As the 2021-22 postseason begins to wind down and teams vying for the Stanley Cup continue to try and clear their path to arguably the best trophy in all of sports, teams on the outside looking in are using this time to evaluate roster needs and potential draft scenarios. The Detroit Red Wings are one of the latter teams, and a part of the roster that needs to be addressed is the center depth. Even though the 2021-22 regular season was viewed as a step forward by most, there are still glaring holes in a roster of players with playoff ambitions.
There are many key pieces that form a Stanley Cup contending team, but one of the most important and often overlooked roles is the second-line center. The Tampa Bay Lightning has Anthony Cirelli; the Colorado Avalanche has Nazem Kadri; the Pittsburgh Penguins have Evgeni Malkin, and there are plenty more examples. The Red Wings are looking to keep improving, and they can do that by addressing an issue that hasn’t appeared to resolve itself through other methods like the draft, although it very well could sooner rather than later.
There are plenty of center options on the free-agent market, but there’s one name that should catch the eye of Red Wings fans everywhere and has been for some time: Vincent Trocheck.
It may feel like this narrative has been run into the ground, but it’s for good reason that Trocheck is being talked about this much in Red Wings circles. He scored 51 points in 81 games in 2021-22 with the Carolina Hurricanes, which is a solid 0.63 points per game. On a per 60-minute basis, he sits at 2.11, which was 8th on the Hurricanes among players with a minimum of 100 minutes time on ice. In the goals department, he was 5th on the team with 21.
One of the most interesting statistics in Trocheck’s overall evaluation is his expected goals for percentage (xGF%). There are 22 players within the 100-minute parameter on the Hurricanes, and only one of them was under 50 percent, which, for those of you that may not be familiar with the stat, is average. Trocheck, despite being at the bottom of the leaderboard in 19th, sits at 53.88 percent.
To even further the argument that Trocheck should be the primary target of Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings front office, we can look at his goals above replacement (GAR) and expected goals above replacement (xGAR). In GAR, he placed 7th on the team with 6.8. He falls down the rankings in xGAR to 12th with 5.9.
Finally, so as not to bore you with loads of numbers, here is Trocheck’s season regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) chart.
There are plenty of things to take out of not just the chart, but his other numbers as well. First, if it wasn’t plainly obvious, Trocheck can be a very valuable addition to the Red Wings lineup. At 28-years-old, he’s at the age where his best hockey is going to be played. He provides an above-average presence on both ends of the ice, and his abilities on the power play make him an even more valuable asset, especially to a team like Detroit who truly struggled in 2021-22 with special teams.
After making $4.75 million over the last six years. He’s going to want a raise, and Detroit has enough cap space to give it to him. The term of the contract is going to be the make-or-break piece of the puzzle. While 28 isn’t “old” by any stretch, giving him anything long-term could prove to be detrimental to the team’s situation moving forward.
The one caveat to all of this is that the Red Wings currently don’t have a head coach, and no matter who it is, the team Trocheck is coming to simply isn’t as good as the Hurricanes. Rod Brind’Amour is an incredible coach behind the wheel of a very talented team. And although he should be playing around players like Jakub Vrana and Filip Zadina, who should be on the same line in 2022-23, or possibly someone else like Robby Fabbri on his wing, assuming his ACL recovery continues to go well, the wins will be less fruitful.
The good news is that there will be plenty of opportunity to not only get a good amount of time on ice, but it will be a good opportunity for Trocheck to help out the younger guys and embrace somewhat of a leadership role. For a smart and shifty guy that loves to get in the mix and go to the front of the net to look for rebounds and deflections, there’s not much more you could ask for.
Obviously, as an unrestricted free agent, where Trocheck goes is his decision in the end. But there should be lots of push from the Red Wings front office to bring him in and give him the opportunity to succeed.