Who Are They?
Detroit Red Wings Edition
Over the past few seasons, I feel like I’ve lost touch with the league, aside from the Central Division. I used to be able to keep tabs on about half of the league and it’s dwindled down to about three teams, including the Chicago Blackhawks, the San Jose Sharks, and the Philadelphia Flyers. So, to reorient myself with the league, I’m going to watch a few games of various teams throughout the league, good and bad.
Up first, some pre-video thoughts:
Did I pick an interesting team in the Detroit Red Wings? They’ve been aiming to tank and somehow failing at it the past couple of seasons. Looking at their roster, it seems like a core of a few established players like Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Troy Stecher, along with a bunch of veteran NHL’ers like Frans Nielsen, Jonathan Bernier, and Valteri Filppula.
I really questioned whether this roster could have a chance this season at doing anything besides tanking because that’s what it feels like Detroit has been doing lately. Detroit brought in Steve Yzerman as their GM a couple of seasons ago and it appears he’s trying to right the ship in Motor City.
So, what did I notice?
Using “interesting” to describe them might have been a little generous. I was honestly kind of dreading watching game footage of them because growing up a Blackhawks fan and meant disliking the Red Wings. The playoff series between Detroit and Chicago when both were deep in the post-season were always a treat to watch. They were vicious, it was competitive, and it was truly fun hockey to watch. However, their two game series against the Blackhawks last week made the Blackhawks look like a competitive NHL team.
For some reason, Detroit has a habit of looking like they’re behind the play even when they have possession. It’s not pretty and it’s reminiscent of how I completed a lot of college assignments, rushed and sloppy. At times, you start to feel bad for players like Mantha and Larkin who are full of talent and have suffered with this team for the past four or five seasons. However, you want to root for a veteran like Bobby Ryan, who I honestly forgot was playing for Detroit until I started watching video for this piece.
My thinking is that GM Steve Yzerman brought Filppula in because of their time together in Tampa Bay. Filppula is a great puckhandler until he hits traffic, and then it all kind of falls apart. I’m not sure if this is due to panic or just not being able to read what’s going on in front of him fast enough.
Their power play also needs some work. From what I noticed, it felt like players were just slightly out of place which made for friendly fire. Detroit needs to tighten up on those special teams assignments if they want to make progress in the future.
One truly bright spot is in Tyler Bertuzzi, who I might have to keep an eye on this season. He’s fun to watch and knows how to read a play, usually. The combination of him and Larkin on the ice is a fun shift to watch because the plays they set up for each other feel like they’re sharing a brain.
What could the future hold?
I think this season of inter-divisional play is going to be tough for the Red Wings. Between them and Chicago, they’re fighting for 7th and 8th place in the “Central” at the end of the season. There are little glimmers of a cohesive team here, but they’re brief and fleeting. The small core of Bertuzzi/Larkin/Mantha have so much potential. If Steve Yzerman can right the ship by upgrading the players around those three during the offseason, I think they have a real shot at being competitive in the 21-22 season. I’d be shocked to see them in a playoff position this season, but anything is possible.