Poor defense and special teams are big reasons why the Detroit Red Wings finished at the bottom of the league in 2016-17, missing the playoffs for the first time in 25 years. Many players struggled and didn’t perform as well as they could. If the Wings could have extended their playoff streak to 26 years, it could have made the sporting highlights of 2017, as this would have made it even harder for another team to match this record.
Here are five guys who need to bounce back the most come this season.
Everyone knows who Dylan Larkin is because of how he came on the scene in 2015-16. He shocked many at the skills competition during All-Star weekend in Nashville with his speed. He finished his rookie campaign with 23 goals and a plus/minus of +11.
Larkin endured what many call a sophomore slump this past season, finishing with just 17 goals and a -28 in the +/- department. Larkin has the skill set to play much better than he showed. For this team to succeed next season, they need Larkin to be that catalyst like he was during his first season with the team.
Justin Abdelkader has always been an enforcer and a threat to score goals for the Red Wings. The last two seasons, however, he’s steadily declined.
In 2014-15, Abdelkader’s 23 goals and 44 points were both good for top-5 on the team. He followed that up with roughly the same totals in 2015-16, with a slight dip in goal scoring (19 G, 23 A). This past season, Abdelkader was injured for a portion of the season. And this past season playing in only 64 games due to injury, he mustered just seven goals and 21 points.
Abdelkader being an alternate captain means he has to step up. Coach Jeff Blashill needs to push one of his team’s leaders to perform better on the ice this coming season.
Goalie Petr Mrazek was outstanding during his first two seasons in net for the Red Wings. Last season made many wonder if he could still be a starting goalie in the NHL. General manager Ken Holland didn’t protect Mrazek as a result for the upcoming expansion draft, giving Las Vegas a chance to take the young goaltender.
In 2015-2016, Mrazek posted a record of 27-16 with a 2.33 GAA. Those numbers regressed to an 18-21 record and a GAA just over 3.00 this past season. Mrazek can’t expect to get the majority of playing time while giving up three goals a night. If he remains in Hockeytown, he needs to come back next season with his head clear.
All three of these players have the talent to regain their original form. With the phase that this organization is going through, these players need to anchor down this team. The Detroit Red Wings are rebuilding and need faces for the future. All three players can be just that.