But it’s also worth noting that the veteran forward, whose production declined during his two seasons with the Wild to the point that Minnesota bought out his contract in June, has at least temporarily rediscovered his scoring touch with his new team, Detroit.
Through three games, Vanek already has two goals and three assists while registering as a plus-2.
This is where I double-down on the disclaimers in that not only is it early but also Vanek had a similarly good start for the Wild last season (four goals in his first seven games and a 9-8-17 line through his first 20) before finishing with just 41 points for the season in 74 games.
But his early play has been enough to garner attention — including a recent NHL.com feature about Detroit’s relatively low-risk investment in Vanek with a one-year, $2.6 million deal that is so far being rewarded. Per the feature:
“I wanted Thomas Vanek on this team,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “He brings an elite offensive ability that’s hard to get when you don’t draft high. … I just said that I thought the things that he was good at were things that we could really use, and if he worked, if he paid attention to detail, if he played defense, it was going to work out great.”
Vanek remained confident in himself. He appreciated those who showed confidence in him and liked the Red Wings’ history of cerebral, skilled hockey.
“I still know I can score and make plays in this league,” Vanek said. “[When] I know I can’t do that, then it’s time to retire. I felt good the last two years, but sometimes … It wasn’t the right fit for some reason in Minnesota. I think the role I was in wasn’t the one I was used to. I’m not faulting them. I had my downs too, and I’ll take my share of blame.“
It’s hard to say whether Vanek would have been a better fit in new coach Bruce Boudreau’s more offensive-minded system, but it stands to reason that it would have suited him better than the style under old coach Mike Yeo.
That said, the buyout came after the Boudreau hire — and this could be one of those change-of-scenery moves where a fresh start is the spark a player needs.
We’ll see if Vanek, 32, can keep it going — and whether he’s still on a roll when Detroit and Minnesota play each other for the first time this season Feb. 12 at Xcel Energy Center.