Could Dennis Cholowski Be On The Outs in Detroit?
When the Red Wings defeated Dennis Cholowski in 2016 with the twentieth overall victory, it was either a home run or a strike-out. After Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News wrote about Michael Rasmussen and Cholowski being sent to Grand Rapids, he let this little nugget in there:
With a long list of defender prospects en route to organizing the Wings, it seems time for Cholowski to show that he is a long-term building block in the organization.
“Ultimately, Dennis has to be an elite powerplay guy,” said Blashill.
Cholowski’s defensive battles eventually sent him back to the minor leagues for the past two years, and Blashill said it was still important for Cholowski to end games with the puck and not let the puck get through him in a rush.
“He knows what to do and builds his confidence,” said Blashill.
We’ve heard that before. Ryan Sproul or Robbie Russo come to mind immediately. Boys who had been on the team for some time but were replaced because that potential was never exhausted in the end. This is also a big reason the Red Wings have struggled to build their blue line since Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski stepped down. Outside of Nik Kronwall, it was a rotation of serviceable but not outstanding defenders. Not only does this harm the staff and design decisions of the previous regime (Tyler Wright and Ken Holland), but it also shows exactly why Steve Yzerman designed Moritz Seider when he still had offensive weapons on the board.
To be fair, they caught Filip Hronek on the same draft in the second round, but it seems like Cholowski has been dumped in a corner since his appearance in the 2018/19 season. He played 52 games and had seven goals, the most of any defender on the team.
A season later, he played 16 fewer games and commuted to and from Grand Rapids. He had two goals, including this one in overtime:
His quick release shows the offensive potential there, the reason why Blashill insists he has to be an elite powerplay guy in order to make up for his defensive deficiencies. And yes, they are well documented. But burying a young defender with an offensive advantage while Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson and Mike Green are back on Ice Age is again the same old, tired philosophy of the organization. Why not try to develop this further at the NHL level? Why let aging, tired defenders play while kids are seated? And this year, especially if they’re struggling to generate insults, why not give it a chance?
I wasn’t thrilled with the choice when they made it, but it really didn’t have a chance to work out a point. The blue line is still overcrowded and it doesn’t get any easier with people like Seider and Co. arriving soon.
If he plays in the final year of his contract before he is a restricted free agent, it seems like the last chance he has to crack the squad. But if Cholowski doesn’t find his way up this year – even in an emergency – it may be the writing on the wall and another first-round election that didn’t come off in Detroit.