The hope for the 2020-21 season was that the Red Wings would progress well enough for there to be hope for 2021-22. They did not do that. There was never going to be a chance to make the playoffs this year, but they at least wanted some hope. Training camp is about to start, and the hope is subzero. They scored the second-least amount of goals in the league, with just three forwards recording over 20 points, none of which reached 25. At least they weren’t a last place team, right?
Offseason additions: D Nick Leddy, F Pius Suter, G Alex Nedeljkovic, F Mitchell Stephens, D Jordan Oesterle, F Carter Rowney.
Offseason subtractions: G Jonathan Bernier, F Valtteri Filppula, F Luke Glendening, D Christian Djoos, F Bobby Ryan, F Darren Helm, F Evgeny Svechnikov, F Frans Nielsen, F Richard Panik, D Dennis Cholowski.
If the Red Wings want to get out of this rebuild fast, they need Dylan Larkin to be the electric player he was early in his career. Larkin scored 32 goals with 73 points in 2018-19, but the production since then has been weak. 2020-21 was easily his worst season, as Larkin scored just nine times with 23 points. It led Detroit forwards, but was no where near good enough. At least his two wingers will have good excuses for not scoring more than that. Tyler Bertuzzi had five goals with two assists in nine games before he missed the rest of the season with a back injury. He scored 21 goals in each of the two previous seasons. The biggest concern with Bertuzzi this year will be his missed games in Canada because he is not vaccinated. The Red Wings turned Anthony Mantha into a first and second-round pick, plus two forwards, most notably Jakub Vrana. Vrana scored 25 goals in 2019-20, but was slumping for Washington at the time of the trade. He got hot afterward, scoring eight goals with three assists in 11 games. In his second season in Detroit, Robby Fabbri got into just 30 games thanks to an upper-body injury. He still scored 10 times in those games, solidifying his role as a top-six winger on the team. The Blackhawks made a shocking move when they decided to not tender a contract to restricted free agent Pius Suter after a surprise rookie season. He finished 11th in Calder voting, scoring 14 goals with 27 points. The Red Wings must be elated to pick that guy up for just money, as they have a new, young second-line center. 2018 sixth overall pick Filip Zadina was touted for his scoring ability, something that he has not showed off at the NHL level. He scored six goals in 49 games last year. Zadina has played 86 career games, roughly a full NHL season. In those games, he has 15 goals with 37 points. The good news is that he is disciplined, with just one minor penalty in his career. While Adam Erne’s 11 goals tying for the team lead was bad for the team, it was a positive development for Erne. Sure, he had a 15.5 percent shooting rate. But it showed that he can stick around as a bottom-six winger. Another top-ten pick having a rough start to his NHL career is Michael Rasmussen. The six-foot-six center has just 30 points through his first 102 games. 12 of those came in 40 games last year. He does bring the physicality that you would expect from a guy of his height, with 156 career hits. Vladislav Namestnikov was a consistent scorer early in his career but that died with the Wings last year. In 53 games, he scored eight goals with 17 points. He was not a great fit at center either, with a 39.1 percent face-off rate in over 300 draws. Veteran Sam Gagner is back as he has been a solid bottom-six option since coming to Detroit. He scored seven goals in 42 games last year, for a 14 goal pace. That would be more than acceptable given his role. Like Erne, Mitchell Stephens is a Steve Yzerman product from Tampa Bay who has made his way to the Wings through a minor trade. Stephens was limited to just seven games last year after he was expected to play a sizable role for the Lightning’s fourth line. In the four AHL games he played in, Stephens had eight points, seven of which were assists. Grinder Carter Rowney has traded his Ducks jersey for a Detroit one. He had six assists in 19 games last year, although that was accompanied with 21 blocked shots and 45 hits. In 71 games the season prior, Rowney scored eight goals with 189 hits. Givani Smith is in the mix for a fourth line role. He had four points in 16 games last year, with 28 hits. Another option is Joe Veleno, a 2018 first-rounder. He had just 20 points in 46 games in Sweden, and three in four AHL games. Veleno got into five NHL games, scoring once.
The leading scorer for the 2020-21 Red Wings was actually Filip Hronek, with 26. The 23-year-old has a ton of offensive potential but has not been able to handle the top-pairing minutes that he has been given. Plus-minus may be a bit of an outdated stat, but it is alarming to see Hronek having a career mark of -66. Michigan native Danny DeKeyser is back for his tenth season with his hometown team. He got into 47 games last season, with 12 points and 81 blocked shots. He could get top-pairing ice-time. Like Hronek, that is asking a lot from him. It was a surprise to see the Red Wings deal the 52nd overall pick for the final year of Nick Leddy’s contract. Leddy is a great skater and is coming off of a season where he had 29 assists, more than any Red Wing had points, aside for Vrana (counting Washington stats). That is not an easy thing to do in Barry Trotz’s system. But Leddy really struggles defensively, something that was shown in the playoffs. The plan could be to flip him at the trade deadline. The exciting rookie to anticipate this season will be 2019 sixth overall pick Moritz Seider, fresh off a great season in Sweden. He was the SHL’s defenseman of the year, with 28 points in 41 games. He has experience in North America, playing the 2019-20 season in the AHL. After a bit of an expansion draft scare, Troy Stecher is back with the Red Wings. He was a very good two-way defender in his first season in Detroit, with 11 points and 46 blocked shots in 44 games. Over three seasons in Arizona, Jordan Oesterle was a blocked shot machine. He had 44 points with 291 blocks in 172 games for the Coyotes. 11 of those points and 64 of those blocks came in 43 games last season. Speaking of blocked shots, Marc Staal has over 1200 in his 14 season career. The last of those years came with the Red Wings, where he was merely a veteran presence who came with a draft pick for cap-related reasons. Still, he did play in all 56 games. Gustav Lindstrom is looking to break-in with the team. He had three assists in 13 games last year, and has four in 29 career games, with 33 hits and 32 blocks. His uncle, Marcus Ragnarsson, was a defender for the Sharks in the 1990s.
The Red Wings have a real goalie for their rebuild. They got a steal from the Hurricanes, dealing a third-round pick and the rights to UFA Jonathan Bernier for Alex Nedeljkovic, who just finished third in Calder voting. Nedeljkovic was great in the regular season, with a .932 save percentage and a 1.90 GAA in 23 games. Both of those led the league. The narrative that he struggled in the playoffs is not completely true, as he had a .920 save percentage in nine starts. Veteran Thomas Greiss returns as a backup. He went from the Islanders’ system to the Wings’, and it did not go as bad as you would have thought. Greiss posted a respectable .912 save percentage with a 2.70 GAA.
Tyler Bertuzzi – Dylan Larkin – Jakub Vrana
Robby Fabbri – Pius Suter – Filip Zadina
Adam Erne – Michael Rasmussen – Vladislav Namestnikov
Carter Rowney – Mitchell Stephens – Sam Gagner
Extras: Givani Smith, Joe Veleno
Danny DeKeyser – Filip Hronek
Nick Leddy – Moritz Seider
Jordan Oesterle – Troy Stecher
Extras: Marc Staal, Gustav Lindstrom
The Red Wings made progress through their rebuild this offseason. They have a new starting goalie in Nedeljkovic, who at age 25 is young. They also made a nice addition in Suter. This all helps, but it does not make them a playoff team. They hope that Seider can be the real deal and that Larkin can bounce back. That is just about all the hope they have for this season.