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St. James calls out underachieving Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula

I spent a significant chunk of last night's recap wondering whether Valtteri Filppula's playing his way out of town given his status as an unrestricted free agent-to-be, the salary cap going down this summer while several of the Wings' top prospects are coming off their entry-level deals, given the NHL-readiness of players like Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar, and especially given that the struggling Filppula could be parlayed into part of a package for a much-needed top-pair defenseman.

Today, the Free Press's Helene St. James calls Filppula out , suggesting that he may have been the non-Jakub Kindl-centered target of Wings coach Mike Babcock's suggestion that several players didn't show up prepared to play, and she wonders where FIlppula's future lies with the Wings, and whether he can salvage his career in Detroit before it's too late:

The Detroit Red Wings are one-third of the way through their season, making it entirely fair to ask: What's up with Valtteri Filppula? Filppula has one point the last six games, eight points overall in 16 games. This despite playing 10 games as a wingman next to Pavel Datsyuk. This despite also seeing time next to Henrik Zetterberg, with whom Filppula had such sparkling chemistry last season. This despite being a regular on the power play.

This first month's worth of games has been a struggle for the Wings, which is bad because one look at what's ahead in March and April, and it's hard to think that won't be a bigger struggle, what with being on long road trips more than half the time.

Injuries have piled up with such regularity -- goalie Jimmy Howard joined the list during Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss at Nashville -- it's hard to keep track. But through all that, a few guys have maintained momentum, have been what general manager Ken Holland calls "every day" performers. First and foremost, the captain, Zetterberg, has been fantastic, with 21 points. Ditto for Datsyuk, who has a team-high eight goals among 18 points. Those two are stars in their own stratosphere, of course, but Filppula shouldn't lag as far behind as he is. He hasn't even played like an "every other day" guy, and that's bad for him and worse for the Wings.

This is a contract year for Filppula, and the Wings do want him back. He has the potential to be among the NHL's best second-line centers, and they need him all the more given the high probability Datsyuk opts to return to his native Russia after his contract expires following next season.

Filppula, 29 next month, has so many assets: He's fast, he's a nifty passer and he's responsible in his own end. It's what makes his lack of production so frustrating: Filppula so clearly has the talent to be at least a 20-goal scorer/60-point producer, like he finally showed last season, when he reached 66 points, the first time in six seasons he has topped 40.

St. James points out (after noting that Danny Cleary and Kyle Quincey have struggled, too--hey, I can't quote her entire article) that while Filppula's possibly sore MCL may be hampering his play a bit, he's been excused from practice to rest as necessary, and his coach has also repeatedly suggested that Filppula's play is absolutely essential for the team's success going forward, and as such...

The Wings, 7-6-3 and bopping back-and-forth in the nascent playoff picture, badly need Filppula to bear down and be more consistent. Of the eight points he has, three stem from the fourth game of the season. Do the math, and that yields five points over the last 12 games. That's hardly worth the $3-million salary Filppula is drawing (prorated) this season, nor is it bargaining power for his camp in contract negotiations. Given all his skill, Filppula could demand in the $4.5-million range, but he isn't helping himself with this performance.

Filppula's actually earning 48 games' worth of $3.5 million this season, just as Johan Franzen's $3.94 million cap hit belies 99 nights' worth of $5.2 million, but you may or may not have noticed that the Wings' complete inability to screen goaltenders and their even worse than usual power play can be traced in no small part to the fact that Franzen, like Jonathan Ericsson before him (see: Ericsson's absence last season and the precipitous drop-off in the Wings' penalty-killing, which never did recover from Ericsson's injury), is finally actually living up to his potential (though yes, he needs to score more goals, and no, he'll never be Marian Hossa), and even Cleary and Kyle "Hot Mess" Quincey have been something other than mediocre of late.

Filppula may be the most important "secondary scorer" on the team, and he's an injury away from being as important to the team's success as Niklas Kronwall or Jimmy Howard. One way or another, Fil's got to step up, or he's going to be shown the door.

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Comments

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That’s hardly worth the $3-million salary Filppula is drawing (prorated) this season, nor is it bargaining power for his camp in contract negotiations. Given all his skill, Filppula could demand in the $4.5-million range, but he isn’t helping himself with this performance.

Does anyone actually think that Detroit WON’T sign him for significantly more than he’s worth this coming off season??

