2021-22 Detroit Red Wings season preview: The Wings are coming

The Detroit Red Wings lead by General Manager, Steve Yzerman have been in rebuild mode for a few years. But many of the big pieces for the Red Wings future are in the organizations system. While the 2021-22 Red Wings will not be a playoff team they will show that the rebuild is headed in the right direction. The team will give up fewer goals while earning more wins all by showcasing the teams future.

DETROIT, MI – JANUARY 18: Filip Zadina #11 of the Detroit Red Wings shoots the puck during warm-ups before an NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Little Caesars Arena on January 18, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

One of the worst kept secrets in the NHL is Steve Yzerman is very good at drafting players. Yzerman is so good at drafting that during his time as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s GM he sped up a long rebuild. Fast forward to Detroit, where Yzerman has you guessed it, sped up the Red Wings rebuild by simply drafting well.

Yzerman is putting on a “how to” rebuild clinic. The past three season have been and brutal ones as far as on-ice product and production go. That has been by design. As Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings scouting department have gone to work. Now the trajectory of the roster and management are on the uptick.

The 2021-22 Detroit Red Wings will give a clear look into the future. As Yzerman has been collecting pieces as well as prospects and trades for the past few years that will begin to show fruit this season.

For this reason the Red Wings will show improvement. It will not be eye-popping, no playoffs or competing for the Stanley Cup, the Red Wings will show more competitiveness as a result they should show a jump in the standings to demonstrate the organizations improvements.

DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 22: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider (53) during the second period of a preseason game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings on September 22, 2019, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

I understand, Detroit Red Wings fans do not want to go through another long season. That is what the 2021-22 season will be as far as wins losses go. However, this season should be the last long one for  a while.

Steve Yzerman has done a masterful job at rebuilding the Detroit hockey team, it is about to pay off in big ways.

Having not developed into the potential the Detroit Red Wings once saw in him, Dennis Cholowski has been exposed in the NHL expansion draft

The newest NHL team, the Seattle Kraken will be selecting the franchise’s inaugural roster the Wednesday. There are some big named players the Kraken could draft as well as players that simply for one reason or another did not pan out for the organizations that drafted them. Like Detroit Red Wings defensemen Dennis Cholowski whom Detroit has made available for the expansion draft.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 06: Dennis Cholowski #21 of the Detroit Red Wings controls the puck against the Dallas Stars during an NHL, home opening night game at Little Caesars Arena on October 6, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Dallas 4-3. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Detroit Red Wings former first round draft pick Dennis Cholowski was selected in 2016 by former Red Wings GM, Ken Holland. Holland and the then Red Wings scouting department really liked Cholowski’s mobility and offensive ability. Yet, oddly enough it has been his deficiencies defensively that have held the 23 year old from grabbing a roster spot full-time.

Dennis Cholowski’s Detroit Red Wings career has been earmarked by inconsistencies defending. He has been brought up to Detroit and sent down to the minor leagues multiple times. At times Cholowski has looked like he was on the verge of a breakthrough only to fall back on old habits, leading to a yo-yo career that has landed him on the unprotected list for the Seattle Kraken to select from.

It would seem that Red Wings General Manager, Steve Yzerman is all but done with Cholowski. On past send downs Yzerman has said that he had given Cholowski a list of things he wanted to focus on while being sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY – JUNE 02: : National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly announces the Seattle Kraken #2 overall draft position during the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery on June 02, 2021 at the NHL Network’s studio in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

Reports would say that Cholowski had cleaned up areas of his game only to be recalled by the Red Wings and fall back into unproductive ways. It is safe to say that Yzerman grew tired of the lack of development and has chosen to move on.

That means if the Kraken do not draft Dennis Cholowski it is very possible Yzerman could choose to place him on waivers for another team to claim. Detroit could also package Cholowski in a trade.

No matter what happens, it is very possible Dennis Cholowski is no longer part of the Detroit Red Wings organization moving forward.

