The 2020-21 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to preview all 31 teams. Over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at how the offseason affected each team, the most interesting people in the organization, and the best- and worst-case scenarios. Today, we look at the Detroit Red Wings.
Detroit Red Wings 2019-20 Rewind
Record: 17-49-5 (39 points); Eighth place in Atlantic Division; 16th place in Eastern Conference
Leading Scorers: Tyler Bertuzzi (21 goals), Dylan Larkin (53 points)
Everybody knew the 2019-20 season was going to be a long one for the Red Wings, but I am not sure anyone had any idea it was going to be as difficult as it was. As general manager Steve Yzerman continued to tear the team down in order to rebuild it from from the ground up, the Red Wings had one of the worst single season performances in franchise history and were by far the worst team in the league, finishing 23 points behind the next worst team (the Ottawa Senators).
When you have a season like that, there are not many positives and that continued for the Red Wings into the offseason when even the draft lottery balls were against them. It was there that the Red Wings walked away with the No. 4 overall pick (as far as they could have fallen given their record) instead of a much-needed top-two pick (or even No. 1 overall pick). The rebuild is still very much underway this season.
Vladislav Namestnikov (free agency), Bobby Ryan (free agency), Thomas Greiss (free agency), Marc Staal (trade), Christian Djoos (waivers), Troy Stecher (free agency), Jon Merril (free agency)
Jimmy Howard, Trevor Daley, Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson, Madison Bowey, Christian Ehn, Dmitryo Timashov
3 Most Interesting Detroit Red Wings
• Filip Zadina. The No. 6 overall pick from 2018, Zadina is not the best player on the Red Wings roster (that honor currently belongs to Dylan Larkin or Anthony Mantha), but he might be the most intriguing because he still brings so much potential as a goal-scorer. When he was drafted he was regarded as one of the top natural goal scorers in his class. He has only appeared in 37 NHL games to this point scoring nine goals. But eight of those goals came in just 27 games during the 2019-20 season (which was accompanied by nine goals in 21 games at the AHL level) which is close to a 25-goal pace over 82 games. That is promising production for a 20-year-old in his first real taste of NHL action.
[Related: ProHockeyTalk’s 2020 NHL Free Agency Tracker]
Can he take another step forward this season and show that he can be counted on to be one of the cornerstone pieces of this rebuild?
• Anthony Mantha. He is one of the few players on the roster right now that looks like they belong as a significant piece to a contending roster. Over the past three seasons he has averaged 28 goals per 82 games played while also posting fantastic possession numbers (better than a 54 percent shot attempt share) for a team that gets absolutely dominated in that category.
The only thing that has kept him back? Injuries that have limited him to just 110 out of a possible 152 games. If he could ever play a full 82-game season (and obviously that will not happen this year, either) 30-plus goals are not out of the question.
He is just starting a four-year, $22.8 million contract this season that could turn out to be a team bargain if he continues on the path he has shown the past three seasons.
• Robby Fabbri. When he first entered the NHL back in 2015, Fabbri looked like he had a chance to be a significant contributor for the St. Louis Blues. The injuries started, and before anyone knew it he had missed significant parts of three seasons (including a full season during the 2017-18 season) and his future was very much in doubt. He worked his way back into the lineup for the 2019-20 season, but simply ended up losing out on a numbers game on a Stanley Cup contender and was traded to Detroit.
[MORE: 2021 NHL schedule notes: Stats, oddities, fuel for nasty rivalries]
So far, it looks like a big win for the Red Wings.
Fabbri was one of the very few bright spots for the Red Wings this past season, scoring 14 goals (with 17 assists) in his 52 games with the team. He is signed through the end of next season at $2.9 million per season and if he can stay healthy and build on his 2019-20 performance the Red Wings may have found themselves a very useful player that might have a chance to be a part of the next good Red Wings team.
It is almost impossible to see a playoff berth here, so the best case for the Red Wings is that they show improvement and see young players continue to develop and progress. Players like Zadina, Mantha, Fabri, Filip Hronek.
[Related: Red Wings have clean slate, chance for bold moves next season]
The other thing that would be beneficial is if some of these low-cost free agent signings perform well enough to boost their trade value at the trade deadline. Players like Bobby Ryan, Troy Stecher, Jon Merrill, and Vladislav Namestnikov. No one expects them to be long-term answers. But if they can help the Red Wings get through the season and play well enough to bring back some potential long-term assets, it all works out for everybody (including the veteran players, who would then be part of a contender).
The other best case scenario? A little bit of draft lottery luck.
If you enter the season assuming they are going to miss the playoffs again your expectations should be within reason. So what would be a worse case scenario here? Young players not progressing. Really, that is what this season should be about. Who is going to show themselves to be players worth building around. If you do not see progress from the likes of Zadina, Hronek, and Mantha, and you still lose a lot of games, it is going to be difficult to build any sort of optimism.
It would also be bad news if they end up moving back in the draft lottery again.
Pointsbet – Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup odds
Pointsbet Stanley Cup odds: Red Wings +20000. (PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.)
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.