The 2022-23 season has come and gone for the Detroit Red Wings. And while they improved in the standings from last year, they still missed the playoffs.
Head coach Derek Lalonde’s first year behind the bench wasn’t a disappointment by any metric. But I wouldn’t say it was super successful either.
The team got better in certain areas. Mainly special teams and goals against per game. But that significant jump in overall team play wasn’t there. The team still lost several more games than it won and missed the playoffs by a decent margin.
As the off-season begins, here are three early thoughts on what the Red Wings need to improve for next season.
This will likely be an internal improvement as Ville Husso has term left on his deal and I believe they will bring back Alex Nedeljkovic as his backup. Ned’s season is well-documented as he played poorly early on and has spent most of the latter part of the season in Grand Rapids.
Husso started out great the first two months of the season. But then became more erratic as the months passed. In January, he posted a save percentage of .884. Which he followed up in February with .913. His last 12 starts his percentage was nearly .860, which is pretty bad.
The goaltending will need to improve next season for the Wings to be better. And it starts with the tandem to become more consistent.
Find a True Goal Scorer
I’ll be honest, I have no clue where this is going to come from. The list of unrestricted free agents this summer is bleak. Patrick Kane probably isn’t coming to a rebuilding team. And at 34 years old I’m not sure I even want him. Vladimir Tarasenko has seen better days too.
You could go the restricted free agent method with guys like Timo Meier and Pierre-Luc Dubois. But now you’re talking about giving up key draft capital along with a lot of cap space.
Steve Yzerman could also look to make a trade. Which he has extra draft picks to use to acquire a star-caliber player. But most teams don’t like giving up good players. So you’d either give up a lot or find the right team and player who want to make a move.
In the short-term this too is going to have to be an internal fix. And that’s the problem, I don’t think the Wings have that in their organization. In two full seasons, Lucas Raymond has not proven he can be a 40-goal kind of guy. So, I’m not going to believe he all of a sudden becomes one.
Dylan Larkin has the talent to score 40 goals in a season. But he needs better talent around him to make it happen. And I’m skeptical he’ll have that by the start of next year.
One of the Kids Has to Take a Giant Leap
This isn’t a matter of will it happen. It’s the question of who it happens to. Out of Raymond, Moritz Seider, Simon Edvinsson, Carter Mazur, and Marco Kasper, one of those guys has to take a giant step in their development. That has to happen in order for this team to take the next step.
Seider is already a star defenseman. But can he take that next step towards being an elite one? Raymond is a legit top six forward. But can he become a star player?
Mazur has done well in his short stint in Grand Rapids and Kasper looked decent in one game with the Red Wings. But I don’t know if either of them will waltz into training camp next year and light the world on fire. They need more time to develop. And it’s not fair to those two kids to expect them to come in and be a driving force in the team’s progression next year.
My early pick in who takes that giant leap is Edvinsson. He played nine games with Detroit between March and April and looked good. He used his big frame to fend off opponents in the defensive end. His long reach is a lethal weapon. And he looked comfortable joining the rush into the offensive end.
If he can become a budding star next year and get on level with Seider, that would mean a lot for Detroit’s chances at making the playoffs.
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