Blashill wanted the Red Wings to become faster and harder to play against in his second season behind the bench. Vanek did not seem to fit that new identity. The
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But the Red Wings also had made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons, which created a dilemma: They expected to make the playoffs as usual, but they lacked high-end talent largely as a consequence of their success. They had not drafted in the top 10 since 1991.
With center Pavel Datsyuk returning home to Russia, the Red Wings traded his contract and $7.5 million salary-cap charge to the Arizona Coyotes. They hoped to sign free-agent center Steven Stamkos but never got a chance to make their pitch before Stamkos re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning. They signed free-agent
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They looked at what Vanek not for what he wasn’t, but for what he was. He wouldn’t win many races. He wouldn’t win the Selke Trophy. But he was 6-feet-2,
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“He’s an interesting player, because it doesn’t always look necessarily because of his gait and whatnot that he’s working as hard,” Blashill said. “But he wins puck battles. He’s really strong on the puck.”
They didn’t necessarily need him to score 40 goals, as he had done twice, or 30 goals, as he had done four times. But if he could score 20, as he had done 10 times, that would help. They figured they could put him in position to succeed by giving him third-line minutes with speedier linemates at even strength and use him on the top power-play unit.
In the end, with the short term and relatively low salary, Vanek was a low-risk, potentially high-reward addition, and Mantha needed more time in the minors to
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“I wanted Thomas Vanek on this team,” Blashill said. “He brings an elite offensive ability that’s hard to get when you don’t draft high. … I just said that I thought the things that he was good at were things that we could really use, and if he worked,
Custom Canadiens Jersey if he paid attention to detail, if he played defense, it was going to work out great.”
Vanek remained confident in himself. He appreciated those who showed confidence in him and liked the Red Wings’ history of cerebral, skilled hockey.
“I still know I can score and make plays in this league,” Vanek said. “[When] I know I can’t do that, then it’s time to retire. I felt good the last two years, but sometimes … It wasn’t the right fit for some reason in Minnesota. I think the role I was in wasn’t the one I was used to. I’m not faulting them. I had my downs too, and I’ll take my share of blame. …
“I talked to several teams at the beginning of the summer. The few I talked to all expressed that they still believed in me, and I think just hearing that motivates you as an athlete. At the end of the day, I just picked Detroit because I liked the way they played in the past, the way they play the game.”
As for what Blashill said about working hard, paying attention to detail and playing defense?
“I think sometimes in this league you get labeled as something, and it sticks,” Vanek said. “Am I the best defensive player? I know I’m not. But again, I feel like I’m fine in my own zone. The words he’s said are nothing different than I’ve heard from other teams I’ve played with. For me, it’s not a change at all.”
The line of Vanek, Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist has been the Red Wings’ best at 5-on-5, and Vanek has three of his five points on the power play.
Vanek scored twice in a 6-4 loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday. He had three assists in a 5-1 win against the Ottawa Senators on Monday. Twice, he won a puck battle with defenseman Cody Ceci to set up a goal. Also, after a Detroit turnover on a power play, he put his head down and chugged back almost the length of the ice to disrupt a shorthanded chance by Senators forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
“I think he kind of had that rap of not working too hard,” Helm said of Vanek. “I think he’s a pretty hard worker. When pucks go the other way, he’s quick on his feet to get going the other way to help backcheck. I think he’s doing that well right now and that’s helping our line be successful, and we need him to continue that.”
That’s the plan. Vanek needs to continue that to earn another contract; the Red Wings need him to continue that to earn another playoff berth.
“I just want to show each and every night that I can make my linemates better,”
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