Red Wings’ Player of the Year: Gustav Nyquist

Gustav Nyquist has quickly become an important part of the Red Wings.

Gustav Nyquist has quickly become an important part of the Red Wings.

The 2013-14 season was not one of the greatest in 88-year history of the Detroit Red Wings. There are not many things that will be looked back upon too fondly when the past season will be revisited sometime in the future. Sure, the Red Wings continued their jaw dropping 23 year playoff qualification streak, but that is pretty much the only occurrence that fans could be happy about.

They qualified in such an ugly, and at times dramatic, fashion that some questioned whether it was even worth it to make the playoffs and continue the streak. They finished the season 4th in a weak Atlantic Division. Some wondered if they should perhaps risk missing the playoffs in hopes for a higher draft pick.

One of the true bright spots of the last year for the Wings was a Swede and former University of Maine Black Bear, Gustav Nyquist. Nyquist, or as Wings fans affectionately call him — “Goose” — was one of the breakout players of the NHL last season and more importantly the saving grace of the Detroit Red Wings club. Goose started the season in Grand Rapids because of the cap and roster size restrictions the Wings started off the season with after GM Ken Holland made the questionable decision of resigning Mikael Samuelsson and Daniel Cleary.

Near the end of November, Nyqvist was called up to the big club from Grand Rapids as the injuries piled up. With only two more games left on his waiver exemption status, it was clear at that point that Goose would be here to stay. And wouldn’t you know it, he impressed just about everyone in the city and entire league with his breakout season. Gus would go on to play 57 games in 2013 and was far and away the team’s goal scoring leader. In fact he made his mark 17 seconds into the very first game that he featured in last season causing fans to wonder what would have been possible if Gus had been granted the ability to play in 25 more games.

With the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss, and Johan Franzen out for gobs of games many wondered how on earth the Red Wings would stay out of the bottom half of the league let alone make the playoffs. Along with Tomas Tatar, Nyquist somehow filled the void left by some all star veterans on that Red Wings team.

Yes, Nyqvist provided the statline to bolster the struggling Wings offense, but it was not just the tangible numbers that made him so valuable to the team. It was the composure and leadership that this 24 year old showed on the ice in his first real NHL playing time that really proved itself to be invaluable. Goose also had an attribute all teams yearn for, and that is goal scoring in clutch time. Within those 28 goals that Goose scored last season, some were not only highlight reel worthy but ones that fans will go on telling their grandchildren about.

In a March matchup against Tampa Bay, as the Red Wings needed every single point that they could manage, Gus picked up the puck in the neutral zone in a tied first period and did the unthinkable. After receiving a perfectly placed pass onto his backhand, Nyquist dashed in one on one with Tampa Bay’s impenetrable goalie Ben Bishop with Lightning defender Matt Carle draped all over his back. As Nyquist inched closer to the goal, Carle started slashing and hooking him causing the referee to raise his arm for a delayed penalty. This would cause most players to launch a haphazard shot and goal and be content with a power play, but not for this hardworking Swede. Nyquist managed to play a backhand to forehand deke on bishop which pulled him out of his net but also pulled himself to the side of the goal and out of a very opening scoring opportunity. However, in a split second, Nyquist pulled a quick little spin and buried the puck into a wide open net. This goal broke the tie and the momentum led the Wings to a 3-2 victory in which they acquired all of the crucial points from their divisional foe. That goal itself personified Gustav’s worth to this club. He was gritty. He was flashy but understated. He was humble. He is everything Detroit loves.

This 2014-15 season looks to be no different than last, except the Wings look to be moderately healthier. All of the league’s talking heads said last year was a fluke for Gustav and that there was no way that he could reproduce at the same level as last year. Most sane Red Wings fans scoffed at that notion seeing that they have watched him most nights and seen that this is not a flukey player, this is a hardworking player who cannot be outmuscled off a puck much like Zetterberg and Datsyuk. When Gus goes into the corner of the rink with the puck and is getting jostled around, 9 times out of 10 he is the one coming out of there with it even if he does not have the size advantage. That is the kind of player Detroit fans adore and swear by. Gus now has a team leading 14 goals and 8 assists this season, which is another reason why fans still swear by the flying Swede. The Goose is loose, and there is truly no stopping him in 2015.