The Detroit Red Wings season, believe it or not, is in its final ten games. There’s been improvement from the doldrums of last season, but there is still some ways to go in the rebuild. Here’s ten things to watch for in the final ten games:
1: Joe Veleno gets more than a couple games in the Show
Already on the taxi squad, here’s hoping it’s the next step before he fills in on a line. With Frans Nielsen not returning to the game Saturday night, this opens up a chance for Veleno should Nielsen’s injury stretch into the week. If the audition happens, it’s hopefully several games instead of just a couple.
2: Give Troy Stecher Top 2 Minutes
Easily the best defenseman on the team this season, why shouldn’t he get the time to prove what he can do with real minutes? Danny DeKeyser‘s ATOI is about 17 seconds more–which is shocking. Stecher should get a hard look over the final ten games to see what he can handle. If Moritz Seider truly is the player fans and pundits think he is, this team would be pretty strong on the right side of the blue line.
3: Thomas Greiss finishes Strong
It hasn’t been the greatest showing for Greiss but he has been much better in his last five games. His save percentage over the timeframe has been .932 and he’s 3-1-1 in those starts, getting some goal support and hopefully bolstering confidence.
4, 5, & 6: Final Verdicts on Cholowski, Svechnikov, & Hirose
I didn’t include Givani Smith because I think he’s in good shape. But I don’t think the other three are. Taro Hirose can barely stay with the big club long enough, while Dennis Cholowski and Evgeni Svechnikov seem like they’re in their final days as Detroit Red Wings. Svechnikov is nursing an injury–so that may have already made up Yzerman’s mind. Cholowski just looks timid at the NHL level, and it may be a decision that’s becoming more certain with each passing game. Of the three, I think Hirose has the greater chance of sticking with Grand Rapids–but I could see Yzerman not even qualifying the other two.
7: The Red Wings Remain Competitive
There’s something to be said for playing games that matter. There’s also something to be said for the Red Wings not jeopardizing a chance at a top three pick. It’s another season missing the playoffs and at this point it seems a better moment to test the kids on the bubble (see above) and let the chips fall where they may. The higher the picks, the better chances they have at securing the better players in what could be a wide open draft.
8: The Tyler Bertuzzi Situation Makes More Sense
The Red Wings have been pretty non committal on anything about Bertuzzi outside of him having an upper body injury and one that would keep him out for some time. Is it something like a Johan Franzen situation, or is it just one that takes more time to recover from? Bertuzzi hasn’t played since the end of January and is considered part of the core–not to mention he’s still a restricted free agent.
9: Re-Sign Jonathan Bernier
It seems a foregone conclusion he’s coming back. The team opted not to trade him and several other teammates have been very complimentary of his play, especially captain Dylan Larkin who referred to him as a “rock” for the team. Why wait? He’ll get a modest raise and possibly inch past Greiss’s deal.
10: Jeff Blashill’s Status Gets Clearer
My gut says he’s coming back but I say that with pause after some pretty bad bench penalties over the last couple games. Throw in the embarrassing showing for the power play as well, and if it goes similarly over the next couple weeks, maybe the quick decision will turn into another. Blashill won’t be judged on wins and losses, but on how the team progressed. They’ve improved from last season, and players like Adam Erne have certainly improved. But there have certainly been some disappointments. These final ten games will play a role in finalizing Blash’s future with Detroit.