By: Will Burchfield
If Ken Holland intends to sell at the trade deadline, his top three bargaining chips didn’t do him any favors on Wednesday night.
Before a horde of scouts in the Joe Louis Arena press box, Thomas Vanek, Mike Green and Brendan Smith were decidedly underwhelming in the Red Wings’ 2-0 loss to the Blues. The former two were mostly invisible; the latter was visible for all the wrong reasons.
As representatives from at least 13 teams scribbled on their score sheets and jotted notes on their phones, Holland lost leverage by the minute. Not that he had a whole to begin with.
Of the aforementioned trio, Vanek was likely under the sharpest inspection on Wednesday night. He is Detroit’s best trade chip, valuable enough to bring back, say, a second-round pick or a B-level prospect. (Like we said, Holland isn’t exactly sitting on a gold mine.) But all of the things that have made Vanek productive this season seemed to vanish against the Blues.
He had a hard time hanging onto the puck, struggled to find the passing lanes he usually exploits and was a non-factor in 2:23 of power play time. For scouts hoping to find an offensive playmaker, Vanek was a letdown.
[RELATED: Sizing Up A Potential Vanek-To-Chicago Trade]
The same could be said of Green. Marketable as a power play quarterback and an offensive defenseman, the veteran blueliner didn’t look the part. He failed to find the net in almost three minutes of power play time, was penalized early in the second period and generally glided through the game without making an impact.
Then there was Smith.
Though hardly a hot commodity, the defenseman has the experience, grit and skating ability that could appeal to a team in need of some help on the blue line. Anyone who watched him against St. Louis would likely contend otherwise.
Smith was careless with the puck and a step behind all night – especially in his own zone – committing four turnovers and a tripping penalty in 18:45 of action. After the first 20 minutes, maybe Smith’s worst period of the season, Jeremy Roenick scoffed at the idea of the defenseman drawing interest on the trade market.
“If I’m a GM, I am definitely not looking at Smith to make a deal because he’s not going to make your team any better — sorry,” said Roenick on NBCSN’s intermission report.
It would be dishonest to suggest the same of Vanek and Green, and even Smith still has some value in a league where there aren’t enough strong-skating defenseman to go around. But on a night when all three of them could have boosted their respective stock, they did just the opposite.
That won’t make life any easier for Holland moving forward.