The Red Wings Are Getting Better, But…
The Detroit Red Wings just finished up a 35-37-10 season just last week. And while that was improvement over the 2021-22 season (32-40-10), the Winged Wheelers missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh straight season.
And because of that, patience among the fan base is starting to wear thin.
Before getting into details about the franchise, anybody who watches the team can use the eye test and see that they are markedly better than they have been in the past few years.
They have second-year man Mo Seider on defense (who's already one of the best defensemen in the league), and second-year forward Lucas Raymond on the frontline. And team president Steve Yzerman (pictured above) made some good moves last offseason. He got forwards Andrew Copp, David Perron, and Dominik Kubalik in free agency.
And he added Ben Chiarot and Olli Maata to bolster the defense, and goalie Ville Husso ascended to the starting position over Alex Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg.
Not to mention a change at the coaching position. Derek Lalonde replaced Jeff Blashill, and that looks to be an upgrade at this point.
So why didn't the Red Wings make the playoffs? Here are the reasons:
THEY PLAY IN A STACKED EASTERN CONFERENCE
There are lots of really good teams in the NHL's Eastern Conference that are and will continue to make it difficult for Detroit to make the playoffs. Boston, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Toronto, both New York teams (Islanders & Rangers), and Carolina are all excellent teams. Other good teams like Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Ottawa FAILED to make the playoffs this season. It's a tough road to make it into the top eight in the East for the Wings.
This was a major factor. Losing forwards Michael Rasmussen and Robby Fabbri for a majority of the season was huge. They also lost defenseman Mark Pysyk for the year when he tore an Achilles tendon last summer (he just started skating with the team at the end of the regular season). Countless other guys also battled injuries throughout the season.
LACK OF TOUGHNESS
This covers physical and mental toughness. And nowhere was that more apparent than in the two games they played at the Ottawa Senators at the end of February. The Wings got physically manhandled by the Senators, 6-2, and 6-1 in back to back games on February 27th and 28th. Ottawa played physical, but not dirty, against the Wings, and Detroit just cowered and mentally went away.
BECAUSE OF THAT, THE WINGS WERE SELLERS
This prompted Yzerman to sell at the trade deadline. He traded away Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Hronek, Oskar Sundqvist, and Jakub Vrana for draft picks.
This upset some fans and players, because the Wings were right on the edge of the Wild Card race. But Yzerman figured out (and I think rightly so) that the team was not playoff-caliber.
As the headline implies, it is clear that the Red Wings are in a better place than they were when Yzerman took over four years ago. He has turned them from salary cap hell to being well under the cap. But they need a little more talent all around and some more mental and physical toughness on the roster. Yzerman and Lalonde know this and will likely address it in the offseason.
But next season, we need to see it on the ice. Seven years consecutive without a playoff berth is not acceptable. The fans have been patient, but it's starting to wear thin. Playoffs are the goal next season. Anything less than that is failure. It's time to see it on the ice.