Despite only playing 71 out of their scheduled 82 games last season, it certainly was a long one for the Red Wings. Their 17 wins in those 71 games gave them a winning percentage of .239, which was the worst in the entire league, and by a large margin. The next worst margin was .352, which was held by the Ottawa Senators, who finished the season with 62 points, 23 more than Detroit.
This year, things can only get better for Detroit, right? At the very least, general manager Steve Yzerman has made it a fun offseason for Red Wings fans. Between the NHL Draft, free agency, and the trade market, Detroit has been one of the busiest teams in the league since last season ended. Whether the team ultimately ends up being better this year or not, it is most definitely fair to say that Yzerman has constructed a roster that is considerably better (at least on paper) than the one he had last season. Here’s a look at the roster moves that have taken place since last season came to a close.
F Mathias Brome (one year, $925,000), D Marc Staal (acquired from New York Rangers), F Bobby Ryan (one year, $1 million), D Jon Merrill (one year, $925,000), D Troy Stecher (two years, $3.4 million, G Thomas Greiss (two years, $7.2 million), and F Vladislav Namestnikov (two years, $4 million)
D Jonathan Ericsson, D Trevor Daley, G Jimmy Howard, F Justin Abdelkader, D Madison Bowey, F Christoffer Ehn, D Cody Goloubef, F Brendan Perlini, and F Dmytro Timashov
That’s a long list of players who are leaving players on their ways in. Given the fact that the team was the least competitive in the league last season, it should not come as a surprise that a lot of the players from that roster are longer there. But, will this new-look roster be any more competitive?
The top line will likely look the same to start the season. The Mantha-Larkin-Bertuzzi line was far and away the best Detroit had to offer last year, as those three combined for a total of 139 points. But, that doesn’t mean that head coach Jeff Blashill won’t spread them around the lineup throughout the season in an effort to spread the offense around. Filip Zadina is a prime candidate to see some time on the first line at times as well.
Depth scoring looks to be somewhat of an issue for this roster again, however. Vladislav Namestnikov’s arrival in Detroit could at least somewhat spell that issue, and Robby Fabbri has also shown that he is capable of producing consistent offense as well. A second line of Fabbri-Namestnikov-Zadina certainly has some potential to take a bit of the burden off from the first line. Outside of that, however, there isn’t a lot of offensive firepower to speak of. Valtteri Filppula, Bobby Ryan, and Frans Nielsen will likely all see their fair share of time at center on the third line, but should not expect anything higher than that unless there are injuries, though it would not be unheard of for Nielsen to be a healthy scratch. Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, Sam Gagner, Adam Erne, and Evgeni Svechnikov (who is out of minor league options) will likely be gelled together in some fashion to round out the wing positions in the bottom six, with Glendening and Gagner also seeing time at center. Wild cards to make the team out of camp include Michael Rasmussen, Taro Hirose, and Mathias Brome.
Defensively, the team appears to have improved their roster in leaps and bounds. Filip Hronek was the team’s best defenseman last year, and will likely be relied upon to assume that role again this year, with Danny DeKeyser providing veteran leadership at the position as well. Newcomers Troy Stecher and Jon Merrill will both have important roles as well, and it would not be surprising to see either of them playing on the top pairing at times throughout the season. Patrik Nemeth and Marc Staal are also quite likely to lock down positions among the team’s top six defensemen, leaving Dennis Cholowski and Alex Biega fighting it out for the seventh spot in the lineup.
In goal, Jonathan Bernier was outstanding last season, despite the subpar defensive play in front of him. He and newcomer Thomas Greiss will likely split most of the time in goal throughout the year. Believe it or not, goaltending may actually be one of the strengths the team has this season.
All things considered, this team should be much more competitive this season. They have an established top line, solid goaltending, and a much-improved defense. Short-term improvement does not mean that they are likely to make the playoffs, though. While it should be much more bearable to watch Red Wings games this season, my personal bet is that it would be a stretch to see this team compete for a spot in the playoffs.