Detroit Red Wings Season Preview: Taking The Long View

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - OCTOBER 07: Lucas Raymond #23 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins during a preseason game at Little Caesars Arena on October 07, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - OCTOBER 07: Lucas Raymond #23 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins during a preseason game at Little Caesars Arena on October 07, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

It’s finally here–the first game of an 82-contest slog–and really, the next step in normalcy as Detroit Red Wings fans. 2020 saw the final 12 games wiped out, and 2021 was an abridged version of the normal season–56 games played in a geographically redrawn division. The results improved from the year prior but left the same empty feeling once it concluded: no playoffs and  a flawed lottery system that not one Red Wings fan took seriously.

General Manager Steve Yzerman’s former team–the very one he built for nearly a decade–captured its second consecutive Cup. Devoid of lottery luck again, Wings fans hung their hopes on seeing a division opponent built by the current architect hoisting the chalice again.

The long view he has is what fans can take solace in. It’s the only way to get through what will certainly be another year of more losses and growing pains.

But regardless of how painful it can be at times, the future has arrived with both Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond both opening the season in Detroit. 

The Long View Has been the Only View

The Detroit Red Wings are certainly in a better spot than they were two seasons ago when  Yzerman took over as general manager. The rebuild on the fly, that then general manager Ken Holland dubbed, wasn’t really working. In fact, if you read the line from the MLive article from Ansar Khan, it’s almost humorous to see the quote from 2017 knowing what we know now:

"“These fans want to watch playoff hockey. Nobody wants to see a rebuild. They want to see us be competitive. They want to see us have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. While we’re trying to draft and develop and get better long-term, one of our short-term goals is trying to figure out how to make the team as good as it can be and hope that team can qualify for the playoffs."

Four years after saying this, things have changed significantly. From the front office, scouts, and two of the core players Holland believed would be part of the future, Yzerman let the team bottom out and has done what Kenny couldn’t do: rebuild the painful, but prudent way.

He took some big swings on players with high ceilings, starting with Seider. He subtracted players who no longer made sense (Justin Abdelkader), made shrewd trades (Robby Fabbri), and only added through free agency if it was the correct term and could potentially add value later in the way of picks, prospects, or potential.

This last offseason, he acquired the likes of Alex Nedeljkovic, Pius Suter, Nick Leddy, and Mitchell Stephens to assure the roster iced is stronger.

And this is where the long view comes in–it boils down to how the kids step up. Raymond making the roster and being inserted into the top line speaks to Yzerman’s staff scouting and drafting. He talked of how they had to hit on their high picks, and with both Seider and Raymond being in the lineup, the early returns are promising.

Now it just has to all come together. It’s not about the immediate gains but the ones that sow the seeds for future growth.

8 Things to Watch for This Season

There seems to be a range of opinions on this but with Jakub Vrana out for at least four months, can the Red Wings keep up with a competitive division and very deep conference? With a full 82 games, Detroit will certainly have its hands full as it tries to take the next step forward.

The top six appears solid, so long as it stays healthy. The bottom six should also be competitive, especially if Stephens continues the momentum he displayed in the preseason.

Head coach Jeff Blashill believes he has his best defensive corps since his arrival in Detroit and only the small sample size of Nedeljkovic’s time as.a starter gives pause as to whether or not he’ll be the goalie they need. Meanwhile, Sebastian Cossa hopefully works his way through the pipeline.

But here are eight things to watch for as the season approaches:

1: Lucas Raymond making the final roster had Red Wings fans over the moon. Now everyone sees if the good preseason transfers over to the regular season. Playing in a man’s league will certainly be an adjustment but before an injury last season, Raymond had six goals and 18 points in 34 games in the SHL last season. Now he’s in the greatest league in the world and the fourth overall pick of the 2020 NHL Draft has a chance to open the eyes of other fanbases as well.

2: Moritz Seider’s start in Hockeytown seemed a foregone conclusion after capturing the SHL’s Best Defenseman award last season. Seider has simply gotten better with every new challenge, and the NHL seems like his next big conquest. There will certainly be moments he learns, but Yzerman brought Leddy into assist with that. Seider remains one of biggest building blocks of the team.

3: The resurgence of Dylan Larkin is probably the other major storyline this season. The 2019-20 season was a brutal one for the entire team and last season saw a dip in production, and an injury riddled campaign that saw him suffer a vicious cross check from Jamie Benn. It ended his season, and even clouded things as to just how severe it was. Though it looks like Larkin is certainly feeling better, Wings fans will certainly hold their breath when he takes a big hit.

4: All eyes are on Alex Nedeljkovic between the pipes as the trade that netted him from Carolina will begin to measure its effectiveness as soon as the puck drops tonight. The Wings didn’t give up much for him, but it stands as another chance for Yzerman to win a doozy of a deal. The Nedeljkovic they hope for is the one who looked outstanding last season–and simply builds on that performance.

5: Jeff Blashill will face the greatest amount of scrutiny he’s experienced since taking the job back in 2015. Back then, it was extending Detroit’s playoff streak and taking over from the then revered Mike Babcock. Now? It’s can he actually do something with the young talent. Nevermind Blashill’s success in the past with the youth in Grand Rapids, Western Michigan, and the (now dormant) Indiana Ice of the USHL. It’s all about what have you done lately, rightly or wrongly.

Will Blash open up the offense more now that he has more competent defense? Will he give the younger players–specifically Raymond and Seider–more opportunities to learn without the fear of losing ice time? There certainly seems more on the line for Blashill this season than any in recent memory. It’ll be interesting to see what changes–and what stays the same.

6: The new and preseason improved power play will get its first real test against the back-to-back champs tonight. This is where it will be the most fun, seeing if the offensive upgrades Yzerman brought onto the roster pay dividends not only tonight, but throughout the season as well.

7: The future of Tyler Bertuzzi in Detroit just seems murky at best. His trade value doesn’t seem like it would be too high as his back is still recovering and he’s unable to play in Canada due to Covid protocol. For the time being, Bertuzzi is another piece that can certainly get the Red Wings on the board more. The only question is whether he stays or goes.

8: Yzerman’s shrewd dealings have certainly improved this team from Fabbri to Stephens. What more will he do this season as a bunch of contracts fall off at the conclusion of the season, and a number of players could pique the interest of contending teams should the Red Wings find themselves on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Few expect Detroit to be anything but a bottom ten team again. It only adds intrigue to see what Yzerman will do to help his younger players grow while also taking that long view for the future.

Red Wings Poised to Improve but Playoffs unlikely

It bears repeating–there probably won’t be much in the way of the playoffs but it’ll be a season that is probably some of the more enticing hockey we’ve seen in years. There will certainly be some long stretches, but this seems like the first major starting point of the transition out of the rebuild.

That long view that Yzerman has taken since preaching patience at his first press conference is putting that look into the present. Raymond and Seider followed by the likes of Veleno, Berggren, Donovan Sebrango and down the road,  Cossa and Simon Edvinsson, only crystallizes the long view into a championship roster.

He’s done it before. Here’s hoping he does it again.

Our Red Wings Season Predictions. light. Opening NIght