Our Detroit Red Wings 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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The Red Wings weren’t expected to be a great team last year, and they weren’t. They finished 7th in the Central with a 19-27-10 record and 48 points. They were second to last in the league at 30th for goals for with only 127, and they were 21st in the league in goals against with 171. Their powerplay was downright awful at only 11.4% and their penalty kill was not great either at only 78.7%. That powerplay was surprisingly not league worst, only second worst at 30th overall. Their penalty kill was 22nd in the league.
All of that is okay. The team was expected to finish low in the standings and obtain some solid draft picks, and let’s not forget they were in a division with some damn good teams. They really did get beat up by teams like Tampa Bay, Florida and Carolina. General Manager Steve Yzerman continued to sell off assets for draft picks and young players to truly stock up for the future. Another fun fact for fans is they actually won 2 more games than they did in a longer season in 2019-2020.
The biggest example of this was trading Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 1st round pick and a 2022 2nd round pick. Vrana seemed to fit right in with the Wings, scoring 8 goals in 11 games and 3 assists. Vrana is a fast winger with a good shot that could never really crack the top six consistently in Washington. In Detroit he’ll definitely get more opportunity 5 on 5 and more importantly he’ll likely get to play top unit powerplay. He’s a solid pickup for Yzerman and what’s even better is in the off season he was re-signed for 3 more years.
Speaking of the off season moves. Yzerman made a couple more shrewd pickups that I really like. The first is signing Pius Suter. Suter made his NHL debut last season with Chicago and played 55 games and earned 27 points, including 14 goals. Suter, now 25, was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Blackhawks so Yzerman signed him to a 2 year $3.25 million per season contract. It could be a little risky due to Suter’s small sample size, but the term makes it worth it. If Suter can replicate or grow his offensive numbers its a great gamble.
He also traded for Nick Leddy from the Islanders to add a veteran to the blueline. He flipped Richard Panik at 50% retained and a 2021 2nd round pick acquired from the Oilers. I like this move considering Leddy is still a serviceable defenseman that can play both ends of the rink.
Yzerman’s best move though was trading for Calder Trophy candidate goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic. My co-host Sean said it best in his preview for Carolina:
In a mind-boggling trade with Detroit, the Hurricanes sent home developed goalie and Calder Trophy finalist Alex Nedeljkovic to Detroit for Jonathan Bernier and a 3rd round draft pick (Bernier has since signed in New Jersey). The apparent reason was that Nedeljkovic wanted $3.5M per season but the team wanted to pay him $1.5M and was worried about going to arbitration. The trade and reasoning baffle me as I cannot understand why the Hurricanes wouldn’t pay $3.5M for a goalie who basically took over the starting goalie position this season through injuries to the other goalies.-Sean
It’s really is mind boggling. What a steal for Yzerman to lock up a solid option in net. Ulimately it looks like Yzerman is sticking to the plan, continuing to take on some not great contracts in exchange for assets and taking advantage of situations as they come up to add pieces for the future. I anticipate the Red Wings to start climbing soon once all the pieces come together. Let’s look at how they stack up for this season.
- Nick Leddy
- Alex Nedeljkovic
- Pius Suter
- Jordan Oesterle
- Mitchell Stephens
- Richard Panik
- Jonathan Bernier
- Darren Helm
- Bobby Ryan
- Evgeny Svechnikov
- Dennis Cholowski
- Luke Glendening
- Alex Biega
- Christian Djoos
Jakub Vrana, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi will likely comprise the top line. Vrana will be entering his first full season as a Red Wing, and Larkin and Bertuzzi will be looking to stay healthy to play in more games. since these guys didn’t play together last season it will be interesting to see how they gel and if the chemistry is there.
Past those three it’s going to be a mix of Robby Fabbri, Pius Suter and Filip Zadina. It’s a pretty unproven bunch, but all three of them should be working hard in the opportunities they have to earn a spot on the full time spot.
The bottom six is interesting. There’s some guaranteed veterans like Vladislav Namestnikov and Sam Gagner. But there is also a solid mix of younger players looking to build on good seasons like Adam Erne, and Michael Rasmussen.
