Red Wings say they'll miss 'awesome' Tomas Tatar
Detroit — In 13 seasons with the Red Wings, Niklas Kronwall has seen teammates come and go.
Usually, it is under happy circumstances.
Given the success of the franchise through his tenure, exits often have been sentimental retirements after careers well done.
But Tomas Tatar did not make it through with the rest of the fellows.
About that, the Wings expressed chagrin after an optional practice Tuesday, before the team’s annual session with the Detroit Economic Club.
“Well, first and foremost, he’s a good friend of ours,” Kronwall said, of the forward traded to the Golden Knights on Monday for prized draft picks. “He’s been here a long time.
“You know, you get that kind of bond between the guys.
“Definitely, his presence — we’ll definitely miss him, for sure.”
Tatar’s 222 points in 407 games for the Red Wings, 115 goal and 107 assists, provided a significant chunk of the offense, once he broke into the lineup under Mike Babcock with nine games played in 2010-11 and 18 the next season.
In the next four seasons, Tatar scored 19, 29, 21 and 25 goals, before tallying 16 through 62 games this season.
His teammates know his big personality, too.
There is a bit of playful mischievousness to Tomas Tatar. It could lighten a moment.
But the Red Wings know they have lost something else, too: The ability to keep everyone in the platoon with them on the long march.
Successful clubs do that.
Disappointing clubs trade good parts for a chance at something new.
“That’s a message to everyone,” Kronwall said. “Had we played up to our potential, he’d still be here.
“And we’d be in a completely different role. We’d be buyers, instead.”
GM Ken Holland, coach Jeff Blashill, Henrik Zetterberg and Kronwall, and other Wings, say that this club should have achieved more, for two seasons.
They believe the roster can win, and win in stretches.
It has failed to do so, while keeping highly-paid, veteran players,
Trading Tatar is a bit of a departure.
It is not lost on the Red Wings.
What is lost is one of their pals, one of the buddies with whom they went to battle.
Almost to a man, NHL players say what they miss most when the leave the game is the people, especially “the guys.”
One of the guys is gone, now.
They can no longer bring him with them.
“Tats is one of my favorite guys that I’ve ever coached,” Blashill said, reflecting how the loss is felt personally, even more than its significance professionally. “He’s an awesome, awesome person.
“Always came in with a smile on his face.
“I thought he was passionate. He wanted to win. Always accountable.”
What seemed to trouble Blashill particularly is what he knows, down deep, about Tatar.
“He wanted to be a Red Wing,” the coach said. “He was proud to be a Red Wing.”
Taking the phone from Holland on Monday after the trade deadline, when the Red Wings moved Tatar for a first-round pick in 2018, a second round pick in 2019 and a third round pick 2021, Blashill said he asked Tatar how he was doing.
Tatar said the trade surprised him, Blashill said.
But neither the coach or the team mates are likely to be much worried about Tatar, whose buoyant personality seems likely to carry him through any disappointment, the uncertainty of new things and the considerable inconvenience of uprooting from a home of several years.
Meanwhile, Tatar is likely to jump in on the third line for a team that is the toast of the NHL this season.
The Golden Knights are destined for the playoffs in their first season in the NHL, as arguably the most successful expansion franchise in history.
And, Tatar will play for a successful coach who has a considerable reputation as “a player’s coach,” and who once scored a good amount of goals himself for the Red Wings, Gerard Gallant.
“As a teammate, it’s always unfortunate to see a guy go,” defenseman Mike Green said.
Green almost went himself Monday. But questions about his injured neck, the availability of other defensemen and the Wings desire to keep him trumped any thought of a trade.
“You know, Tats was a great player,” Green said. “I got to know him a great deal over the last three years, myself,
“It’s always sad. It really is. But on the flip side, we understand the business side of things, and we wish him the best. But, yeah, I think collectively, as a group, we’re sad.”