In a subscriber-only article, the Detroit News’s John Niyo ponders Filip Zadina’s future with the Red Wings after coach Jeff Blashill scratched the promising young 22-year-old in Tuesday’s win over San Jose:
He ranks second among Wings forwards (behind Bertuzzi) in 5-on-5 expected goals for percentage, per Evolving Hockey, yet the scoresheet most nights leaves everyone wanting. One reason: Zadina’s subpar shooting percentage (5.6) is the same as it was during that nine-game audition in 2018-19, and not far off last season’s mark (6.3), which is hardly what anybody expected when then-Wings GM Ken Holland touted his scoring ability after that 2018 draft. Holland preached patience then, but also said he hoped Zadina would be “a big part” of a budding Cup contender “hopefully when he’s 21 or 22.”
Obviously, the past two seasons have been hard on player development for everyone in the NHL, but Zadina’s own frustration with his lack of production — and likely his role as well — has been evident.
It also partly explains why Blashill was talking at Thanksgiving, right around Zadina’s 22nd birthday, about the young forward needing a different perspective — “He can’t put all his self-worth as a player into scoring,” the coach noted — and understanding all the other things that go into “playing winning hockey.”
That talk draws eye-rolls from frustrated fans, I know, after five straight losing seasons on Blashill’s watch. And it probably grates on young players as well. But Zadina has to know the GM he plays for now believes those same things about “winning” hockey players.
And one thing we know about Steve Yzerman, both from his tenure in Tampa and his first two seasons back in charge in Detroit, is he’s not afraid to make a move, even if it involves a young player some might view as part of his team’s core. Like the Anthony Mantha trade last April, for instance.
So while it’s too soon to say something similar will happen here with Zadina — a hockey deal for another player looking for a fresh start — it’s hardly out of the question. There are only two or three untouchables on the Wings’ current roster, and a pending RFA with 47 points in 118 career games can’t be one of them, no matter where he was drafted. No, for Zadina, the best way to make good on his promise here in Detroit would be to take the decision out of his coach’s hands, before it’s too late.