Detroit Hockey Now’s Red Wings Review series is assessing every player who held a significant place in the fortunes of the 2022-23 Detroit Red Wings season. We’ll be looking at the highs and lows they experienced during the recently-completed campaign, as well as what the future holds for them in Detroit. Today, we feature forward Dominik Kubalik
Position: Right Wing
2022-23 totals (GP-G-A-P): 81-20-25-45
Contract Status: Signed through 2023-24 at $2.5 salary cap hit
When you factor Kubalik’s salary cap hit and 20-goal season, Kubalik was one of Steve Yzerman’s high value free agent acquisitions last summer.
Yzerman and coaches hoped Kubalik would again be the player he was as a Chicago Blackhawks rookie in 2019-20 when he put up 30 goals and 46 points. He didn’t reach 30 goals this season, but did finish with 45 points. He is a more well-rounded player than he was four seasons ago.
The only negative of his season was his inconsistency on both sides of the puck. Like many gifted offensive players, Kubalik is a streaky scorer. He disappeared for games at a time. In fairness, aren’t most scorers streaky? If you are a 20-goal scorer, it means you will be blanked in 60+ games. That was true for Kubalik who did most of his offensive damage early.
The Red Wings want him to be tighter defensively. As Derek Lalonde puts it, his “fingerprints” were on a few crucial goals against.
But overall, the Red Wings were pleased with his production. They appreciate his skill package, which includes a quality shot, particularly when he is set-up for a one timer.
What a shot by Kubalik for his 20th goal of the season! pic.twitter.com/MkHc3IR10o
— The Production Line Podcast (@TPLPod) March 30, 2023
2022-23 Red Wings Highlights
Kubalik launched his Red Wings career with eight points in his first five games. The last Detroit player to record more points through his first five career games with the franchise was defenseman Paul Coffey (2-8-10 in 5 games) in 1992-93. Over the past decade, only three NHLers recorded more points through their first five contests with a new team: John Tavares (6-4-10 with Toronto in 2018-19), Matt Duchene (2-7-9 with Nashville in 2019-20) and Zach Parise (5-4-9 with Minnesota in 2012-13).
Kubalik was second on the team in even-strength (13) and power play goals (7). He also owned three game-winning goals.
After the season, Czechia officials named him to their national team.
— George Malik (@georgemalik) May 3, 2023
2022-23 Red Wings Lowlight
Kubalik’s production dipped significantly in the second half of the season. After producing 13 goals and 31 points in his first 41 games, he managed only seven goals and seven assists in his final 40 games.
His power play time was cut in the second half of the season. He posted just three power play points over his last 40 games. Over the last 20 games, his power play time was down to an average of 1:20 per game.
What Does His Detroit Future Hold?
Yzerman will be looking to improve Detroit’s offense this summer. But part of that improvement is making sure there’s no reduction in output from players like Kubalik.
After Kubalik registered 30 goals and 46 points in his rookie, he followed up with seasons of 17 goals and 15 goals. The rebuilding Red Wings can’t afford another drop-off from Kubalik. At 27, he should be in his prime scoring years.
What does Lalonde want from Kubalik?
“(To be) assertive with his offensive game,” Lalonde said. “When he was scoring early on, head down, puck was going to the net, shooting with authority. Now you can see maybe at times when he’s not at the top of his game, he thinks it through too much. Is a pass-first? Is he shooting it? For him, being a shooter, need a little more tunnel vision. Just getting some inside positioning. It’s a simple thing. It probably goes unseen a lot, getting to the inside, middle lane drive. You’d be surprised, all the sudden one or two more battles where you get to the inside, your looks are a little bit different.”