The Detroit Red Wings 2021 season was like getting a vaccination; it was necessary, stung a bit but wasn’t as bad as expected and everyone was thankful it was over. They finished the season with a 19-27-10 record and 48 points. This was nine more points than they had in all of 2019-20 in 15 fewer games. They competed in far more games with just a -44 goal differential compared to the -122 of the season prior. So who were the players that led to this improved season? Continued from the predictions made before the year, here are the Detroit Red Wings Season Awards for 2021.
Detroit Red Wings Season Awards Top Scorer: Filip Hronek
Most people would not have expected defenseman Filip Hronek to lead the team in points this season. However, when you look at what happened to the Red Wings this season in terms of health, it makes total sense. Hronek had just 26 points this season in 56 games, but he was one of only four Red Wing players to play at least 50 games this season. His 24 assists were ten more than anyone else on the team, but in terms of goal production, he added just two empty-net goals to his point total.
As mentioned, the biggest story here is the injuries. Captain Dylan Larkin played just 44 games on top of having a rather poor offensive season. Anthony Mantha didn’t deal with injuries but was traded at the deadline with 21 points in 42 games. The biggest of these injuries, however, came to wingers Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri.
Bertuzzi had seven points in his first nine games before missing the remainder of the season with a back injury. Fabbri, on the other hand, played 30 games due to COVID protocol as well as injury and still finished just eight points behind Hronek with 18. These two were the best offensive players on the team when healthy, but that was the issue. They weren’t healthy, and that gives Hronek the top spot.
Pre-season prediction: Anthony Mantha
Detroit Red Wings Season Awards Breakout Star: Adam Erne
This award could’ve gone to either of two players: Filip Zadina, who was predicted back in December, or (checks notes) Adam Erne? Zadina had a very good year, but unfortunately, the goal-scoring just wasn’t quite there. The same can’t be said for Erne. If you had polled 10,000 Red Wings fans who would lead the Red Wings in goals this season, absolutely zero of them would’ve said Adam Erne. And yet, the season has ended, and leading the Detroit Red Wings with 11 goals this season was, in fact, Adam Erne.
The fourth-liner averaged less than 14 minutes per game this year, but he started logging key minutes on a struggling Red Wings power play midway through the season. He ended up having six points on the team’s 17 power play goals this season. He wasn’t just grinding it out either like a typical fourth-liner. Some of these goals were really pretty and entirely earned on his own, such as this end-to-end goal against the Nashville Predators that would make Pavel Datsyuk proud.
Is Erne going to be a top-line player going forward? Of course not. Is he gonna end up becoming a 20-goal scorer? Probably not. But he proved he can be a quality fourth-liner on this team for the future and could potentially be a part of this team when they’re contending.
Pre-season prediction: Filip Zadina
Detroit Red Wings Season Awards Best Acquisition: Jakub Vrana
Originally, this award was the “Biggest Impact Signing”. However, when you have a trade deadline acquisition who is this damn good, you make exceptions. Jakub Vrana was phenomenal for the Red Wings after Steve Yzerman acquired him, along with Richard Panik and two draft picks, for Anthony Mantha from the Washington Capitals. He had eight goals and three assists for 11 points in just 11 games with the Red Wings. Those eight goals were good enough for fifth on the entire team and he did it with a whopping 25% shot percentage.
What Vrana did for this team can’t even be expressed with just stats alone. It’s something you have to see yourself. His ability to create was on a level that no other Red Wing had all year. His shot is already the best on the entire team as he fired laser after laser into the top corner. He created goals with his forechecking as well forcing steals and making beautiful moves to beat netminders.
Locking up Vrana should be the first priority for Steve Yzerman this offseason. He is a restricted free agent so he should have no problem doing that as Vrana seemed to be quite happy in his new home. He is finally going to be one of the top guys rather than behind stars such as Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom like he was in Washington. Yzerman fleeced the Washington Capitals and found someone who could be a cornerstone for this rebuild while also adding multiple picks to boot.
Pre-season prediction: Troy Stecher
Detroit Red Wings Season Awards Team MVP: Jonathan Bernier
It’s hard to pick a team MVP when the three best players this season played a combined 50 games. If any of Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri, or Jakub Vrana had played most of this season in Detroit, one of them would certainly get the nod. With that in mind, let’s look to the goal crease where Jonathan Bernier has been great for a second consecutive season in Detroit. The stats don’t show how good Bernier has been. His .914 save % and 2.99 GAA sound mediocre at best. However, it’s when you look a little deeper that you realize how good the 32-year-old netminder has been this year.
Among goalies with at least 20 starts, he is tied for sixth in quality start percentage (QS%). A quality start is a start where a netminder has a higher save % than the league average. He had a 65.2% QS% which tied him with Tuukka Rask and Alex Nedeljkovic, two goalies who, by statistical standards, had much better seasons than him. He kept the Red Wings in plenty of games where he was hung out to dry, including a 50-save performance in a 2-1 OT loss to the Dallas Stars on April 24th, and is why the team won some games such as his 38-save performance in a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on February 20th.
While the Red Wings defense was better this year, it still wasn’t good and occasionally, when they’re in front of you, you’ll have some bad games which he did and that will negatively impact the overall stats. But he truly was the best player on the Red Wings this season, and it’ll be interesting to see what Yzerman does with him this offseason. He was deserving of the Detroit Red Wings Season Awards MVP.
Pre-season prediction: Filip Hronek
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