Expectations may have never been lower for the Detroit Red Wings entering this past season. Everyone knew they were not going to be good after how the previous year went. After his Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in the bubble, everyone trusts General Manager and Wings legend Steve Yzerman. Of course, the team was awful again in 2020-21, but a great trade deadline packaged with the team not finishing in eighth place has brought some hope to the table.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 11.4 percent (30th)
Penalty Kill: 77.6 percent (26th)
Goals For: 127 (30th)
Goals Against: 171 (21st)
So, that thing about the season not being so bad? Well, that was a lie. It was still pretty awful. The personal performances were abysmal. Defenseman Filip Hronek‘s 26 points led the team in scoring, and Dylan Larkin really fell off, scoring just nine goals in 44 games. The real reason that the Red Wings were able to stay ahead of Columbus in the division was goaltending. The overall numbers look bad, but Thomas Greiss was as great as 2019-20 in five-on-five. At even strength, Greiss had a .928 save percentage and a 2.11 GAA. The terrible Wings penalty kill is what killed Greiss, as he had a 9.85 GAA there. The team has a lot of work, but Greiss and co-starter Jonathan Bernier were not the problems.
Well, as hinted at before, Larkin was underwhelming. He was second on the team in points and first among forwards, but you should expect more from your top center and captain than 23 points. The main problem was that his shooting percentage was down to 6.7 percent. Larkin’s expected goals percentage was also his worst since 2016-17. His normal linemates did change, as Tyler Bertuzzi was out for most of the year, and Anthony Mantha was just as inconsistent until being shipped off.
Behind the Bench Analysis
Jeff Blashill inherited a Red Wings team when Mike Babcock left, and he always seemed doomed to fail. However, he has become one of the longest-tenured coaches in the league, and he was recently extended. Blashill has not done anything to prove that he is more than a stopgap. This won’t be the year he is fired, but it is hard to see Blashill being behind the bench the next time this team is competitive. Albeit that may be a long time.
Front Office Analysis
Yzerman built a top-3 team in the NHL, making Red Wings fans wish for the same. So far, he has done a good job taking things slow. Yzerman bet on small, one-to-two-year deals in the offseason, looking to make trades at the deadline. He did sell some rentals, but the biggest heist came with the Mantha trade. Yzerman got back a first and a second-round pick, which is good on its own. Then, he got Jakub Vrana, a player who could be just as good as Mantha already. Adding in solid checking forward Richard Panik, and this got one-sided. Yzerman’s doing just fine.
2021 NHL Entry Draft Picks
The team has just one pick in the final two rounds, but they have at least two picks per round in the first five. In round one, they have their own, slated to be sixth overall, as well as Washington’s. The amazing Andreas Athanasiou trade last year, as well as taking on Marc Staal‘s contract, earned them two extra seconds. Remember when they traded away Tomas Tatar? The third-round pick acquired then is up this year. Trading away Jonathon Merrill and taking on some of David Savard‘s contracts got them a fourth and a fifth. They are loaded this year.
This is another rebuilding offseason, so we should expect to see more of the same from Detroit. Renting out cap space for draft picks and getting low-cost free agents. The draft will be the most interesting part of the year, as they have another high pick. But just like in the 90s, Red Wing fans need to know one thing: trust Yzerman.
Follow Carter LaCorte on Twitter @CarterHudBlog
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