Despite off-season departures of the iconic Nicklas Lidstrom, 25 goal man Jiri Hudler, and never properly replacing Brian Rafalski after his 2011 exit, the Red Wings appear more than ever in a transitionary period.
However, one piece of the puzzle that has managed to maintain an upward offensive trajectory since his 2006 debut is 28-year-old Valtteri Filppula. He has finally shown signs of living up to his promise by putting together career highs during 2011-12 in goals (23), assists (43), +/-(+18), SOG (144) and shooting percentage (16).
Filppula has clearly benefitted from being locked in on a line with Henrik Zetterberg, as he has seen his ice time increase to of 18:15/game up from 16:43/game in 2010-11.
Most Common -All Situation- Line Combination Frequency Generator
Filppula has been pegged for a breakout season for several years now, with a myriad of doubters giving up on him evolving into an all-star calibre player. However, 2011-12 indeed proved to be his coming out party, going from a regression season the year prior at .55 points per-game and 39 points total, to rocketing up to an average of .82 PPG, smashing his careers high by 26 points!
One factor that still clearly limits Valtteri’s offensive potential is his lack of PP minutes. As long as he and Datsyuk are to remain centreman on the man advantage he will be hidden on the 2nd unit, as evidenced below by not spending one second on Detroit’s top PP unit last season.
However, with Tomas Holmstrom likely out of the picture now, and Filppula’s own increasing versatility to play the wing more often, he may start to ease into some top unit minutes, thus increasing his production potential.
The following Chart-A-Player Situational Ice Time tool gives a concise view of Filppula’s 2011/12 season’s in-game ice time type dispersal. As mentioned previously and is clearly denoted below, he has hit career highs in ice time and PP time (albeit on the 2nd unit). All of this has contributed, to varying degrees, to Filpulla’s much increased production.
Filppula is the only established forward in the top-nine under the age of 30. Therefore, there is plenty of reason to believe that while the sky may not be the limit for him, perhaps the peak of Mount Everest will have to do. He isn’t done developing yet.