Red Wings gamble Robby Fabbri is healthy, ready to return to previous success
Detroit — With the way the season is going and what the immediate future looks like for the Red Wings, it’s worth the gamble.
When you went to sleep late Wednesday after watching the Red Wings lose to the New York Rangers — all right, maybe you watched a little bit of it — the Wings traded Jacob de la Rose to the St. Louis Blues for Robby Fabbri.
It was a trade that, on the surface, the Wings couldn’t say no to, considering the potential upside on Fabbri.
The Wings knew what they had in de la Rose, a dependable fourth-line checking forward who filled his role well but didn’t seem to have any upside beyond what he is.
On the other hand, Fabbri, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound center, could be a shrewd acquisition — if he’s healthy and comes close to the offensive production of his rookie and sophomore seasons in the NHL.
Or, basically, before two operations on torn ACLs in the same knee. He missed the 2017-18 season completely while rehabbing the knee, then hurt it again six months later.
Fabbri, 23, hasn’t been able to duplicate his 2015-16 season (18 goals, 37 points in 72 games), in which he added 15 points (four goals) in 20 playoff games that season.
This season, Fabbri — a 2014 first-round pick of the Blues — got into nine games with a stacked, Stanley Cup-winning lineup in St. Louis and had one point (a goal) while averaging just under 10 minutes of ice time per game.
Fabbri, a teammate of Tyler Bertuzzi on the 2014 Guelph Ontario Hockey League championship team, had been a healthy scratch at times and was getting frustrated, feeling he is close to returning to his earlier success on the ice and feeling good physically.
Immediately after being informed of his trade last night in Edmonton, Fabbri told The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford he was looking for an opportunity and believes going to Detroit will provide that chance.
“I was happy with how I was playing and I thought my game was coming back,” Fabbri said. “I just didn’t get the opportunity I was hoping for to help push myself to get back to where I was. If you ask any player, they would want to get more opportunity or whatnot. But this team (the Blues) did great things last year, and there are guys that did fantastic things to get them to where they are. There’s nothing I can do about that.”
Fabbri is looking forward for the chance to play regularly with the Wings.
“I’m excited to get (to Detroit) and give them everything I’ve got right away,” Fabbri said. “I’m not going to let this opportunity slip away. There’s still lots of the book that has to be written and this is just a new chapter. I’m excited to get there and meet all the guys and get things going with them.
“I’m excited to use this fresh start to do that.”
Some, though, aren’t sure Fabbri will get back to the potential he showed earlier in his career.
NBC Sports Nework analyst Pierre McGuire said Thursday on a radio interview on TSN Ottawa the Fabbri trade was a gamble for general manager Steve Yzerman.
“I can’t say this enough,” McGuire said. “Coming back from one ACL injury is tough, but coming back from two ACLs is unbelievable. The fact that he was able to do it and find his way on a Stanley Cup roster and hoist the Stanley Cup is a testament to his will.
“Maybe there’s still something left for him to do, but the pace of the league is so quick now and you have to get to those areas (on the ice). And at this point, I just don’t know (if Fabbri can get to those areas). I just don’t know.”
Ironically, the Wings now have three first-round picks from the 2014 Entry Draft — Brendan Perlini (who was selected 12th by Arizona), Dylan Larkin (15th) and Fabbri (21st).
Yzerman has now acquired defenseman Alex Biega (for Grand Rapids forward David Pope), Perlini (for prospect Alec Regula) and Fabbri.
Fabbri, theoretically, strengthens the Wings up the middle and improves what has been a terrible offense thus far this season past Larkin’s top line.
Having lost 12 of their last 13 games, the Wings could use any help they can get. The options coach Jeff Blashill at his disposal right now are limited, with the chance for goals slim beyond Larkin's line.
For the price paid in the trade, Fabbri was worth the gamble.
Bruins at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
TV/radio: FSD, NHL/97.1
Outlook: The Red Wings (4-12-1) attempt to get into the win column against the powerful Bruins (11-2-2). … Boston has the top-ranked power play (31.4 percent) and No. 5 penalty kill (86.7 percent). David Pastrnak leads the NHL in goals (15) and points (30). ... The Wings made a personnel move Thursday, sending Joe Hicketts back to Grand Rapids.