 

 

How good is Detroit Red Wings prospect Moritz Seider? Here is a hint, he is fantastic

No, it did not happen during the 2021 NHL season. Moritz Seider, one of the Detroit Red Wings top prospects did not get a call up. That is just fine. No really. Seider continued his development this past season in Sweden, where in 41 games played the young defensemen amassed 7 goals and 21 points yet it was Seider’s growth in the defensive end that really stood out.

Germany’s defender Moritz Seider (L) scores past France’s goalkeeper Florian Hardy during the IIHF Men’s Ice Hockey World Championships Group A match between Germany and France on May 14, 2019 in Kosice, Slovakia. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Let’s get this out of the way right now. Moritz Seider is a top line defensive player. Drafted in the sixth overall spot in the first round in 2019, caught many around the NHL off guard. The pick came from Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman, who he and the Red Wings scouting department felt confident in Seider.

Before the season many people (myself included) felt this would be the season Moritz Seider would “get his feet wet” with an in season call-up. Yzerman and the Red Wings front office felt another season of development was the right steps to take.

Playing in Sweden, Seider showed his development days are nearly done. Both offensively and defensively. Seider showed considerable growth. His passes were spot on. He was a physical presence at both ends of the ice, although it showed a bit more in the defensive end.

For the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings they can do nothing but benefit from Moritz Seider. He looks like he can even improve a bit more which is downright scary.

Yet, for a young player who is being counted on heavily for the Red Wings organization Seider’s play has been spot on. If he feels pressure, he sure does not let it show. That is a good sign of character. Something Yzerman looks for when scouting and drafting players.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 21: Moritz Seider, sixth overall pick of the Detroit Red Wings, poses for a portrait during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

I said this last year and say it again. I do think next season, Moritz Seider will at the very least get an in-season call-up. The way his game has grown, he may not be sent back to the minor leagues.

Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has a looming decision on head coach Jeff Blashill

The Detroit Red Wings have finished another losing season. Rebuilds can be brutal. While development of young players is critical, at some point losses must turn into wins. Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill who has been the ire of the Red Wings fans everywhere for sometime now takes center stage for his job security. A short time ago, Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said he would address that quickly.

DETROIT, MI – FEBRUARY 18: Head coach Jeff Blashill of the Detroit Red Wings watches the action from the bench against the Montreal Canadiens during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on February 18, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. The Wings defeated the Canadiens 4-3. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

There has been some improvement from the Detroit Red Wings play. I pointed this out not long ago. The questions that only Steve Yzerman is faced with are:

  1. Was there enough improvement show to merit bringing Jeff Blashill back for another season or more?
  2. Is Blashill a coach who can get the Red Wings to the next level?

While no one is sure which direction Yzerman is leaning and will go, all eyes are on this situation. If Blashill is relieved of his coaching duties who are some options Steve Yzerman could turn to?

I would have to imagine Yzerman would at the very least would put in a call to his former teammate Gerard Gallant. Gallant has maintained a win percentage of .523 or better and has one trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Perhaps, Yzerman could call former Michigan State Spartan hockey player and current head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes Rod Brind’Amour who’s team has this seasons best record and Brind’Amour is 111-63-15  since being named Hurricanes head coach.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 06: Head coach Jeff Blashill of the Detroit Red Wings watches the play from the bench during an NHL, home opening night game against the Dallas Stars at Little Caesars Arena on October 6, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

There are other quality coaches that are out there. Again until Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings announce a press conference it is all just a guess. When the time comes for whatever is going to happen with the head coach it will kick off a very busy offseason for Yzerman ands the Red Wings.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Head coach Jeff Blashill believes the Detroit Red Wings are a better hockey team this season

Last season the Detroit Red Wings had 17 wins and 39 points in the COVID shortened 71 game NHL season. This season the Red Wings are 18 wins and 49 points in another COVID shortened NHL season. With only a one win difference in the two seasons, Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill insists his hockey team is better.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 08: Head coach Jeff Blashill of the Detroit Red Wings watches the action from the bench against the Anaheim Ducks during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on October 8, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Anaheim defeated Detroit 3-1. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jeff Blashill who’s contract is up when the Detroit Red Wings season concludes Saturday, sees positive steps taken by the Red Wings this season. If you disregard one more win, Blashill’s statement may have some validity. No really.

