Maybe he did it to himself, or maybe expectations were entirely too high. Although it is tough to keep expectations to a minimum when you score the game winning goal for the Michigan State Spartans in the championship game of the Frozen Four. It is even more difficult to keep them down when you score your first career NHL goal in the Stanley Cup finals in a game one win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his second career NHL goal 24 hours later via the “knucklepuck,” of Mighty Ducks trilogy fame. Justin Abdelkader has had brilliant moments for the Detroit Red Wings, but some what say he hasn’t quite lived up to his billing. Justin Abdelkader hasn’t been spectacular for the Detroit Red Wings, but I would argue he hasn’t needed to be.
You can argue that Abdelkader hasn’t scored nearly enough points for the Red Wings over the last couple years, and you’d probably be right. You can argue he spends too much time in the penalty box, often via stupid penalties, and you’d probably be right. You can argue that he simply needs to play better hockey to live up to expectations, and you’d probably be right.
You could also argue that he has played his role incredibly well. You can argue that he has provided much of the hustle and grit that has been lacking from the most recent versions of the Detroit Red Wings. You could argue how difficult it is to shine when playing on a team with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. You could argue that he is one of the only players to play in 80+ games last season. You could argue that he has still played well in big moments, and you can absolutely argue that Justin is only 25 years young, and that his best hockey should be in front of him.
It would be easy for a player of Abdelkaders caliber to fly under the radar on a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets or Phoenix Coyotes (no offense to either of those franchises), but that doesn’t exactly fly in Hockeytown. Playing for the Detroit Red Wings brings incredibly high expectations, especially a home grown talent like Justin Abdelkader. His career hasn’t been perfect to this point, but there isn’t a player on the planet whose has.
And you can absolutely argue that Justin Abdelkader is just the type of player the Red Wings need right now, even if he isn’t the one you want.