Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Detroit Red Wings.
Let’s ponder three questions facing the Red Wings in 2019-20…
1. What is Yzerman’s game plan this year?
He’s made only a couple of depth moves and shocked the hockey world at the 2019 NHL Draft when he selected Moritz Seider sixth overall.
Yzerman seems content to let another year of the team’s rebuild run its course. There are low expectations in terms of the team’s success this year, and having a full season at the helm to assess where that rebuild is at will allow him to go into next summer armed with better knowledge (and more cash to work with.)
The Red Wings will have $13 million likely coming off the books after this year on defense alone, including Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley — all aging players who likely won’t fit into the team’s long-term plans.
Jimmy Howard, 35, is also set to become a UFA. With Filip Larsson signing a three-year entry-level deal earlier this year, he will get a lot of action in Grand Rapids. If that pans out, perhaps he’s ready to make the jump in 2020-21.
Yzerman’s biggest challenge is finding what young up-and-comers are ready to make the jump to the Show this season.
Names like Filip Zadina, Taro Hirose and Michael Rasmussen are all waiting for their turn as regulars. There’s a fine line between a guy being ready and a guy being rushed. The Red Wings have no reason to rush anyone at this point, however.
2. Even if he wants to come back, should the Red Wings re-sign Niklas Kronwall?
Yes, he’s a heart-and-soul guy who’s been with the club for ages. And even at 38, he still managed to come close to a 30-point season and missed just three games.
And there’s always that leadership component of a guy who knows what it takes to win.
But given his advanced age (in hockey years, of course) and the fact that the Red Wings already have a collection of older defensemen that can mentor some of the young guys like Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski and Madison Bowey, is it worth having Kronwall taking minutes from those guys?
The Red Wings aren’t going to be competing for a Stanley Cup this season.
They already added Patrik Nemeth, a just-in-case if Kronwall isn’t to return, so perhaps it’s time to move on.
3. Who is the team’s next captain?
The good money is on Dylan Larkin and for good reason.
Despite being 22 (and age doesn’t matter much here), Larkin has shown he has what it takes between the ears to be the guy that leads this team forward.
Larkin also has a new GM who was once given the captaincy of the same team at age 21.
Larkin is doing the right things on and off the ice, which is exactly what a young captain on a rebuilding team should be doing. It seems like a no-brainer.