Jeff Blashill has often been a target of Red Wings fans for a couple years now. But, as the developmental coach for the rebuilding Detroit hockey team, Blashill has seen his team have ups and downs. So is he correct? Are the Red Wings better?

For starters the games the Red Wings have won have come by and large with young players in the lineup. That in and of itself is indeed improved progress . It also lends to hope to the future.

Also, the Red Wings have improved defensively. No really. Last season the Detroit defense was 31st or dead last in the NHL, in a season the unit gave up an inexcusable  3.73 goals per game. This season the defense is ranked 20th allowing 2.98 goals per game.

What has not improved much is the Detroit offense. Last season the Red Wings offense was dead last averaging just 2.00 goals per game. This season the Red Wings offense is you guessed it, dead last at a very slightly better average 2.15 goals per game.

The offense needs to be a focal point for Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman this offseason. While the Red Wings wait for top offensive prospects like Lucas Raymond to develop.

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – SEPTEMBER 12: Filip Hronek #17 of the Detroit Red Wings poses for his official headshot for the 2020-2021 season at Center Ice Arena on September 12, 2019 in Traverse City, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

In conclusion, Jeff Blashill is correct, the Red Wings are better this season. There is still a lot of work to be done. But in a long rebuild at least the defense has improved. Not to mention the Detroit Red Wings are not in last place for the first time in a couple seasons. That honor goes to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Examining if Jakub Vrana should be a Detroit Red Wing long term

Take away a couple of factors. Namely two draft pick and another player and the Detroit Red Wings essentially traded Jakub Vrana  for Anthony Mantha, April 12, 2021. No matter how long the two players are with their current teams they will always be linked. Both player have made immediate impacts for the teams that acquired them the Washington Capitals (Mantha) and Red  Wings (Vrana.) Both players have scored multiple goals for their respective teams.

Anthony Mantha scored goals in each of his first four games for Washington. While in Detroit, Jakub Vrana scored a goal in his first game and then erupted for four goals against the Dallas Stars. The last Red Wings player to score four goals in a game, you got it Anthony Mantha.

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 17: Jakub Vrana #15 of the Detroit Red Wings skates up ice against the Chicago Blackhawks during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on April 17, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. Chicago defeated Detroit 4-0.(Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jakub Vrana has made a quick impression with the Red Wings organization. Vrana has always been known as a pure goals scorer, a sniper if you will. But a logjam of players in Washington kept Vrana from ice time and from showing his true potential.

Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman, knew he could not trade Mantha and get no production back. Draft picks are nice and all, but the reality is even the best draft picks need time to develop.

It is not that Jakub Vrana can score goals that makes him an interesting acquisition. Vrana has shown himself to be a solid player at both ends of the ice as well as fight for loose pucks in the corners.

Speed? Jakub Vrana has speed. That is another facet is Vrana’s game and one that any coach in any sport will tell you can not be learned. Vrana during his time with the Capitals was a player who fans and media always said “if he could just have more ice time.” In other words many including inside Washington’s organization  believed they had a special player.

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 15: Jakub Vrana #15 of the Detroit Red Wings shoots the puck during pre game warm-ups before an NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Little Caesars Arena on April 15, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Now with more ice time in Detroit, Vrana in a short period of time is showing that he can indeed be a special player. So, the answer to if Jakub Vrana should be a Detroit Red Wing long term is yes.