Posted by godblender on 02/20/13 at 01:16 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

To see how much Fil is underacheiving, just watch him when he’s playing as a winger compared to Brunner. Brunner finds open spaces and goes hard to the net. Fil, well, he doesn’t. It really is that simple.

Trade him plus Quincey or Kindl and a prospect not named Tatar, Nyquist, Smith or Mrazek for the best defenseman they can find (plus a draft pick). Let Z and Pav center the #1 and #2 lines and go from there.

Does anyone actually think that Detroit WON’T sign him for significantly more than he’s worth this coming off season??

Me. I think Babcock has seen enough. And (the chance of) missing the playoffs will push Tick Tock to make some decisions he wouldn’t otherwise make.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 02/20/13 at 01:46 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

I should have read the next piece before posting. If the Sharks really are willing to move Boyle, give them Fil and Kindl. The Wings could even throw in Andrew Murray and the 2014 conditional pick the Sharks gave up in order to get Brad Stuart’s rights last year. smile

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 02/20/13 at 01:56 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

I think Flip, Kindl and maybe a prospect will be moved before the deadline. He has driven Babcock nuts in the past for his lack of shooting the puck until last year when he broke out playing the wing. I also think he’s one of the few Wings who has trade value that they’d be willing to part with. They desperately need a #1/2 shutdown Dman and a scoring power forward that isn’t 35+ yrs old and all beat up. Whos that is I have no idea….

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 02/20/13 at 02:04 PM ET

SK77's avatar

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 02/20/13 at 01:56 PM ET

I was thinking the same thing ... only problem is Boyle still has one year left at $6.66 million and I haven’t looked at next year’s roster & cap enough to know how that’d work.

Posted by SK77 on 02/20/13 at 02:04 PM ET

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He has the potential to be among the NHL’s best second-line centers

No he doesn’t and everyone needs to stop pretending that he does.

He’s a decent 3rd line centre, but he’s making too much to be that (and next year he’ll be making way too much to be that), and he’s show that he’s not a second line centre.  If he was then Datsyuk/Zetterberg/Brunner would be the full-time top line.

He’s going to get wildly overpaid to underachieve next year and I just hope that a) it isn’t by Detroit and b) they get something for him rather than just letting him walk.

The Wings need to clear some room so that Andersson, Nyquist and Tatar have clear spots next year, and moving Filppula is a good start, followed by either moving Cleary or just not re-signing him next year.

Posted by Garth on 02/20/13 at 02:09 PM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 02/20/13 at 01:56 PM ET

I was thinking the same thing ... only problem is Boyle still has one year left at $6.66 million and I haven’t looked at next year’s roster & cap enough to know how that’d work.

If you trade Filppula to SanJ for Boyle, then you need to fill a forward spot on top 6.  It won’t be Nyquist.  I like him.  Most people do.  But I’m not convinced Babcock does.  He has yet to give him consecutive starts and I don’t think he’s kept him on a single line all night once.  So, I’m not against the idea of Fil for Boyle, but we can’t go with Datsyuk, Abby and Cleary as no. 2 line.  Cleary and Abby should be paired on a 4th line, not the second.

Posted by MoreShoot on 02/20/13 at 02:10 PM ET

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I haven’t looked at next year’s roster & cap enough to know how that’d work.

If they don’t re-sign Filppula and Cleary then they’ll have plenty of cap space to re-sign Brunner, Andersson and Nyquist as well as accomodating a decent-sized defenseman contract next year.

Posted by Garth on 02/20/13 at 02:12 PM ET

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He’s a decent 3rd line centre, but he’s making too much to be that (and next year he’ll be making way too much to be that), and he’s show that he’s not a second line centre.

The thing with Fil is that he’s not a strong offensive player.  He’s a very good defensive player.  I think Fil can be a good 2nd line center, but the problem is that he needs to have a strong offensive talent there with him or else he’ll struggle to be effective.

Looking around the league I think Fil’s a 3.25-4.25 mil a year player for most teams, and he’ll likely earn that much in his next deal.

The Wings need to clear some room so that Andersson, Nyquist and Tatar have clear spots next year, and moving Filppula is a good start, followed by either moving Cleary or just not re-signing him next year.

I’ve been a proponent of the ‘let it burn’ strategy regarding this year for awhile now.  I just don’t think Detroit’s going to be far enough back to spur Holland to make those kinds of bench-clearing moves.

I can, however, totally see Fil getting his rights traded in the offseason.

