When you discuss the art of making an NHL trade with a veteran general manager, he often jokingly says some of his best trades were ones he didn’t make. That might apply to Filip Hronek, although we don’t know for sure.
All we know is that there was speculation at the end of last season about whether GM Steve Yzerman might deal him. He posted 38 points last season, but it was clear the Red Wings weren’t happy with his play. Then-coach Jeff Blashill scratched him for a couple of games. With Moritz Seider taking over as No. 1 defenseman, Hronek just couldn’t seem to find his new place.
But that was last season. This season, with a new coaching staff in charge, you can make a case that Hronek has been their been their biggest impact player other than Ville Husso.
“I think since the start of the season he’s been a huge part of this, a part of the success,” defensive partner Olli Maatta said. “He’s gonna be that in the future, too.
Hronek has this season and one more on his contract. And then he will still be a restricted free agent. He’s still only 25.
Here are five reasons why Hronek is thriving this season.
1. Regime Change
Derek Lalonde’s arrival gave Hronek a fresh start. Lalonde divides up his defensive minutes differently and looked at him differently than Blashill. He gave Hronek a good chunk of point time on the power play early in the season. He trusted him in key defensive situations. His confidence has grown.
2. The Maatta Factor
Maatta is a strong defensive defenseman. He is always where he needs to be. Hronek still takes more chances than the Red Wings prefer, but Hronek’s strong chemistry with Maatta has reduced the danger of risk-taking.
3. Hronek’s Prime Years
At 25, with 269 NHL games, Hronek is at the age when he should be making his biggest impact. The Czech federation has great trust in Hronek for international play.
4. Improved Defensive Play
Hronek is not just having a good season offensively. He’s been a strong two-way defenseman. Remember how he broke up a three-on-one Columbus Blue Jackets’ attack by deflecting the puck off Patrik Laine’s stick. Lalonde has matched Hronek and Maatta against some of the better offensive lines. He shown considerable trust in the twosome. Hronek leads the Red Wings in plus-minus (+11) and Maatta is at +9. Detroit associate coach Bob Boughner, a former NHL defensemen, has helped both of them. One of the strengths of Red Wings this season has been the play of their top four defensemen.
5. Success Begets More Success
With 22 points in 24 games, Hronek is eighth in scoring among NHL defensemen. His 50.9 Corsi is best among the Detroit players have played the majority of Detroit games. Since Nov. 19, he has posted six multiple-point games. He feels better about his role than he felt last season. Or least, he has made peace with it.