The memories of the last playoff series are slowly becoming a movie for those who remember. For six seasons in a row, the Red Wings did not feature among the cream of the NHL, and the fans fed up with Little Caesars Arena would like to repeat the moments that they received in regular doses in the years 1991-2016.
But the hopes of last season vanished in a twenty-six-point deficit for the promotion rungs, and there were not as many positive flashes as general manager Steve Yzerman expected. That is why he also decided to take more drastic steps than expected.
After seven seasons, he fired coach Jeff Blashill and installed former Tampa Bay Lightning championship team assistant Derek Lalonde in his position. Then on the open market, Yzerman threw down the nets and brought in eight players to turn the helm in the right direction.
Video: Detroit Red Wings’ best moments
“I think we have improved the team. Of course, the key for us will be what we start to show in the fall. But I am glad that we have solved some important needs. And now I hope that we will show our better face,” declared Yzerman.
Yzerman is trying to make Lalonde’s first stint as head coach as easy as possible. The rookie on Detroit’s bench will have at his disposal a balanced pair of goalkeepers, balanced defensive pairs and three lines capable of creating and scoring goals. It will be up to the 50-year-old coach to put the new faces together quickly with the young core of the team that the Red Wings intend to rely on for the next decade.
“One day we have a chance to become a potentially very good team. But that’s why we brought in experienced players to have a positive influence on the young ones. They still need a bit of leadership,” admits Yzerman.
WHAT THE CAMP WILL SOLVE
How many rookies can fit in the lineup?
Mainly thanks to the new faces in the lineup, the 2021-22 season was not considered wasted. German defender Moritz Seider the Swedish striker even took the Calder Trophy Lucas Raymond was the third most productive rookie of the season with 57 points and Alex Nedeljkovic became clearly the busiest rookie among goalkeepers. Yzerman’s plan was clear.
But this year, promising players on the edge of the lineup are facing more difficult times. Even the most promising of them, the six defenders of last year’s draft Simon Edvinsson and striker Jonatan Berggren can sharpen or to move to the farm in Grand Rapids, which was the usual fate of young Red Wings players in previous years. However, Edvinsson should have a slightly easier path to the roster, for whom a place in the third defensive pair is emerging.
However, given the number of acquisitions Yzerman made over the summer, Detroit’s youngster will have a more difficult path up the ladder, although as the year progresses, defensemen Albert Johansson and Donovan Sebrango, or the forward Elmer Söderblom can jump out. But it won’t happen right away.
Where is the place for Zadina?
Video: Zadin sent Detroit into the lead after Vrán’s action
The number six of the 2018 draft did not receive a new three-year contract until the end of August. For the fans and the club management, the performance of the famous junior scorer in the previous four seasons was more of a disappointment. In 160 matches, Zadina scored only 25 goals, although he could not complain that he was not given chances or a priority place in power formations.
While Zadina is now under contract through the end of the 2024-25 season, he may only have a year to prove he can be an asset to the Red Wings. His problem on the ice also lies in the fact that he is very inconspicuous, he does not stand out in the way that his more predatory teammate Raymond does.
Video: Top 5 goals of the season: Dominik Kubalík
However, the Czech team with Filip Hronek and Jakub Vrána, which was expanded by Dominik Kubalík, can still help the 22-year-old attacker to perform better. It is with the former forward of the Chicago Blackhawks that Zadina could appear in one formation that he would connect Pius Suter.
It is this line that could serve the Red Wings if Vrana, Raymond or Dylan Larkin they didn’t have a shooting day. If Zadina reached 20 goals in the season, it would mean a big leap in the right direction for him.
How does the Austrian ace sparkle?
It’s too early to make big predictions. But the Austrian teenager Marco Kasper is expected to do revolutionary feats in the future. Because of that, the Red Wings drafted him eighth overall this year.
Next year, however, they count on him in the Swedish Rögle, where he left Klagenfurt at the age of sixteen, but Kasper has already signed a three-year entry contract with Detroit.
“The engagement in Sweden helped me to speed up my game and create more scoring opportunities,” said Kasper.
It hasn’t been that long since another Austrian was with the Red Wings. Thomas Vanek ended his overseas career in Detroit in the 2018-19 season. And the club management believes that it is getting a younger version of Kasper. Vanek was drafted 5th overall by the Buffalo Sabers in 2003 and went on to play 1,029 games and score 373 goals in the NHL.
“Now I want to improve as much as possible in the details and be stronger and faster,” Kasper planned.
QUESTIONS FOR THE TRAINER
Will the Red Wings be the new Tampa?
When Yzerman introduced Lalonde to the coaching position, he mentioned that he would like the new coach to do things his own way and not just copy what he learned on the Lightning champions.
“Derek is smart enough to get to this position by learning and growing from his experience. We still have a lot of work to do with new players and our young core,” the GM set the direction for the coach right away.
Lalonde is the first ever coach that Yzerman has hired in his capacity with the Red Wings, so it is clear that he will feel more responsibility for his work and probably a certain degree of uncertainty about what the ‘new broom’ will do.
Lalonde has made a name for himself in the USHL, ECHL, and American Hockey League, but his most impressive season has been with the Lightning. Now he’ll have a chance to show that he’s not just another version of Jon Cooper.
What to expect from the Nedeljkovic-Husso tandem?
There is talk in Detroit that they finally have a goaltending duo reminiscent of Chris Osgood’s years with Dominik Hašek (2006-08)
After arriving from the Carolina Hurricanes, Alex Nedeljkovic had a season that somewhat mirrored the ups and downs of the Red Wings. With 59 starts, the twenty-six-year-old American was the seventh busiest goalkeeper of the season. But he certainly envisioned more wins than 20 and better numbers than 3.31 goals per game and a save success rate of 90.1 percent
Video: Husso picked up a clean sheet in his playoff debut
That is why Yzerman was so eminently interested in twenty-seven-year-old Finn Ville Huss, who in St. Louis Blues picked up 25 wins from 40 games, pushed the goal average down to 2.56 and shot success to 91.9 percent.
“I think Alex and I will push each other to do better, just like the Blues did with Jordan Binnington,” believes Husso.
It’s about time, after all, with 312 goals, the Red Wings were the third most conceding team after the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes.
Even if Nedeljkovic and Huss provide Detroit with at least average statistical values compared to the competition, it would be a step forward for the Red Wings.
Will the first line stay together?
Doing things your way also means creating your own system and convincing players that it will be successful. In Detroit, the offense revolved around the trio of Raymond, Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzziwho scored more than 36 percent of all team goals (84 of 230).
Video: Copp struck out three times in the opening period
But the 34-year-old could also be among the candidates of the elite formation David Perron, a player who scored 27 goals for the Blues last season. And of course also Jakub Vrána, a great skater with the potential of a 40-goal scorer. Although most predictions see these two fighters on the wings alongside another signing, Andrew Coppa.
The question will be what plans Yzerman has in mind. Both captain Larkin and Bertuzzi are out of contract after the season and could become unrestricted free agents. Both have expressed a strong desire to stay, but if the Red Wings miss out on a playoff shot, the demand for Bertuzzi in particular would increase.