As far as ‘clearing space’ goes I don’t think that’ll be much of a problem.  Andersson will be up for Miller (expiring), Cleary’s expiring for another spot, and it’s not like Eaves or Emmerton has done much to lock up a gametime role.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 02/20/13 at 02:39 PM ET

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I’ve been a proponent of the ‘let it burn’ strategy regarding this year for awhile now.

I don’t even see it as being a “let it burn” thing.  I think that Filppula is very replaceable and I think that Nyquist, Tatar or Andersson would easily be a step up from Cleary.

Posted by Garth on 02/20/13 at 03:32 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

and it’s not like Eaves or Emmerton has done much to lock up a gametime role.
   
    Posted by
     
    HockeyinHD
     
      on 02/20/13 at 02:39 PM ET


lmao.  I usually just skip over your posts since it’s obvious labor law is your specialty, self professed of course, and not hockey.  But I think you made a good point about Filpulla.  Then you go a fuch it up with crazy shit like Eaves and Emmerton haven’t done much this year.

Eaves is a righty, former 20 goal scorer with speed and ROUTINELY finishes his checks.  Was the first “grinder” to post a point actually, on a slick play at that.  He’s been out a long time and Babs isn’t sitting Cleary but 20-22-25 have been getting so many whiffs and been so effective that he never messes with that line.  All the others get jumbled, Emmertons, no.  Emmerton is NIGHT and DAY from what he was last season.  I think his play has been phenomenal his compete level is sky-rocketing and his grittiness is coming through with his tenacity on the fore-check and being hard on the puck.  Emmerton will stay.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 02/20/13 at 03:33 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Emmerton is NIGHT and DAY from what he was last season.  I think his play has been phenomenal his compete level is sky-rocketing and his grittiness is coming through with his tenacity on the fore-check and being hard on the puck.

I agree 100% – and I think Tootoo is the reason Emmerton’s game has blossomed. With Miller, that line played in the Preds zone for most of their shifts last night. They battle in the corners and they go to the net, so I hope they’re all back next year. And, with Ferraro and Sheahan a year or so away, that makes Mursak expendable. I could easily see him being moved at the deadline (if he ever gets healthy again).

 

 

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 02/20/13 at 04:02 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 02/20/13 at 04:02 PM ET

I think you’re exactly right about Tootoo being Emmerton’s catalyst.  There’s a calmness a player can get when he’s got a hardnosed friend around to keep from getting reamed.  He can lay the body and not worry about opposition taking runs at him for it because no one will do anything.  This is exactly why I wish we had some more grit in the top 6 besides Bert who’s not a lot of grit anymore.  Think it sparks the players they’re with.  DMac ended our cup drought on an end to end rush.  Hard-nosed players are our backbone with tenacious skill being our deadly weapons.

Also incredibly impressed with Ferraro.  Watching clips of him all year, the kid as COMPLETELY changed his game around as well and I think really took a step in maturity.  He’s LETHAL on the PK, I love it.  Sheahan as well, those two are offensive threats on the PK in the vein of Jordan Staal, at least that’s what I think of when I watch them.  Mursak, Flip and Kindl for?????

Also gotta give props to Cheli for calling Lashoff an NHL’er well ahead of the curve.  Got a nose for talent I think, or at least mentality it takes to play iin the NHL and whether they have the tools.  Nice bright spot and money saver.  Could help us become competitive sooner than hoped.  Depending on KH’s moves/non-moves of course.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 02/20/13 at 05:56 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Sorry I’m flaming the hell out of the comments but I forget to say, holy shit E52, Big Rig has hands down been the most pleasant surprise for me.  I thought Smith would end up top 2 by the end of the year, his vision is too good not to, his speed and offensive and stick play.  But I had no idea E52 would turn into what he has.  His nastiness level is about PERFECT now.  Using his size he routinely makes F’s pay but shit, he’s skating the puck through the neutral zone deep into the o-zone starting the cycle and getting back in position, making the smart plays not to get burned, putting the team on his back when th ey need zone entries.  Hopes he keeps his head level and keeps making the simple smart plays and taking what’s given to him.  Usually about now is when they start thinking they’re that good and stop looking after the details.  Big Rig def came to play though.  Unreal.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 02/20/13 at 06:00 PM ET

Colquhoun's avatar

Big Rig def came to play though.  Unreal.

What he said

Posted by Colquhoun on 02/20/13 at 06:50 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.