Even though Thomas Vanek was an intriguing off-season signing by the Detroit Red Wings, it would have been hard to fathom a scenario in which his absence from the lineup would be so concerning. That was before he was the team’s leading scorer, though.
Vanek, 32, was pacing the Red Wings with a formidable four goals and eight points through the first seven games of the season, but after notching his fourth goal of the campaign in a 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, Vanek has found himself on the shelf with a lower-body injury. Initially, it was believed he would be sidelined day-to-day and that he could be back within the week. Now it looks like the veteran winger could be spending more than just a handful of games on the shelf.
“It looks like it will be more of a week-to-week injury than a day-to-day,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said of Vanek’s ailment, per the Detroit Free Press. “I don’t expect him back this coming week. I don’t know the exact number of days, but it’s longer than shorter right now.”
Blashill added that Vanek has undergone tests, and the results have shown that the injury is “worse than (the Red Wings) thought originally.”
Detroit has no doubt missed Vanek in the lineup, albeit from a pure ice time perspective it hasn’t been that great a loss. Through the seven games Vanek played, he had averaged little more than 13 minutes per game and four of seven games he skated below the 13-minute mark. As mentioned, though, his offensive presence is something the Red Wings are missing. In the three games Vanek has been out, the Red Wings have mustered just four goals. They had 24 through their first seven games.
“It’s a credit to Thomas that we’re talking about (his injury) this much,” Blashill said, per the Detroit Free Press. “He came in and has done a real good job, has had a real impact early on our team. He’s a guy who can score and I say score easy, and by that I mean he can score with one shot. Some guys need lots of volume to score. He doesn’t.”
As far as this season goes, Blashill is right, too. Vanek is four-for-13 in shooting right now, clipping along with a shooting percentage nearing 31 percent. While that’s a positive in the sense that he’s getting some puck luck early in the campaign, Detroit shouldn’t be banking on that continuing once he returns from injury.
Over the course of his career, Vanek has been a high volume shooter and that’s been primarily responsible for his strong goal totals earlier in his career. In his last 25-plus goal season, which game in 2013-14, Vanek put 248 shots on goal — more than three shots per game over 78 outings — and shot 10.9 percent. Vanek’s career shooting percentage is 14.5 percent, as well, so there’s very little chance he remains up above 20 percent, let alone 30 percent, when he returns to the lineup.
Regardless of the decline in shooting percentage that’s due, though, getting Vanek back sooner rather than later would be helpful for a Red Wings team that hasn’t been able to put the puck in the net with any consistency since Vanek dropped out of the lineup.
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