Though they've only played 16 games, it's been a roller-coaster of a season so far. Sometimes time really does fly by. This year's NHL season has done just that so far, as well. The Detroit Red Wings have already played 16 games this season, with a mixed bag of results. Through those 16 games, they've racked up a record of 7-5-4. That's seven wins, five losses, and four overtime losses. This gives them a total of 18 points, which would see them missing the playoffs by one point.
First-year head coach Derek Lalonde has shown the capability of running the team in a successful manner at most times so far this season, and the team has responded quite nicely to most of his adjustments.
How have the Detroit Red Wings gotten off to such a good start?
New Players Contributing
Detroit Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman made a lot of moves in the offseason, most of which have paid off quite nicely so far as well. Dominik Kubalik currently leads the team in points with 18. David Perron has 11 points. Andrew Copp has only seven points, but after missing all of training camp, he has really been coming on lately.
Perhaps the biggest move of the offseason came at the goaltending position when the Detroit Red Wings traded for Ville Husso. He has played 10 games for Detroit, to the tune of a 2.56 goals-against-average and .918 save percentage. He has also recorded two shutouts and has a record of 5-2-3.
Younger Players Also Contributing
Of course, some of the younger talent accrued in years past are also contributing. Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin has continued his ascent into the conversation amongst the best centers in the league, with 17 points so far. Lucas Raymond got off to a slow start to his sophomore campaign but now has 10 points. Fellow sophomore and reigning Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider has also gotten off to a slow start. Playing full-time, first-pairing minutes has proven to be a challenge for Seider, but he has improved quite a bit in recent games and now has five points (all assists) in the young season.
Could This Be a Playoff Team?
At the beginning of the season, I predicted that the Detroit Red Wings would be much closer this year but still miss the playoffs. Though the team has performed a little better than I expected to start the season, I still don't think they are quite in the playoff contention window quite yet. They've taken dramatic steps in the right direction but just aren't quite there yet.
Also, to be considered when talking about the playoffs is the competition for those spots. In the NHL, there are two conferences (East and West). Each conference has two divisions, as well. The top three teams in each division automatically qualify for the playoffs. Then, the next two teams with the highest point totals in each conference get the final two spots, regardless of their division.
In a division with the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, and Ottawa Senators, it's hard to imagine Detroit being able to finish in the top three for an automatic spot in the playoffs. Their path to a playoff spot this year, no matter how likely or unlikely, is probably in the wild card. Though the team is definitely much better than they have been in recent years, it's hard to say that they are at the level of competing for a playoff spot this season. I firmly believe that next year is when we can begin to set an expectation for the postseason for the Detroit Red Wings.