The Detroit Red Wings defensive corps were restructured entirely in 2022. The direction is positive. But is it enough to be a contender in 2023 and beyond?
There are many ways to be a consistent playoff team with realistic Stanley Cup aspirations. One of the fastest is to have a solid blue line. A rule of thumb is having two-star defensemen, two well-above-average defensemen, and four decent depth players make a team playoff ready.
In April 2022, the team had a one-star defenseman (Moritz Seider), zero well-above-average defensemen, and three decent depth players (Jake Walman, Filip Hronek, and Marc Staal). Based on the blue line, this is not close to a playoff team.
Over the summer, several pieces were added. Some of the pieces have worked well, and some have not. Based on the play so far this season, the playoff-ready count as of December 2022 is one-star defenseman (Seider), two well-above-average defensemen (Hronek, Olli Määttä), and two decent depth players (Walman, Ben Chiarot). This is closer to the blueline of a playoff team. But still, a long way to go.
Positive surprises from the Detroit Red Wings blueline.
The second pairing was a massive surprise for the first 25 games of the year. Hronek and Määttä meshed perfectly. Määttä’s superior positioning and sound defensive play allowed Hronek to play his best game. Hronek still has defensive limitations, but as he began dialing in his shot, he became a team leader. This was the best pairing on the team.
Jake Walman missed the early season with an injury. As he returned, he found his game quickly and gave the third pairing some consistency and solid play. He is a plus 12 in 19 games played. He was so good that Coach Derek Lalonde broke up the team’s best defensive pairing to pair Walman with Hronek. The experiment is in its ninth game, but the second pairing still looks excellent.
Also, the overtime goal against Pittsburgh after returning from an 0-4 hole and the Walman Ice Griddy Celly will be one of the highlights of the 2022-2023 season.