I figured I'd write up another one of these.
Note that personnel formerly with the team but currently residing in Grand Rapids are not included, nor are temporary call-ups from same.
Opinions welcome (of course).
Justin Abdelkader: B+. Abdelkader was inexplicably exiled to the 4th line soon after the season began, his ice time being superseded by players who were arguably less deserving. He has recently been elevated to the 2nd line with Helm and Alfredsson, and has developed solid chemistry with them both. Whatever else might be said, Abdelkader has done well in the role given to him. He plays physically, retrieves pucks, mucks in the corners and along the boards, plays admirable defensive hockey, and contributes satisfactorily on offense. He has recently been given more time on the penalty kill (replacing Cleary in that rotation), and has done very well in that capacity.
Daniel Alfredsson: B+. Alfredsson brings hard work, leadership, and excellent two-way play to the table. His play has been lacking only in consistency---he has had the tendency thus far to disappear for a few games at a time---and goal-scoring; most of his production thus far has come in the form of helpers.
Joakim Andersson: B+. Andersson is neither flashy nor quick, but he's not expected to be. He performs admirably as a defensive center, chips in on offense here and there, is a mainstay on a very successful penalty-killing unit, and has done excellently in the face-off circle.
Todd Bertuzzi: B-. Bertuzzi gives his all in every game, and it's undeniable that he still possesses a great deal of talent. Unfortunately, his body is less and less cooperative, and he's no longer capable of producing offense on his own.
Daniel Cleary: F. Two realities prevail with regards to Cleary. First is that he has contributed tremendously to this organization throughout the majority of his stay therein. In addition to his contributions on the score sheet, he has been an exemplary model of hard work, grit, and selflessness. Second is that his body is now a wreck, rendering him incapable of effective play on the ice. This is evident in his performance thus far, and Babcock appears to have finally accepted it as well; Cleary's ice time has been tremendously reduced in the past five games. Hopefully Cleary will see the light also; and it'd be great to see him given another role in the organization after he retires.
Pavel Datsyuk: A. The reasons are self-evident. Datsyuk continues to dazzle and impress in all areas of his game.
Darren Helm: A. Earlier in the season, I heard famous Red Wings hater Eddie Olczyk define Helm as a difference-maker and express belief that the Wings would very likely have defeated the Blackhawks last postseason had Helm been in the lineup. For once, I agree with Mr. Flintstone. Upon returning to the lineup, Helm promptly reminded all why he is such an integral piece of this organization. His sudden aptitude in scoring goals is a very pleasant surprise; after only 14 games, he's tied for 3rd in goal scoring on the team.
Johan Franzen: B. Whatever the reason for which Franzen took time off recently, it has worked. His first 13 games were dismal; in his 10 since returning to the lineup, he has racked up 13 points, five of which were goals, and has been part of the team's most successful line during that period. More, he's working hard on the ice. When he's on his game, the Mule can be a dominating presence. Hopefully his current level of play will persist.
Drew Miller: C+. Miller had a poor start. While his work on the penalty kill was very solid, he was atrocious at even strength. Fortunately, his play in the latter situation has begun to improve. Miller's play is very important for the performance of the bottom six; hopefully he'll continue his upward progress.
Gustav Nyquist: A. Normally, a player who has played only six games would not garner any grade. Nyquist, however, has performed brilliantly since being called up, and has played a very substantial role in the team's success over its past six games. He is an excellent passer, has an impressive ability to find the open spots on the ice, possesses a deceptively accurate shot, and is second only to Datsyuk in his ability to steal pucks from the opposition. He has thus far been part of an extremely effective line alongside Zetterberg and Franzen, and has more than justified the decision to give him a permanent spot on the team.
Mikael Samuelsson: D-. Samuelsson's lack of importance to this team is illustrated in the almost complete lack of expectations any fan of this team seems to have of him. Babcock seems to have written him off even before the season began, and Samuelsson's play has done nothing to suggest that this was an incorrect decision. The best that can be said about him is that the opposition rarely scores while he's on the ice; he ranks first on the team in that category. That said, he is played exclusively against the opposition's 4th line, so this is not altogether impressive, and he hasn't scored a goal since the first game of the season.
Tomas Tatar: B+. While his defensive play needs work, Tatar continues to demonstrate why he was last year's playoff MVP in the AHL. He's enormously agile, has tremendous control over the puck, and ranks amongst the fastest players on the team. He's almost certain to develop into an important role in the organization as his career progresses.
Stephen Weiss: D. “Disappointing” best sums up Weiss's play thus far. He has done precisely nothing to justify his salary, and currently inhabits the 4th line. Worse, he has shown no signs of improvement. While he does well defensively, that's not nearly enough. He faces a possible buyout this summer if his dismal level of play continues.
Henrik Zetterberg: A. As with Datsyuk, this is self-evident. Hank has been an exemplary leader and superb on the ice.
Danny DeKeyser: A-. Despite his youth and relative inexperience, DeKeyser is perfectly capable of playing acceptably on the first pairing. He can be played effectively in all situations, and has even shown a degree of capacity on the power play. While he has the occasional foible in his play, he's improving steadily, and has been very impressive. Look for him to be a mainstay on defense moving forward.
Jonathan Ericsson: A-. Ericsson's play over the past two seasons has certainly justified his new, long-term contract. He has developed from a boneheaded, mistake-prone youngster into a very solid shutdown defenseman with puck-moving upside. If he ever learns to use that enormous slap shot of his, watch out.
Jakub Kindl: C+. Kindl's improvement last season has not persisted. He continues to make inexplicable errors on defense, and suddenly seems unable to get shots through to the opposing goalie. He needs to be better, plain and simple. Inconsistency has always been his greatest drawback.
Niklas Kronwall: A-. While not as spectacular as a certain ex-Red Wing caused us to expect our #1 defenseman to be, Kronwall has nonetheless been solid. He performs well in all situations, and ranks amongst the league's best defensemen in scoring.
Brian Lashoff: B. Lashoff performs capably as a third-pairing defenseman on the third pairing and on the penalty kill. He is by no means flashy, and is generally invisible. This is perfectly fine for a bottom-pairing shutdown defenseman.
Kyle Quincey: F. Quincey has been patently horrendous, and is matched only by Cleary in ineffectiveness on the ice. But whereas Cleary's troubles stem from physical incapacity, Quincey's arise from his stupidity and atrocious situational awareness. More, he continues to be absolutely worthless on offense. Nobody could ever have dreamed that he'd be so terrible. And given the blithe, unconcerned look that he always presents during his frequent trips to the penalty box, and his seemingly total disinterest in improving upon his thus far dismal play, it's difficult to judge if he really cares that he's playing so awfully.
Brendan Smith: C. Smith has been frustrating. He makes his substantial talent evident on some occasions, and plays terribly on others. Unfortunately, the latter are thus far more common than the former. If he can consistently play up to his level of ability, he'll be a very valuable commodity. If he maintains his enigmatic play, he'll continue to be a source of problems. It's all up to him. Whatever the case, he's been far from good enough thus far.
Jimmy Howard: B-. Howard has, in a word, been unsatisfactory. His play began strong and then tapered off abruptly. While it is certainly true that he has often been given very little offensive support, it's also true that he has let in numerous questionable goals. It's very important to the team that he return to his usual level of performance.
Jonas Gustavvson: A. Gustavsson's work with Jim Bedard appears to have paid great dividends. Far from the hectic, ineffective style he practiced in Toronto, Gustavsson now plays calmly and with solid technique. While he still lets in the occasional bad goal, he more often makes excellent saves, and has yet to lose a game in regulation. He has undoubtedly been the team's greatest surprise thus far.