It’s no secret the Detroit Red Wings have struggled on defense in recent years. They have struggled to defend their net, and they have struggled to keep the puck out of their net.
Spoiler alert: Patrik Nemeth won’t make Detroit’s defense better overnight. That’s not to say signing the 27-year-old for two years at $6 million was a complete waste. Much like Valtteri Filppula, Nemeth is a placeholder until the prospects develop and can be given regular NHL minutes.
So, while he isn’t the splashiest signing of free agency, we can still look at what he brings to the table. Without further ado, let’s take a look at his isolated impact, thanks to Micah Blake McCurdy.
Right off the bat, it’s clear Nemeth won’t be lighting up the scoreboard. He had just one goal and nine assists in 74 games last season with the Colorado Avalanche. He was slightly better in 2017-18, scoring three goals and adding 12 assists in 68 games.
He also doesn’t shoot a lot, registering just 57 shots on goal last season (a down year compared to 2017-18 when he had 73). Again, the Red Wings did not sign Nemeth for his offensive prowess — or lack thereof.
It is interesting to see on the offensive side, there are some darker red circles in the slot area. We might see Nemeth jump in the play should there be an opening in the high slot. The Red Wings don’t really have active defensemen, so that will be something to keep on eye on.
However, his defensive abilities, while not earth-shattering, are slightly better than average. For reference, Danny DeKeyser also graded at a -2% for a three-year span.
Nemeth mostly was used in a bottom-four role for the Avalanche last season, and I expect he’ll be in a similar role with the Red Wings. However, depending on his partner, he may have to pick up the defensive slack.
As far as Corsi for percentage goes, Nemeth was 47.96% last season, according to Natural Stat Trick, one of the worst on the team.
He wasn’t used on the power play over the past three seasons (and I doubt he will be in Detroit), but he had some success on the PK. Again, nothing that will turn the Red Wings into a top-five penalty kill team overnight, but it’s good to know he can fill in should coach Jeff Blashill ask him to.
It’s safe to say Nemeth is not much of a puck-mover. Granted, he looks good compared to Jonathan Ericsson, but he’s still in the bottom third of the league in most categories.
Not only does he not shoot the puck a lot, but his passes generally don’t lead to shots, which is a bit concerning. Ericsson dwarfs Nemeth, and I don’t consider Ericsson to be a fantastic puck-mover by any means.
Clean zone exits have been one of the Red Wings’ biggest flaws over the past few seasons, and it appears Nemeth will only add to the problem. Again, he wasn’t signed to completely overhaul the defense, but as long as he performs average or slightly above average, Red Wings fans should be happy.
I think it’s safe to say most Red Wings fans knew they weren’t getting a stud defenseman in Nemeth, but since he’s signed for just two years, it isn’t anything to worry about. The Red Wings won’t be competitive in the next two seasons, so by the time Detroit starts to turn the corner, Nemeth will be gone.
Nemeth is only 27, relatively young for a defensemen, so there’s a chance — albeit quite small — that he could flourish with the Red Wings and become a reliable shut-down defenseman.