The Detroit Red Wings made many moves on the first day of free agency. The 6 additions to the Red Wings roster were made in order to make the team more difficult to play against. This was a concern of former head coach Jeff Blashill and general manager Steve Yzerman. Blashill’s contract was not renewed after he finished his 7th season as the head coach of the Red Wings.
Derek Lalonde was hired as the 28th head coach in franchise history on June 30th. Yzerman was familiar with Lalonde as he spent 2 of the last 4 seasons with Yzerman in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. The 49-year-old’s coaching experience is limited, coaching 2 games for the Lightning when the coach for the team Jon Cooper tested positive for COVID-19. Lalonde has also coached the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL and the Iowa Wild of the AHL.
Lalonde will have a great challenge coaching the Red Wings as they are still in a rebuild. The team has now not made the Stanley Cup playoffs in 6 seasons. This is a far cry from when the team made the playoffs in 25 consecutive seasons. The fact that the team missed out on drafting towards the top of the draft in the years that they made the playoffs is one of the main reasons that they needed to rebuild. Former general manager Ken Holland would also make trades that would give up future draft picks in order to prolong the streak.
One player that Lalonde will have as part of the Red Wings corps in the future is defenseman Moritz Seider. Seider became the 13th defenseman in the history of the NHL to win the Calder Memorial Trophy. Beyond that, he was the third defenseman in the past eight seasons to win the award. Seider’s reaction to winning the Calder trophy showed a personality that Red Wings fans and the NHL world will fall in love with. “My parents couldn’t make it,” he deadpanned. “They just got back from Croatia and they thought it was more important to go on vacation.”
Seider also said that the team wants to contend for a playoff spot. “Everyone is sick and tired of losing. Everyone is working hard to make that next step.” The Red Wings were in a playoff spot before they ran into a difficult stretch during the 2021-22 season. So, what needs to happen for the Red Wings to make it back to the playoffs?
The most glaring issue for the Red Wings continues to be on the blue line. The defense beyond Seider was in grave need of an overhaul. As part of the flurry of moves made on the first day of free agency, the Red Wings signed Olli Maatta who is a defensive defenseman that will play alongside Seider. That is not to say that Seider cannot emulate the 2021-22 season that he had.
Each team in the Atlantic Division has improved during the 2021-22 offseason. The Lightning, who won the Stanley Cup with Lalonde as part of the team’s staff, finished the regular season in 3rd place behind the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Red Wings finished in 6th place in the division with 74 points. The Red Wings do not have the offensive firepower to keep up with the teams at the top end of the division.
The most surprising move made by a team in the Atlantic Division was the Ottawa Senators’ addition of Claude Giroux. This move is a departure from the style of offseason of general manager Pierre Dorion. Dorion signed a contract extension through the 2024-25 season. The team finished the 2021-22 season with 73 points. Even though Giroux is 34 years old, his acquisition by the Senators signals that they are at least trying to compete.
The Panthers recently acquired Matthew Tkachuk and a conditional fourth-round draft pick for forward Jonathan Huberdeau, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt and Florida’s lottery-protected first-round pick in the 2025 NHL draft. This comes as the Panthers came up short yet again after being swept by the Lightning in the second round of the playoffs. Adding such a talented young left-winger to the Atlantic Division will only lift the talent level across the division. Tkachuk scored 42 goals and added 62 assists for 104 points in 82 games played for the Flames during the 2021-22 season.
Dylan Larkin led the Red Wings in scoring last season with 31 goals and 38 assists in 71 games played. His season ended with 11 games left in the Red Wings’ season and underwent core muscle surgery. This came a year after Larkin missed most of the 2020-21 season after being cross-checked by Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. The 25-year-old certainly bounced back from an injury that saw him spend 8 weeks in a cervical hard collar.
With all of these additions by the teams in the Atlantic Division, the Red Wings will likely finish higher in the standings in comparison to all of the other teams. That is if head coach Lalonde can adjust to coaching at the NHL level. The issue in the past seasons under Blashill was that the Red Wings were not hard enough to play against. The veteran additions that the team made in free agency should correct this. Whether or not the Red Wings will be in contention for a playoff spot is a different matter.
Nazem Kadri is the most notable free agent left unsigned. Kadri is coming off of a season in which he scored 28 goals and added 59 assists for the Colorado Avalanche in 71 games played which ranked third on the team in total points. These 87 points represented a career-high for the 31-year-old. The latest rumors have Kadri signing with the New York Islanders.
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