2022-23 NHL Team Preview: Detroit Red Wings
The 2021-22 season will be remembered in Detroit as the year Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond arrived on the scene. The rookie duo made the Red Wings fun to watch and somewhat competitive again after a few miserable seasons, though it wasn’t enough for the team to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri and Jakub Vrana were among the Red Wings players who missed a lot of time last season, although Bertuzzi’s absences were mostly due to his unvaccinated status. The Red Wings’ special teams struggled across the board, as did goaltenders Alex Nedeljkovic and Thomas Greiss, and the club finished sixth in the Atlantic Division with a 32-40-14 record and 74 points.
Seider immediately became the Red Wings’ top defenseman and eventually won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. Raymond finished fourth in Calder’s vote and rounded out Detroit’s formidable front line with Larkin and Bertuzzi. These two players are at the forefront of the Red Wings’ new youth movement, with more new faces expected to arrive in 2022-23.
MAJOR ADDITIONS AND DEPARTURES
David Perron, RA
Andrew Copp, C.
City Husso, G
Dominik Kubalik, AG
Ben Chiarot, D.
Olli Maatta, D
Mark Pysyk, D
Austin Czarnik, AR
Sam Gagner, C (UFA)
Marc Staal, D (FLA)
Thomas Greiss, G (STL)
Mitchell Stephens, C (MTL)
Danny DeKeyser, D (UFA)
Carter Rowney, C (UFA)
Olli Juolevi, D (ANA)
Magnus Hellberg, G (SEA)
In a somewhat surprising twist, the Red Wings have been one of the most active teams in the league adding forwards through unrestricted free agency this summer. With David Perron, Andrew Copp and Dominik Kubalik now in the fold, the Red Wings have made great strides in combating the idea of them being a one-line team.
The red wings were really a one-line team last year, with much of the attacking group beyond the top unit struggling to score consistently. Larkin (69), Bertuzzi (62) and Raymond (57) all scored over 50 points in 2021-22, but no one else even reached 40 – Pius Suter came closest, with 36.
Perron has been as consistent as can be throughout his three(!!) tenures with the St. Louis Blues, most recently scoring 27 goals and 57 points in 67 games last season. The 34-year-old winger is a Stanley Cup champion and a quality veteran for a rebuilding team, especially on a very reasonable two-year deal. Copp’s contract is a bit longer, but the AAV ($5.625 million) isn’t particularly high for a 28-year-old second-line center who had 53 points in 72 games in 2021-22. The fact that he’s from Ann Arbor certainly doesn’t hurt.
Kubalik might be the Red Wings’ most interesting off-season addition. The 27-year-old winger has struggled over the past two years to replicate his first 30-goal season, which helped earn him a spot on the 2020 All-Rookie Team and make him a runner-up of the Calder Trophy. He could be a key part of helping Detroit’s power play improve on its dismal 16.3% conversion rate from last season. The same is obviously true for Perron, who has averaged more power-play points by 60 than anyone not named Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl in the past three seasons combined.
The Red Wings’ 2021-22 defensive lineup could basically be summed up as « Seider and a bunch of other guys. » With Detroit’s defensemen still unable to match those who helped the team win four Stanley Cups in a decade, Seider should have a little more help as he looks to avoid a second slump.
Ben Chiarot joined the Red Wings on a four-year, $4.75 million deal this summer. The 31-year-old defenseman logged a ton of minutes for the Montreal Canadiens on their journey to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, but his underlying numbers haven’t been particularly strong at any point in his career – and they took a considerable time. downturn last year. The Red Wings are betting pretty big on Chiarot returning to form and staying effective well into his 30s.
Olli Maatta gives the Red Wings a consistent veteran presence on the left side. Last year, Detroit often played Danny DeKeyser — whose best days were behind him — alongside Seider on Best Couple. Maatta could see some time up there this year, and he would likely fare much better than his predecessor.
We have Mark Pysyk on our depth chart as the Red Wings’ third right-handed defenseman, but it’s important to note that he’s expected to miss the first few months of the season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. Gustav Lindstrom was an effective man for the Red Wings at 23 last year and will likely fill Pysyk’s spot to start the year.
