The Detroit Red Wings begin the year 2023 three points out of a playoff spot. With 39 points, the Red Wings are an astonishing 21 points behind the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic division. The main reason for this is the team’s improved play under new head coach Derek Lalonde. The head coach will have some difficult lineup choices to make as the Red Wings roster returns to full health. Robby Fabbri returned to the Red Wings lineup in a recent game against the New Jersey Devils.
Two players that have done their part to stay up with the big club are Elmer Söderblom and Jonatan Berggren. This is despite the two of them being on the roster bubble as recently as a week ago. Söderblom and Berggren are rookie Red Wings that will be part of the core going forward. Berggren is playing beyond the age of 22 years old. Instead of panicking with the puck, which is something that can be expected of any rookie NHL player, Berggren has shown the ability to wait to make the better play for his team.
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Söderblom stepped into the Red Wings lineup recently for an injured Dylan Larkin. The 21-year-old secured two wins for the Red Wings. Söderblom has used his size to impress not only the Red Wings’ brass but also his teammates, leading Larkin to call him part of the “Swedish basketball team.” His on-ice expected goals share is currently 53% at five-on-five, which is the highest mark among all Red Wings forwards who have played at least 10 games. Both Berggren and Söderblom are waiver-exempt which makes the decision to replace them on the roster easier.
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic has been placed on waivers by the Red Wings. This comes as the Red Wings’ goaltending position is in flux. Ville Husso is the clear number-one goaltender and former Red Wing Magnus Helberg was once again claimed by the team off waivers. The Red Wings would be wise to acquire any assets that they can for Nedeljkovic whose play has fallen off since he was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in July of 2021.
Jakub Vrana Waivers
Jakub Vrana was also placed on waivers ahead of the 2:00 PM deadline on Tuesday. This is a surprising move as he is one of the most offensively talented players on the Red Wings roster. The question is whether or not he can stay on the ice. The 26-year-old recently exited the NHL’s player assistance program after being away from the Red Wings for two months. Vrana ultimately ended up clearing waivers and will remain with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL for two weeks, the maximum allowable amount of time for a conditioning stint.
The putting of Vrana on waivers raises more questions than it answers. Lalonde did not shed much light on the Red Wing’s plan for the 26-year-old. He did say that he and general manager Steve Yzerman are in constant contact and were on the same page when it came to Vrana. This is the job of the general manager and the coach. The two need to be in lockstep to put the team and organization in the best position to succeed.
It was recently reported that the relationship between Vrana and the Red Wings franchise is not in a good place. Whether or not he and Yzerman can repair this relationship remains to be seen. This comes at the same time that Anthony Mantha is reportedly on his way out of Washington. The two were traded for one another at the trade deadline in 2021. Whether or not the general manager and the coach of the Red Wings can trust Vrana to focus on hockey remains to be seen.
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