stats this year.

With that in mind, Hronek’s possession metrics have taken a bit of a dip, but again, that seems to be a team trend. Elsewhere, he has taken major strides. His GAR (goals above replacement) was -6.3 last year and it’s up to 1.2 this season. Similarly, his WAR (wins above replacement) increased from -1.1 to 0.2. His expected metrics are even better: 2.1 xGAR and 0.4 xWAR. Hronek has also scored the second most points among Detroit’s defenseman, with two goals (neither of them on an empty net!) and 10 assists.

Why?

So why is Hronek bouncing back from a mediocre season? Well, there are a few possible explanations.

First, Hronek is finally paired with a decent defenseman in Nick Leddy. Last season, Fil was often at the top of the defensive pairings with Danny DeKeyser – not quite the ideal partner. Leddy is a significantly more complimentary pairing – a veteran that likes to distribute the puck. The two have good chemistry, and it looks as though Hronek is thriving and developing with his new partner (which is sort of funny, considering most thought that Leddy would play mentor for Seider, not Hronek).

It could also be his current role with the team. Hronek was expected to be the Red Wings best defenseman last season, deployed in key moments and taking on heavy minutes. While he’s still taking on nearly as many minutes this year, it’s not quite in the same situations. Seider has shouldered a lot of the load that Hronek struggled with – especially as the power play quarterback. He’s still used in penalty kills and important situations, but it’s not the same pressure and spotlight that he faced last season.

Lastly, it could just be that the team is just better this year. Simple as that. The core is showing out this year, with players like Dylan Larkin improving heavily from their 2020-21 campaigns.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what the exact reasoning is. What’s clear is that Hronek is better today than he was a year ago, which is important considering his potential role in the team’s future. Hronek is finally playing like a top four defenseman.

Stats sourced from Evolving-Hockey

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