What Steve Yzerman is building has traction In Detroit
The Detroit Red Wings are currently in a position in the Eastern Conference which means they are not mathematically out of the playoff race, but are also nowhere near being playoff bound. Despite a massive improvement on last season, the Red Wings are still playing for draft picks, albeit probably not as high as in recent years unless the Draft Lottery favors them. What this season has shown is what Steve Yzerman is building has traction and is starting to come to fruition a little quicker than expected.
With 29 games remaining the Red Wings are 16 points behind fourth-place Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division and 13 points behind the Washington Capitals of the Metropolitan Division for a wildcard playoff place. Probably not going to happen, but what Saturday’s defeat to the Toronto Maple Leafs showed is that despite being down the Red Wings will continue to fight. The result might end up the same in the end but they won’t make it easy for you.
However, there are still things that Yzerman can do to move the rebuild along in Detroit. Below are three things that can help.
Firstly, Yzerman needs to get Alex Nedeljkovic some backup when it comes to goaltending. Whatever the question is, Thomas Greiss is not the answer. Without an experienced backup goaltender that can help Nedeljkovic grow, as well as provide adequate coverage the Detroit Red Wings will continue to struggle.
Now, neither goaltender has been out of this world spectacular this season, but the future is Nedeljkovic. He will have to do better than his current .907 SV% and 3.01 GAA, but when your backup is rocking a .900 SV% and 3.23 GAA it’s not like you can have an extended break.
The underwhelming form of both goaltenders is not a reason to panic-buy a starter and push Nedeljkovic back into the backup role he made his own with the Carolina Hurricanes last season. Nobody is giving up on Carter Hart in Philadelphia and while Nedeljkovic may have a few years on his fellow second-round pick the same should be said of Detroit.
Secondly, finding Moritz Seider a long-term defensive partner will not only strengthen the defensive core but could also help the goaltending situation. Seider’s partner this season has been experienced defenseman Danny DeKeyser who becomes a UFA at the end of the year. There is no way the Red Wings should re-sign DeKeyser at his current $5million AAV to any sort of long-term deal. The same can be said for Nick Leddy whom they traded Richard Panik and a 2021 second round pick for before the expansion draft.
Simon Advinsson and William Wallinder are both on their way, with Advinsson’s more defensive game a perfect fit for Seider’s explosiveness, but both would need a season or even two in North America to adjust their game. Maybe you bring back DeKeyser for another season or two but a cheaper option would be much more preferable given you have Filip Zadina, Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Lucas Raymond, and Seider all expiring in the next three years.
And lastly, stick with the youth. Raymond is a star in the making. Yes, he will miss out on this year’s Calder Trophy to team-mate Seider, but that doesn’t change the fact he will be a massive piece of the puzzle going forward for the Red Wings. The winger has spent most of his time this season with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi as line-mates which is ideal given his relative inexperience. While there is still an outside chance of the playoffs now wouldn’t be a bad time for Jeff Blashill to start mixing lines and see what he has.
How does a trio of Larkin, Raymond, and Filip Zadina look!?! The sample size this season is too small to tell long-term but with a 50 CF% and a 62.50 HDCF% the trio are showing they are creating chances and good ones at that when on the ice together. However, do you then lose the bite and nastiness of Bertuzzi from the line making them less effective!?!
The pressure is not on the Detroit Red Wings to make the playoffs this season, so now would be a good time to figure out some of those questions. In the next few years, pressure will mount and expectations that the Red Wings are beginning to challenge will be the bare minimum. What Steve Yzerman is building has traction, now he needs to keep it moving forward.