Detroit has no shortage of young players competing for spots. Joe Veleno only played 5 games last season, does he crack the lineup? How about Taro Hirose or Givani Smith? Yzerman also acquired another Lightning player he drafted Mitchell Stephens in the off season. Adam Erne has seemed to plan out for him, so does Stephens also break into the lineup? Detroit has more exciting young players like Lucas Raymond that they haven’t even signed to entry level contracts yet that could very well enter the team at some point, or wait until next season. There’s a lot of players looking to develop and make an impact.
Beyond the hype for young players Detroit also has a few veterans to fill spots in guys like Frans Nielsen and Carter Rowney.
The blueline will be exciting for Wings fans this season.
The main reason is the debut of Mortiz Seider. He hasn’t yet played a game in the NHL but his arrival is much anticipated in the motor city. He was the first draft pick of Yzerman with the team and it was a bit of a shock he went so high at 6th overall in the 2019 draft. However, Seider looks like he could be worth the stretch so far. He’s a big right handed defenseman at 6’4” 203 at only the age of 20. Because of his defensive skills he could be just the type of guy to anchor the blue line for the next decade plus. And while he’s known for a more defensive game but his offense isn’t too shabby either. He played in the AHL in 2019-20 and earned 22 points in 49 games. He returned to Germany and got 28 points in 41 last season. Because of where Detroit is right now, he should get every opportunity to keep developing all aspects of his game when he makes his debut. The wings could pair him with newly acquired veteran Nick Leddy to help him adjust his game to the NHL. Leddy is smaller but definitely gifted at both sides of the ice so could definitely provide that role model to Seider in his rookie season. Leddy had 31 points in 56 games last year too, so he’s no slouch.
I truly believe we could see a franchise defenseman make his debut and breakout upon arrival with Seider.
The team did lose Dennis Cholowski in the expansion draft to Seattle, but it’s a pick the team can absorb the loss of. He only played in 16 games last season, and his games played totals have been halved each year he’s been in the league since 2018. They’ve got a better prospect in Gustav Lindstrom, who looked good last season in a limited number of games.
The top two pairings will likely be a mix of Seider, Leddy, Hronek and DeKeyser.
Marc Staal and Troy Stecher are the stable guys to have on the third pairing. Lindstrom and Oesterle will also be competing for a spot here though. Approaching the deadline I could see Yzerman flipping somebody from this blueline. My bet is DeKeyser if he has a average to good season.
While goaltending was absolutely not an issue for the Red Wings, they actually improved here.
Jonathan Bernier was good last season with a 2.99 goals against and a 0.914 save percentage, but Nedeljkovic is a promising younger goaltender to replace him. I am honestly still shocked that he’s on the Red Wings instead of the Hurricanes. Honestly Ned could steal a few games for the team. Nedeljkovic played in 23 games and posted an amazing 1.90 goals against average and a 0.932 save percentage. It was a much better team of Carolina, but those are great numbers. Yzerman did what Carolina would not, and bet on Nedeljkovic to keep those stats going into this season.
Thomas Greiss had a good season also, with a 2.70 goals against and a 0.912 save percentage in 34 games played. He’s on the last year of his deal so I could see Yzerman flipping him to a contender in need of a solid goaltending option at the deadline also.
Between Greiss and Nedeljkovic, the Red Wings are set in net.
Detroit Red Wings 2021-22 Prediction
Detroit is going to be back in their normal division which is still strong, but a touch easier than being stuck with Tampa, Carolina, and Florida all season. They will finish better than Buffalo, but will still get a solid crack at the draft lottery. The Wings have lots of exciting young players that will be looking to crack the lineup or to further establish themselves as regular NHLers. Detroit could look very different after this season because they’ve got at least nine unrestricted free agent contracts expiring. Depending on how all these young players develop this season, Detroit could make some moves next year and do something crazy like make playoffs. Maybe that’s wishful thinking for the time being but they’ve definitely got one more year of finishing in the basement and a shot at a number one overall draft pick. After this season though, who knows what Yzerman could make happen.
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