Running Out of Gas in the Motor City
As Detroit’s core gets older, the Wings will start to rely on their up and coming young stars. After a strong draft, they will be looking to continue to move forward in their rebuild by giving their young guys as much ice-time as possible.
All around, the Red Wings struggled and didn’t crack the top-15 in any of these categories. Not much else to say.
What went right:
Young players in Detroit took steps towards becoming the cornerstones of the next generation of Red Wings hockey. At only 22-years old, Dylan Larkin led the team with a career-high 64 points, while also ranking first in scoring chances, controlled entries and possession driving plays. Anthony Mantha, meanwhile, led the team with 24 goals, a career-high.
What Went Wrong:
Overall, this was another disappointing season for Detroit, with its lowest win total in a full season since 1989-90. The Red Wings ranked bottom-ten league-wide in a number of categories on both ends of the ice at even-strength, including scoring chances, inner slot shots, shots on net, offensive zone pass completion rate, puck battle win rate, offensive zone turnover rate and defensive plays in their own end. Both of their special team units also ranked bottom-10 in the NHL.
Key Additions: Jonathan Bernier, Thomas Vanek, Filip Zadina
Key Departures: Xavier Ouellet, Jared Coreau, Henrik Zetterberg
Other Key moves: Re-signed Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Mike Green, Andreas Athanasiou, PTO for Jussi Jokinen
Tough news for the Red Wings as captain Henrik Zetterberg’s hockey career is over. A degenerative back condition forced an end to a magnificent career and his contribution will certainly be missed in Detroit.
The Wings picked up a couple of talented prospects in the first round of the 2018 draft. At #6, they picked Filip Zadina, a dangerous goal scorer who seemed to be a top three lock for most of the draft process. Then, the Wings grabbed Joe Veleno, who projected as a top-10 pick on many draft boards, at #30.
The Red Wings awarded new deals to young forwards Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou, who ranked 1st, 3rd, and 4th, respectively, in scoring chances among returning Red Wings. They also brought back veteran Mike Green on a 2-year deal. Despite being north of 30-years old, Green is still among the best puck-moving defensemen in the league, ranking 9th in the NHL in possession driving plays at even-strength.
In free agency, Detroit brought back a familiar face in Thomas Vanek. Even at 34-years old, he is still a dangerous scorer, finishing 22nd in the league in both goals per-20 minutes (0.41) and true shooting percentage (shot attempts/goals) at 8.4%, numbers that should provide a boost to Detroit’s 28th ranked offense. The Wings upgraded their goalie situation by bringing in Jonathan Bernier (.914 save percentage) to take departed Jared Coreau’s (.872%) spot behind Jimmy Howard.
Next season preview
What could go right?
A lot of prospects are on the brink of cracking the NHL roster in the Motor City. At forward, the Red Wings have a trio of former first-round picks in Evgeny Svechnikov, Michael Rasmussen and Filip Zadina that will look to win roster spots in training camp. All three have shown strong offensive numbers in junior and could give a boost to a Detroit offense that ranked 28th in goals for last season. With Larkin and Mantha already starting to establish themselves as offensive forces, Detroit has pieces that could form a dangerous attack in years to come.
On defense, Filip Hronek will be gunning for an NHL gig. A former 2nd-round pick, he ranked 7th in points among AHL defencemen last season, good enough for a spot on the AHL’s all-rookie team. As he progresses, he could eventually fill out a Mike Green-type role as a puck-moving, offensive-minded right-handed defenceman.
What could go wrong?
It’s likely to be another tough season for the Wings. As of now, the Red Wings are the oldest team in the NHL, with an average age of 28.9-years old, although that number could go down as youngsters crack the lineup. In fact, they have nine players over the age of 30 and six players 34 or older on their roster and that doesn’t take into consideration Henrik Zetterberg or Johan Franzen, who are on long-term injured reserve.
Unless one of Detroit’s youngsters is the next Mathew Barzal, there will be a lot of playmaking slack to pick up. The Red Wings are also rolling back mostly the same defense that allowed the 4th most scoring chances and 8th most goals. There’s a good chance keeping pucks out of the net will be a season-long issue in Detroit.