The Detroit Red Wings have now missed the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth season in a row. This led general manager Steve Yzerman to make the recent decision to not renew the contract of head coach Jeff Blashill. Yzerman said in his press conference after the season ended that he thought that Blashill was a good coach but that the team had lost its way. One other reason that the team did not make the playoffs was the drop-off of the play of goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.
Nedeljkovic was acquired by the Red Wings in July of 2021 from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a third-round draft pick and the rights to goaltender Jonathan Bernier. The Red Wings certainly saw Nedeljkovic as the number one goalie at the time of the trade and perhaps the goalie of the future. This was certainly the case at the beginning of the 2021-22 NHL season, Nedeljkovic’s first as a Red Wing. However, the 26-year-old’s play fell off as the season progressed.
This may be in part due to the lack of talent on the Red Wings roster. This is especially true when it comes to the defence. Moritz Seider is certainly the best young defenseman currently on the Red Wings’ roster. The 21-year-old finished the 2021-22 season with 50 points. Beyond Seider, the team does not have very much talent on the roster. This is a draft pick that was questioned at the time but has certainly panned out.
Filip Hronek is one defenseman that has not panned out for the team. Drafted 53rd overall in the second round of the 2016 NHL draft, Hronek has scored 5 goals and added 33 assists for a total of 38 points in 78 games played during the 2021-22 season. Seider has taken over Hronek’s role as the "quarterback" of the number one powerplay for the team, a unit that has struggled to be productive in the recent past. That is not to say that he has not put up good offensive numbers.
The 38 points are the career-high in points for Hronek in his short time in the NHL. What is more concerning is his ability to stabilize the left side of the team’s defence. The 24-year-old still has time to grow into an NHL defenseman. Perhaps this will not be on the top pairing of the Red Wings" defence corps.
Red Wings" Backup Goalie Problem may Come Down to Defence
The talent on defence is currently in the minor league level and could join the professional ranks next season in the name of Simon Edvinsson and Elmer Söderblom. These two are part of the re-emergence of the many Swedish players that were on the Red Wings in the past. Nicklas Lidström is one of the best defensemen in the history of the league and a previous captain from 2006 to 2012. Lidström is a hall-of-Famer so the two defensemen have big skates to fill.
Nedeljkovic recently said that this is something that needs to change going into the 2022-23 season. "That’s the goal for next year and the summer. To find a way to be more consistent and to have something every night to give us a chance to win every night." The mistakes made in the net at different points during the season must have weighed on Nedeljkovic’s mind. Perhaps this is why the Hurricanes felt so comfortable with letting go of a goalie that was a candidate to win the Calder Trophy.
I wrote during the Red Wings’ 2021-22 season that their goaltending situation was in a good place. This was due to the acquisition of Nedeljkovic. The backup goaltending situation is another matter. Thomas Greiss was the backup goalie for the Red Wings for the second season in a row. At 36-years-old Greiss is not the long-term answer for the Red Wings at the backup goalie position. That may have led to the signing of another veteran goaltender.
31-year-old Magnus Hellberg signed with the Red Wings towards the end of the 2021-22 season. It was not certain that Hellberg would see the ice for the Red Wings. However, Hellberg would start the season"s final game for the team against the New Jersey Devils. The team would win the game 5-3 in Hellberg’s only game played for the Red Wings. Hellberg said that he hopes to be in the future plans for the team. Perhaps the team will bring him in for next season as a backup.
Calvin Pickard is the starting goalie for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League. He would be the "next man up" for the Red Wings in the event of an injury to the backup for the Red Wings. The Griffins had many injuries during the later part of the AHL season that caused the team to miss the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
Sebastian Cossa is a goaltending prospect currently in the Red Wings’ system. The 19-year-old was drafted by the Red Wings 15th overall in the 2021 NHL entry draft. Cossa was the top North American goalie according to the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau before the draft and is currently playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League. If Nedeljkovic does not pan out as the number one goalie for the Red Wings Cossa could slide right in and fill that role.
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