The Red Wings acquired standby UFA Ville Husso from the St. Louis Blues this summer and subsequently signed him to a three-year, $4.75 million season. Husso, 27, emerged as a legitimate 1A/1B option with the Blues in 2021-22, posting a 25-7-6 record and .919 save percentage in 40 games. It will be interesting to see what he can do behind a defensive group that is likely to be more porous than the one he became familiar with in St. Louis.
Husso and Alex Nedeljkovic will form the Red Wings’ goalie tandem this season. Nedeljkovic, 26, has steadily improved over the past season, although he rarely showed flashes of his fantastic 2020-21 performance with the Carolina Hurricanes that earned him recognition as a finalist in the Calder Trophy. In 59 games with the 2021-22 Red Wings, Nedeljkovic went 20-24-9 with a .901 save percentage.
Nedeljkovic is expected to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, though it’s not too hard to imagine the Red Wings trying to keep him if he starts strong this year. Top goaltending prospect Sebastian Cossa certainly won’t be ready to play any major NHL minutes for a few years.
Another name to remember: Jussi Olkinuora, who signed a one-year contract with the Red Wings earlier this summer. The 31-year-old Finn earned top goalie honors at the 2022 World Championships after guiding his team to an 8-0-0 record (with a .948 save percentage) and the gold medal.
Jeff Blashill is absent. The 48-year-old had been head coach of the Red Wings since the 2015-16 season, leading the team to the playoffs in his first year but failing in the next six. The Red Wings declined to renew Blashill’s contract that summer, and he later joined the Tampa Bay Lightning as an assistant.
Coincidentally, the Red Wings replaced Blashill with former Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde, who, like Blashill, is a) bald, b) American, c) a former goaltender, d) a former Cup champion Clark in the USHL, and e) a former assistant coach at Ferris State University. The hockey world is a very small place.
Lalonde helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021 and will be responsible for helping the Red Wings regain relevance in the Atlantic Division. Bob Boughner, Alex Tanguay and Jay Varady will be on his team, with Tanguay the only returnee from Blashill’s time in Detroit.
Simon Edvinsson is the only rookie on our projected Red Wings roster, but he should be pretty good.
Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman selected Edvinsson with the sixth pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. The 6’6″, 207-pound left-handed defenseman had 19 points in 44 games for Frölunda in the top-flight Swedish Hockey League last season, with his 17 assists leading all U20 players in the league.
Edvinsson signed his entry-level contract with the Red Wings in April and could start the season with the team’s third pair. But if Seider’s rookie season is any indication, the Red Wings won’t hesitate to promote Edvinsson to the top of the roster if he shows he’s ready right away.
1. Can Edvinsson follow in Seider’s footsteps? One thing the Red Wings really need is a strong, consistent partner for Seider. They tried DeKeyser, Marc Staal, Jordan Oesterle and a few others there last season, but none of them really worked. If Edvinsson can step up and play as a top-four at 19, he’ll help answer a lot of questions in Detroit.
2. What future for Robby Fabbri? Fabbri seemed to be on the right track in Detroit after tearing his left ACL twice as a member of the St. Louis Blues. But the 26-year-old suffered another ACL injury – this time, to his right knee – at the end of last season, and it’s unclear when he could be ready to return in 2022-23. Fabbri is an effective mid-six striker when healthy, and he’s under contract until the end of the 2024-25 season.
3. Is Tyler Bertuzzi about to leave? Trade rumors have followed Bertuzzi throughout the 2021-22 season, which has been the most productive of his NHL career to date. The 27-year-old winger scored 30 goals in just 68 games and played hard on the Red Wings’ first line. He has just one year left on his current contract, which carries a cap of $4.75 million, and is eligible to become UFA next summer.
The Red Wings should be a bit better in 2022-23 than they were last season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll make the playoffs. The Atlantic Division is pretty strong, and you don’t have to look far to find competing teams that have made significant progress this summer.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning are pretty much locks to get there, and the Florida Panthers have a pretty good chance — although MacKenzie Weegar is a huge loss on defense. The Boston Bruins should stay competitive, especially after Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand return to the roster around the holidays. And certainly don’t count out the Ottawa Senators, especially with Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux now in the fold.
We expect the Red Wings to have a respectable season, but even 85 points won’t be enough to qualify for the playoffs. At best, they will probably finish fifth in the Atlantic.