In this Bataan Death March of a Red Wing season, long-suffering Detroit Red Wings fans seek hope wherever we can find it, right? It’s got to get better at some point, right? Brief peeks at our prospects is a meager pleasure.
The recent call-up of Gustav Lindstrom is a case in point. I saw Lindstrom play at the Detroit Red Wings’ preseason game at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders. He was clearly not ready for prime time. He was lost in terms of operating at real NHL speed. (This is an ongoing problem for both our underachieving veterans and green prospects. We look in slow motion passing and making decisions compared to our opponents.)
Gustav Lindstrom has surprised no few of us in his recent handful of games with the Detroit Red Wings. He looks smart and makes good plays. He sees the ice a second or two ahead of his peers on the ice. He is catching on to the defensive angles, made famous by another similarly named Swede. The physicality of his heft disarms and even crunches forwards, unlike many northern European players. His outlet passes have been clever.
Admittedly, the sample size is small, but Lindstrom looks like an NHL defenseman enough to make my pulse race a little. He is not flashy but projects well into the role of a defensive anchor. Watching Trevor Daly make two serious, preventable mistakes against Buffalo, both resulting in goals, I am ready to see more of Lindstrom, and less of Daly (who was soft on his stick in front of the net, then failed to clear the zone.)
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Two things can prevent this. One, Yzerman might not want to burn a year on Lindstrom’s contract before he becomes eligible for free agency. In this case, he stays for nine games then returns to Grand Rapids to bolster their Calder Trophy playoff drive. Free-agent eligibility is above my pay grade. I will trust Yzerman.
Another reason Lindstrom might return to Grand Rapids is because of the Detroit Red Wings’ storied seasoning of prospects, the Red Wing Way. The rationale here is to let them develop to the point where, if they make the big club and struggle, the setback will only be temporary, and not crush their confidence.
The idea is to wait until such time that risking the need to return a player to the AHL for long is minimized. This luxury made sense back when the Detroit Red Wings sported a bevy of NHL-ready players, and venerable Chris Chelios played to age 50.
But what about now? The NHL shift to youthful speed and finesse is now well in place. Is our long-established seasoning of prospects subject to review in a new era, the new NHL paradigm? Five years ago, the Red Wings’ boldness in keeping 18-year-old Dylan Larkin with the team suggested as much.
Nobody regrets that move now, gestating, and creating a core player. The Red Wings letting 20-year-old Filip Zadina stick with the team has surprised me and piqued our curiosity about him as a scorer-playmaker package.
Moritz Seider, our 2019 prize draft pick, Yzerman’s bold, counterintuitive first-round selection, a mere 18-year-old, is next. We will ask the same questions about him. How much of his youth shall we burn in the minor leagues when players more commonly end their careers at age 33? Can’t our prospects keep up with others in a day when the Devils’ Jack Hughes‘ play is convincing, and Cale Makar is like jet fuel for the Avalanche? Maybe all of these questions must be asked anew and individually for each particular player.
If we won the Lafreniere grand prize in the 2020 draft, could he join us in the fall? Given the choice of being entertained by tantalizing prospects at our low ebb and building a Stanley Cup worthy team eventually, I’ll always opt for the latter. But the push and pull mix of these twin impulses will hold our interest and prime our debates until then.