Last season was a tough one for the Detroit Red Wings and their fans. They ended the year tied for last place in the revamped Central Division with the Columbus Blue Jackets, finishing with 48 points and a 19-27-10 record. There was a seven-point gap between them and the sixth-place team, the Chicago Blackhawks. But during the 2021 NHL Draft, they addressed some pressing needs.
General manager Steve Yzerman was a busy man at the draft, starting with his two first-round draft picks, defenseman Simon Edvinsson and goaltender Sebastian Cossa. Edvinsson was drafted sixth overall, and Cossa was selected with the 15th overall pick. The Red Wings had eight total picks in the draft, including Edvinsson and Cossa. They also drafted Shai Buium, Carter Mazur, Redmond Savage, Liam Dower Nilsson, Oscar Plandowski, and Pasquale Zito.
In the offseason, the Red Wings started things off with a bang, acquiring goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Jonathan Bernier and a third-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. They also acquired Mitchell Stephens from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 2022 sixth-round pick. Yzerman also acquired Nick Leddy from the New York Islanders in exchange for Richard Panik and a 2021 second-round pick. During free agency, the Red Wings had several restricted free agents that they needed to re-sign, and Yzerman succeeded. He re-signed Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana, and Filip Hronek, among others. As for unrestricted free agents, Detroit’s biggest signing was Pius Suter, bringing the young center in on a two-year, $6.5 million deal. They also re-signed veteran Sam Gagner. Now that the past has been reviewed, let’s look at the Red Wings’ future.
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As a team, the Red Wings scored 127 goals during the 2020-2021 condensed NHL season. That total ranked them 30th in the league. Their leading scorer was Hronek, who had 26 points in 56 games. While that is impressive for a defenseman, with the forward talent that Detroit has, that is inexcusable. Captain Dylan Larkin was second on the team with 23 points and Anthony Mantha, who was traded to the Washington Capitals for Jakub Vrana, was third on the team with 21. The Red Wings are going to need someone to step up to replace Mantha’s production. That someone could be Lucas Raymond, the fourth-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. He has made the roster after an impressive training camp and preseason. He has the potential to be the Red Wings’ next scoring threat.
By the team’s standards, the Red Wings’ defense was serviceable, finishing 21st in the league in total goals against with 171. The addition of Leddy should be a huge asset to this defensive core. His defensive points share last season sat at 2.9, which would have been the best on last year’s Red Wings team. He will more than likely play alongside Moritz Seider, the sixth-overall pick in the 2019.
Things in the crease will look different in Detroit this season. It will be the tandem of Nedeljkovic and the returning Thomas Greiss. As for who will be the starter, you could make the case for either one. Greiss is the returning starter, while Nedeljkovic is coming off a great rookie season where he was third in Calder Trophy voting, and led the league in save percentage with a .932 and GAA with a 1.90. Keep a close eye on this tandem, as this could be as close to an even split as we see this season for any team.
While this most likely will be another long season for the Red Wings, there will still be at least a couple of players that will be key to helping them get on the right track. The only thing left is to figure out which players are crucial to the success of the rebuild. Let’s take a look at the key players for Detroit.
In Detroit, the captain will truly be the one to guide the ship. Albeit it was a shortened season last year, but 23 points was certainly not what many fans were expecting from Larkin. But that could also be attributed to the entire team. Now that the league is back to normal, Larkin will certainly be looking to bounce back and lead his team once again this season.
Hronek is one of the candidates to have a breakout year this season. He led the team in points last season, and he could easily do it again. Paired up with Danny DeKeyser on the blue line, he’ll get most of the offensive opportunities in that pairing, and will have plenty of playmaking options with the first line. Hronek should be close to the top of the leaderboard in points for the team again this year.
Biggest Question Facing the Red Wings
For the Red Wings, there are a multitude of big questions that could be put in this category. But for this particular team, the biggest questions have to be on the offensive end. Can the talent that the Red Wings have produce more offense? They are extremely capable of doing so. All the young firepower that this team has and will keep developing could be lethal. It just might take a little more time for them to get there.
This season’s forecast calls for showers in Detroit. They are still very clearly in a rebuild and are on the outside looking in. But, if Red Wings fans are looking for a little bit of sunshine, they have the Buffalo Sabres in their division again. So odds are, they won’t finish last, but they’ll still finish seventh. Hopefully for Red Wings fans, the team will provide a good glimpse of what their future will look like with their play in 2021-2022.
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