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January 7, 2003 - Wings' grades for season's first half
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Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Wings' grades for season's first half

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Photos by David Guralnick / The Detroit News


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GOALIES

Manny Legace: Has reclaimed his status as one of the top backup goalies in the league. Coach Dave Lewis' plan to get more regular work for Legace has worked perfectly. Grade: A-

Curtis Joseph: Critics have questioned Joseph's abilities -- especially after that one sub-par period against the Islanders -- but he lost only one game in all of December. Joseph wasn't perfect early in the season, but neither was Dominik Hasek last year. Grade: B

DEFENSEMEN

Nicklas Lidstrom: Barring injury, he'll win his third consecutive Norris Trophy. He's lapping the field right now. General Manager Ken Holland put it best before the season: Holland has seen Lidstrom have bad shifts, but he can't remember the last time he had a bad game. He was the Wings' best player in the first half of the season. Grade: A

Chris Chelios: Not as dominant as last season, but pretty close. It wouldn't be surprising to see Chelios as a finalist for the Norris again. He turns 41 later this month, and many thought he was finished two seasons ago after major knee surgery. Grade: A-

Dmitri Bykov: No one really knew what to expect. But this former eighth-round draft choice from Russia has displayed a cool feel for the NHL game. He's not flashy, but he rarely makes a poor decision. Grade: B

Jason Woolley: He basically fell into the Wings' lap after Jiri Fischer was injured, and they are thankful he did. As advertised, Woolley is above-average offensively. And so far he has exceeded expectations defensively, too. Grade: B

Jesse Wallin: Playing with Chelios made the young Fischer excel last season. With Fischer injured, Wallin is getting that same opportunity this season. Wallin, a former first-round pick, is showing glimpses of the tough, defensive style that could keep him in the NHL for a long time. Grade: B-

Mathieu Dandenault: His play hasn't approached the level it was during the playoffs last season. A bit more offense would be nice. Funny, but at 25 he's one of the veterans on the blue line now. Grade: C+

Maxim Kuznetsov: He looks like a force one game, then anything but the next time out. Still, there's been more positive than negative from Kuznetsov the last few seasons. He isn't afraid to be aggressive. Grade: C

Jiri Fischer: After a breakthrough season, it was disappointing to see him go down with season-ending knee surgery. The Wings are optimistic he'll return in time for the playoffs, adding quality depth. Grade: Incomplete

Patrick Boileau: A recent call-up when Dandenault was injured, he's done nothing to show he doesn't belong in the NHL. A smart player with good offensive skills. Grade: Incomplete

FORWARDS

Kirk Maltby: Probably no player has exceeded expectations as much as Maltby. He's on pace for a 20-goal season, and he's still one of the best defensive forwards on the team. It'll be interesting to see how he does in voting for the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward). He deserves it. Grade: A

Brett Hull: Has shown that he is worthy of another contract after the season. Still possesses one of the most lethal shots in the game, but as the Wings have found out since Hull arrived in Detroit, he also is smart and versatile. Grade: B+

Sergei Fedorov: The Wings' best player through the first quarter of the season, he slowed down somewhat the last few weeks. But not much. Hasn't let distractions regarding his contract and agents bother him. Grade: B+

Darren McCarty: With unrestricted free agency looming this off-season, McCarty has taken his game up a notch. He's already surpassed last season's goal total. Last season's Darren McCarty was an imposter. Grade: B

Brendan Shanahan: Many analysts speculated that Shanahan might be lackadaisical without the prodding from Scotty Bowman. It hasn't happened. He's the Wings' second-leading goal scorer (behind Fedorov). Grade: B

Sean Avery: Nobody on the Wings does more with fewer minutes. Avery has shown to be more than just an agitator since centering Boyd Devereaux and Tomas Holmstrom -- the Wings' best line the last few weeks. Grade: B

Kris Draper: He has developed into much more than just a role player. Lewis can use him as a center on one of the best checking lines in the NHL -- the Grind Line, with Maltby and McCarty. Or Lewis can send Draper to the wing with Shanahan and Fedorov to add speed and grit to that line. Grade: B

Tomas Holmstrom: A tireless warrior around the net. He adds a physical element on the Avery line, and has shown a bit more of an offensive touch than many thought he possessed. Grade: B

Igor Larionov: So valuable for his off-ice influence on young players such as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and for his quiet professionalism. Still a heady passer, and on the power play, he's as good as ever. Grade: B-

Pavel Datsyuk: A sprained right knee has curtailed his first half. When healthy, he looked as dangerous as last season, although there was a tendency to try to beat defenders by himself. Grade: B-

Henrik Zetterberg: Really opened eyes in training camp, and early in the season. Has hit his first offensive slump in recent weeks, but Lewis has shown his faith in Zetterberg by keeping him on the power play and on one of the top scoring lines. A strong candidate for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. Grade: C+

Boyd Devereaux: Did very little until being put on a line with Avery and Holmstrom. Now, Devereaux is looking like the player that showed considerable promise last season. A broken thumb just after training camp really set him back. Grade: C-

Luc Robitaille: Has never struggled offensively as he has this season. Isn't getting a ton of chances, and isn't burying the ones he is getting. Unless things change dramatically, the Wings won't re-sign him after the season. Grade: D

Jason Williams: Still waiting for his chance to play on a regular basis. He has shown glimpses of being an effective player at this level. Grade: Incomplete

FRONT OFFICE

General Manager Ken Holland is still on the hot streak he started last season when he signed Dominik Hasek, Hull, Robitaille and Fredrik Olausson. Selecting Lewis as head coach was a great move. Holland signed the best free-agent goalie on the market (Joseph). Then he nabbed Woolley when Fischer went down. Assistant GM Jim Nill and his scouts continue to unearth diamonds in Europe. Grade: A-

COACHES

Lewis, in his first job as a head coach, has the Wings on course to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. It's been amazing how seamless the transition from Bowman to Lewis has been. Lewis, Barry Smith and Joe Kocur have done a professional job handling this team. Grade: A-