Austin Czarnik continues to be the Detroit Red Wings unheralded depth player

With just over two weeks left in the NHL regular season, the Detroit Red Wings remain in the postseason wild card race.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With just over two weeks left in the NHL regular season, the Detroit Red Wings remain in the postseason wild card race. After a disastrous month of March that compiled only three victories, general manager Steve Yzerman preached how the club needed to play better team defense, and by all accounts, the coaching staff listened and made adjustments in an attempt to reach that goal.

With a series of lineup changes came various line combinations. Of course, some roster decisions were made based on an illness claiming the health of player after player in the locker room. However, one major roster move that has stayed constant, despite some fan outrage, has been the addition of Austin Czarnik in place of Daniel Sprong, who has spent the past handful of games up in the pressbox watching his teammates battle for the playoffs. 

This says two things; first, the leadership group felt that sacrificing Sprong’s clear offensive talent was worth an upgrade for a defensively responsible veteran.

Secondly, the organization believes they have a strong chance at making the postseason without compromising the development of the youth in the system.

After acquiring Daniel Sprong during the offseason, he was able to carve out a significant role as a depth scorer for the team, even with limited ice time. He continuously came up with clutch goals during games that helped put them in the position that they are currently at in regard to the standings. Then, with the addition of Patrick Kane to the team, Sprong was guided by another superstar player, similar to his time in Washington with Alexander Ovechkin. At times, his confidence with the puck on his stick never looked stronger. But the confidence in play without the puck on his stick remained stagnant. 

Austin Czarnik is filling in admirably during his call up.

During the rough stretch in March, where the Red Wings were not accumulating enough points to stay comfortably above the playoff line, Sprong and his ability to find the back of the net were healthy scratched in favor of Austin Czarnik, recalled from Grand Rapids. Czarnik is no stranger to call ups from the AHL, in fact he had already been used in emergency injury situations to fill in earlier in the season and more than carried his own weight during those instances. But this was different. An offensive weapon was being pushed to the side for a depth player, widely considered a minor-league player. 

Czarnik was and is not being asked to put the puck in the net at the same rate as Sprong. He is with the big club due to his responsible play. For the most part, you may not even realize that he is out on the ice during his shifts because he is not making many mistakes in coverage.

In Lalonde’s system, there is value in that. Czarnik has gone unnoticed and unappreciated by the fanbase for doing exactly what has been asked of him. If Detroit is able to accumulate enough points down the stretch and lock it down defensively, we may see him suit up for the first playoff game that the LCA has ever seen.