COMMENTARY | All things considered, Damien Brunner had a successful first year in the NHL.
The 27-year-old Swiss was hot to start the season with 10 goals in his first 19 games but cooled down in the second half of the season scoring just two goals in 25 games.
He rebounded in the playoffs as he led the team with five goals in 14 games, including a big overtime goal against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 of the Western Conference quarterfinals to tie the series at 2-2.
Brunner will be an unrestricted free agent if the Detroit Red Wings don't re-sign him before the July 5 deadline.
The Red Wings had trouble scoring this past season -- ranked 19th in the league -- but if Detroit re-signs Brunner, he will be a big part in bringing the offensive firepower back to Hockeytown.
Brunner has a great set of hands and speed to go along with it. He can use the offseason to bulk up and continue to improve on his skill set.
The scoring slump definitely has to worry the Red Wings as they don't want to have another Valtteri Filppula on their hands, but Brunner won't cost nearly as much as Filppula will.
If Detroit signs Brunner to a short contract and he doesn't end up panning out -- which I don't think will be an issue -- the Red Wings can part ways with him when his contract expires.
Brunner has shown he can adapt to the physical North American style of hockey. He played on the third line -- generally a team's checking line -- with Joakim Andersson and Gustav Nyquist for the better part of the season.
That line was one of the better third lines in the league. It had the perfect combination of size and grit (Andersson) with speed and skill (Nyquist and Brunner).
He started the season on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. His chemistry with Zetterberg carried over from their days playing on EV Zug together in the Swiss league during the latest lockout. But injuries and Brunner's slump forced coach Mike Babcock to reshuffle the lines.
He also is a valuable asset on the power play. At first, I didn't like how Babcock used Brunner on the point in power-play situations.
However, Brunner worked on his puck-moving skills and is a lot more confident carrying the puck on the blue line.
If the Red Wings want to get their scoring punch back, they have to re-sign Brunner.
Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can find Tom on Twitter @tom_mitsos.
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- Damien Brunner