‘Winning player’ Luke Glendening stays positive as losses, rumors mount

By Matt Schoch
Special to The Detroit News
Luke Glendening

Detroit – Early in Luke Glendening’s career, the Grand Rapids native built a reputation as a playoff performer for the Red Wings.

This likely will be the third straight season he won’t get a chance to live up to it.

About the only way the 29-year-old center has a chance of playing in his fourth postseason is if he’s moved before Monday’s trade deadline, perhaps in a swap designed by a familiar face.

Glendening-to-Toronto rumors have swirled for much of the month with the theory stating that Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock could push for a reunion with his former two-way center.

“It’s always a bit of weird time just because you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you just take it one day at a time as best you can and just show up with a smile on my face,” Glendening said this week after a practice. “I’m going to work as hard as I can. You don’t know what’s going to happen but you can’t think too much about it, or you kind of paralyze yourself of what could be.

“So I’m just trying to keep my head on straight.”

In addition, The Athletic reported that Toronto had three credentialed scouts at Detroit’s game Wednesday night against Chicago.

Glendening has shown postseason chops in first-round losses in his first three seasons: To Boston in 2014, and in the next two seasons against Tampa Bay.

Most notably was the success Glendening had containing Tyler Johnson of the Lightning in 2015, with a brief injury by Glendening giving Johnson’s line an opening to shift the seven-game series in Tampa Bay’s favor.

That series was Babcock’s last as coach in Detroit. The next season, new Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill saw more of the same from Glendening, who he calls “a winning-type of hockey player.”

“The harder the hockey gets, the better he is. He wins his shift, shift in and shift out,” Blashill said. “By that, I mean he gets very tough assignments, and generally he’s able to limit scoring chances.”

In 17 career playoff games, Glendening is averaging .29 points per game, up from his regular-season average of .23, despite his non-playoff seasons closer to the traditional prime for a player’s career.

Heading into Friday’s game against Minnesota, the Michigan alumnus needs one point and three goals to tie his career-high marks, joining Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Andreas Athanasiou as record-setting goal-scorers this season for Detroit.

This year is the first since Babcock’s final year where Glendening is carrying a positive plus-minus at plus-7.

“I’m always going to be looking to get better, never going to be satisfied with what’s going on,” Glendening said. “I’m just trying to help the team in whatever aspect I can. Right now we’re not winning, so it’s hard to completely judge. I just want to keep getting better every day.”

Blashill pointed out Glendening’s scoring prowess when he coached him during the 2013 Calder Cup run for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League as further proof he’s a winning player. Glendening had six goals and 10 assists in 24 games during the run, tying for third on the team while often tasked with containing tough offensive foes.

“I just think he brings tons of stuff to the table,” Blashill said. “Very few guys are as hard and as smart of a hockey player as he is.”

Glendening is aware of the rumors surrounding him this time of year, but said he is keeping focused on helping turn around fortunes in Detroit.

“It’s frustrating, we’re not getting wins,” he said. “A lot of times we’ve been playing the right way, we’re just not getting the results that we want.

“We’re going to keep pressing on. We’ve got 20 or so games left here and we’ve just got to keep pushing and keep putting our best foot forward.”

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.