While I was out at the dermatologist’s, the Free Press’s Helene St. James filed her weekly mailbag article, and she answered three questions, including a query about Andreas Athanasiou’s role and future with the Wings:
HSJ: Andreas Athanasiou intrigues with his ability to accelerate and find ways to score, but he has limited trade value at this time. He had 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points in 71 games in 2017-18. He began the season holding out only to settle for a lesser contract than he could have had mid-summer. He had a .46 points-per-game average in 2017-18, compared to .45 PPG in 2016-17, even though he averaged 1 minute 51 seconds more in playing time per game. He went spans for 15 games and 13 games without scoring a goal, and that shouldn’t happen with someone so skilled.
It was a pretty damming indictment when, at locker clean-out day on April 10, head coach Jeff Blashill spoke about what he’d said to Athanasiou at their year-end meeting: “My message to AA was as a coach you have to know what you’re getting every single shift and the growth in him is going to be to learn to work and compete every shift. If I’m guessing whether or not he’s going to work and compete, it’s hard to keep putting him out there because I don’t know what I’m getting. So that consistency level and work ethic and compete is going to be critical for AA.”
Now, learning to be consistent is a common theme among young players who have a skill level that allowed them to dominate at lower levels of hockey, only to find out how much harder it is to stand out regularly in the NHL. Athanasiou has the potential to be a big part of the rebuild, either as an in-house scorer or trade bait, but first he’ll have to put up better numbers.