In another long lost season the Detroit Red Wings have some prospects who have shown improvement

As the 2021 NHL shortened season enters the regular season stretch run, Detroit Red Wings General Manager, Steve Yzerman has a lot of work to do. First Yzerman and the Red Wings scouting department are preparing for this summer’s NHL Draft. Next is the fate of head coach Jeff Blashill which Yzerman said he will address quickly after the season. But what Steve Yzerman is doing now is watching young prospects in the Detroit organization show some marked improvements.

FIlip Hronek, Filip Zadina and Michael Rasmussen all three players are being counted on heavily to help the Detroit Red Wings begin to look like a playoff contender again. The trio have given the team, GM and fans some good reasons to be encouraged for the Red Wings future.

A side note, None of the three players listed numbers jump off the board. That is not important! What is important is they are competing really hard, not to mention doing a lot of good things and all three have grown as players. Very important, more important than goals and assists. The goals and assists will come.

DETROIT, MI – NOVEMBER 04: Filip Hronek #17 of the Detroit Red Wings battles for the puck along the boards with Kyle Turris #8 of the Nashville Predators during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on November 4, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Filip Hronek, has been the Red Wings best defenseman the past couple seasons and it is not even close. Hronek has grown even more so this season and now plays with a physical edge to his game that had not been there the past couple seasons.

DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 22: Detroit Red Wings right wing Filip Zadina (11) takes a shot during the second period of a preseason game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings on September 22, 2019, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Filip Zadina, has also played much more more physical, and is now willing to chase down the puck and get it himself rather than wait for a teammate to pass it to him. This is exactly the kind of development that will help both Zadina and the Red Wings moving forward.

Michael Rasmussen, in a continuing theme Rasmussen has also become a much (and I do mean much) more physical player this season. The young center, is much stronger on the puck which in the past was sorely missing from his game.

As the Detroit Red Wings look for progress Hronek, Zadina and Rasmussen have shown just that. The three young players are competing and asserting themselves at a much higher level. This is encouraging!

 

The Detroit Red Wings trade Anthony Mantha to Washington for a huge haul

The 2021 NHL trade deadline had seemingly come and gone and the Detroit Red Wings had not made a move. Very odd (again seemingly) for a rebuilding team to do nothing. The 3:00 p.m. deadline past, and then at around 3:30 p.m. a bombshell was dropped that sent ripples across the NHL landscape. Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman traded a player who just five months ago was thought to be a cornerstone building block, Anthony Mantha was dealt to the Washington Capitals in a blockbuster trade.

Right Wing Richard Panik, Left Wing Jakub Vrana, as well as a first round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and a second round pick in the 2022 head to Detroit from Washington for Anthony Mantha. Before we dive into just what the Red Wings are getting in Panik and Vrana understand, Steve Yzerman gets an A+ for this trade. This is a trade that will help speed up the rebuild, IF. We will also look at the IF.

First let’s look at Jakub Varna. Varna was the classic good player stuck behind other good players limiting his minutes to about 13- per game. Varana averaged more goals than Mantha even though he was behind players like Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and others.  This was a great get for Yzerman and the Red Wings.

Now for the IF. The draft picks are great to have. But as I have said from time to time, drafting players is like throwing darts at a dartboard. This is where the Detroit Red Wings scouting department must come through.

Richard Panik is a decent player, this was not a target for Yzerman. In order to make the trade happen the Red Wings took Panik which is in effect a salary dump for Washington.

Anthony Mantha had signed a contract extension back in November. He was thought to be part of the long term plans for the Red Wings. Steve Yzerman has said for a long time now that he will listen to any offer for any player something any GM should do.

DETROIT, MI – MARCH 06: Anthony Mantha #39 of the Detroit Red Wings skates up ice with the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on March 6, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Chicago 2-1. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mantha who has had consistency issues and lapses in play had frustrated Red Wings coaches. I have to believe it also frustrated Yzerman. Still Mantha has a lot of upside and perhaps he will do well in Washington.

With the trade Steve Yzerman has sent a message to the rest for the Detroit Red Wings, no player (well a select few) are off the table to be traded.

