The Detroit Red Wings have officially been eliminated from Stanley Cup playoff contention. This is now the seventh straight season that the team has not made the playoffs. That is not to say that they have not improved under new head coach Derek Lalonde. General manager Steve Yzerman brought in Lalonde as the two worked together while Yzerman was the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
End of Season Goals
The focus for the remainder of the Red Wings’ season was to finish strong. Lalonde made sure of that during a recent game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. His reaction to a recent call for goaltender interference was a testament to this. ‘What the f—k is goaltender interference,’ exclaimed Lalonde. Lalonde would be ejected from the game before the Red Wings would score three goals in the third period to defeat the Penguins 7-4.
Prior to the final home game of the season for the Red Wings Lalonde was quoted as saying "This is fan appreciation night and it’s real. We’ve played well at home, let’s try to do it one more time. Truly for the fans." The Red Wings had a home record of 19-16-5. Yzerman brought in many free agents during the previous offseason in order to make the team more difficult to play against. Whether or not ownership sent a message to Yzerman to improve the roster to make sure that fans would show up at Little Caesars Arena is another question.
Not a New Problem
This was the issue under previous head coach Jeff Blashill. However, this toughness does help a team score more goals and win games. In order to make the playoffs Yzerman must know that he needs to acquire a top-end scorer. If this does not happen in the NHL draft, the only way to do this is to package draft picks and prospects to trade for a player like this. The Red Wings will have two draft picks in the first round of the 2023 NHL draft.
It takes time for a team to learn the systems of a new head coach. During his introductory press conference, Lalonde said that winning would come as the result of a process. For example, the Red Wings had a record of 33-36-13 in the second season under Blashill after they made the playoffs in his first season. This season began the teardown and the 2022-23 season was supposed to signal the end of the rebuild.
Connor Bedard is the presumptive number one overall pick going into the NHL draft on June 28th. Bedard is a Vancouver, British Columbia native, and even at 17 years old he would have one of the most lethal wrist shots in the NHL, let alone on the Red Wings roster. This is something that any team could use. Bedard has scored 71 goals and added 72 assists in 57 games played for the Regina Pats during the 2022-23 season in the Western Hockey League. As the NHL regular season winds down the Red Wings have a three percent chance of drafting number one overall.
The rules for the 2023 NHL draft lottery are different than they have been in the past. A team does not necessarily need to win the draft lottery in order to get the first overall pick. A team can jump a maximum of 10 spots if it wins one of two draft lotteries. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks have the two best odds to land Bedard in the draft lottery on May eighth. The last time the Red Wings had the number one overall pick was in 1986 when they drafted right-winger Joe Murphy out of Michigan State University.
A Free Fall
The Red Wings were in the second wild card spot prior to the NHL trade deadline on March third. Yzerman owed it to the team to see if they could prove his moves were right to get into a playoff position. However, the team lost two straight games to the Ottawa Senators. One of the issues with these two games and the 2022-23 season writ large was a lack of scoring. Beyond that, the Red Wings roster was physically dominated by the Senators, specifically left-winger Brady Tkachuk.
Headed into the 2023-24 NHL season, the Red Wings will have several lineup decisions to make. That is in addition to the number of trades that were made at the 2023 trade deadline. These trades were made in order to receive more draft picks to rebuild the roster further. With the benefit of hindsight perhaps Yzerman should not have made the moves he did during the offseason that made it unlikely that the team could draft Connor Bedard with the number one overall pick in the 2023 NHL entry draft.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images