Justin Abdelkader is not a star player on the Detroit Red Wings, nor would he be on almost every team in the NHL. Justin Abdelkader does not need to be a star, and that is why the Wings needs to give him what he wants in this new contract.
Abdelkader is a name I often hear criticized for not producing enough points or taking penalties at dumb times. To be fair, Todd Bertuzzi is no angel on the ice and he does he share of untimely penalties as well. The difference for most Detroit faithful is that Bertuzzi is also a big man who puts up big points, where Abdelkader is much less likely to impress on the offensive end. This, in my opinion, leads many to believe that Abdelkader is asking for too much of a raise in his next contract.
I must disagree with those who feel that way. True, Abdelkader may not always be impressive with skills, but he it is obvious he gives 100% every shift and hits everything in sight when he is out there on the ice. He centers a grinding line that when effective can eat up valuable minutes (over 12min / game in 2012) and if nothing else gives his first- and second-line teammates a breather. He also gives Michiganders a sense of pride, especially when he stands up for a teammate and goes toe-to-toe with the gloves off against the opposing team’s agitator.
I feel another big problem Detroit fans have with Abdelkader is that he is often compared to speedster Darren Helm. Fans often see Helm as having much more of an upside and frankly his speed is only comparable to a few other players in the league. The problem with this comparison is that Abdelkader’s role on the team is not the same as Helm’s. Thus, the comparison becomes almost a mute point. When we see Abdelkader for who he his, an agitator / enforcer who can can grind out plays and chips points in (22P in 2012), his value becomes more clear.
In Detroit past enforcers like McCarty, Kocur, and Probert are household names. Heroes, even. A grinder, fighter, and the occasional big goal is what Abdelkader brings to the ice 100% every game. I just would like to see this Michigan native receive what I believe he deserves.