 

The Detroit Red Wings gain a fourth round draft pick as Steve Yzerman works some magic

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning were working on a trade for Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard. The two teams could not agree on a trade package because of the Lightning’s salary cap issues. That is when Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman stepped in and worked his magic.

It was reported yesterday, David Savard was going to be traded to Tampa Bay, which happened to be Steve Yzerman’s first GM job spot.  Yzerman came to the aid of both teams and a three-way trade was born.

COLUMBUS, OH – APRIL 2: David Savard #58 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the Boston Bruins on April 2, 2019 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The trade is a bit complex. Here is the breakdown: The Columbus Blue Jackets traded David Savard to the Red Wings and agreed to retain 50% of Savard’s cap hit. Detroit sent  Brian Lashoff to Columbus. The Red Wings then flipped Savard to Tampa Bay for a fourth round draft pick this year.

Steve Yzerman agreed to taken on 25% of Savard’s contract. The Blue Jackets meanwhile traded Lashoff to Tampa Bay and received 2021 first and second round draft pick’s basically for David Savard.

This is actually a very good and pretty shrewd move by Steve Yzerman. The Red Wings have a ton of salary cap room so to take on 25% of a contract for a player who will never (barring free agency) put on the Winged Wheel while gaining a draft pick was a easy choice to make.

The 25% that is on the books for the Red Wings comes off the books this summer. So really it is a no harm, no foul move. The real prize for the rebuilding Red Wings is the draft pick.

SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 06: A general view of the draft board following the first round of the 2020 National Hockey League (NHL) Draft at the NHL Network Studio on October 06, 2020 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

This is how Yzerman was able to rebuild the Tampa Bay Lightning. He made simple yet very effective trades and moves that netted draft picks. While there are no guarantees when drafting players, the more picks a team has the more chances the team will hit on some draft picks.

This is how Steve Yzerman is rebuilding the Detroit Red Wings. It takes time but Yzerman will get the job done.

Detroit Red Wings Filip Zadina is settling in at the NHL level

Due to COVID-19 the NHL 2020-21 season is only 56 games. In games played thus far Detroit Red Wings forward Filip Zadina has shown growth in his overall game. While his production is up and Zadina is now living closer to his pre draft status, the Red Wings believe even better days are ahead for the young  Czech Republic product.

This is the first season that the Detroit Red Wings have given Filip Zadina a chance to stick full-time with the team. Zadina has taken the opportunity to take full advantage of the Red Wings trust.

MONTREAL, QC – MARCH 12: Detroit Red Wings right wing Filip Zadina (11) skates while looking towards his right during the Detroit Red Wings versus the Montreal Canadiens game on March 12, 2019, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

While Zadina is still rounding his game into a top-six forward, he has given the Red Wings a good look at just what they have in a player who fell them three years ago. While Zadina’s goals are not eye-popping his total game is rounding out.

In 26 games played, the Red Wings have seen Filip Zadina score three goals with nine assists for 12 total points. nearly a half a point per-game. Zadina was touted as a goal scorer pre-draft. While the Red Wings believe goals will come his overall game has grown.

Filip Zadina has gotten much better in the defensive end of the ice. His forechecking has improved and the young forward is not as hesitant to jump into the mix on the boards as he was last season. Zadina has also improved on his passing.

DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 31: Antti Suomela #40 of the San Jose Sharks battles for position on the face off with Filip Zadina #11 of the Detroit Red Wings during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on December 31, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. The Wings defeated the Sharks 2-0. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Again, While the goals stand at just three on the season, Zadina has shown growth in other areas and has not been a liability when out on the ice. For a pure goal scorer such as Zadina the goals will come.

As for any young player in his first full season in the NHL, there is a lot to take in and responsibility to learn. Filip Zadina did not forget how to score goals. It is more likely that has been put on the back shelf while he learns other aspects of the NHL game.

Filip Zadina has shown the Detroit Red Wings enough for the organization to be excited about.