These are just a few of the words that can be used to describe the 2019-20 season for the Detroit Red Wings. With the season officially over, the Wings finished with a putrid 17-49-5 record (39 points). If the season had finished out, they were on pace for approximately 45 points. To put this into perspective, this would’ve been the second lowest point total in the one-point overtime loss era (1999-00 Atlanta Thrashers, 39). The 54 total losses was also the third most in franchise history with 11 games remaining.
This season wasn’t a surprise for Red Wings fans. It has been made clear that the team is in a rebuild, and new general manager Steve Yzerman wasn’t about to change that. However, no one expected the team to be this bad.
Going into the season, it was well known that there were a lot of issues on the blue line. But there was hope that with a lot of young talent at forward, maybe the team could win some games and put on an offensive show in Hockeytown. That…never happened. The team had the most goals allowed and least goals scored in the league. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the Detroit Red Wings 2019-20 campaign.
Yes, I’m going to find something good to say about this awful season. The Wings saw some promise from a few young players this season that can give the team hope for the future. After a slow start, Dylan Larkin emerged as the leader of this team and ended up leading the team in points with 53. His linemate Tyler Bertuzzi also had a breakout season with a team leading 21 goals.
Another positive was the emergence of young Czech defenseman, Filip Hronek. He was the lone positive on a blue line that was dreadful all season. He finished fifth on the team in points with 31, and was the arguably the team’s best player halfway through the season. For a team that lacks depth at the position, it was great to see at least one player step up.
I do want to give a shoutout to Filip Zadina as well for the year he had. He only played 28 games before an injury ended his season. He was starting to come into his own before the injury and showed a lot of promise with 15 points. Anthony Mantha also had an injury shortened season but did have 38 points in 43 games.
One last good that I’ll touch on is a couple of teams that for whatever reason, the Red Wings had their number. The Wings swept the Montreal Canadiens this season, winning all three games. Now, the Canadiens were the 12th place team in the East so that’s not the biggest surprise. The even bigger surprise was that they won two out of three against the Boston Bruins. That’s right, the President’s Trophy winners had a losing record against one of the worst teams in modern NHL history.
Now, in the grand scheme of things, these aren’t big positives. The team still had by far the worst record in the league. All of these positives are things that Red Wings fans can see as hope for the future. And with how bad this team was, that’s really all they can hope for.
Where do we begin here? Well, let’s just stick with the basics at first. The team had already clinched the worst record in the league with 11 games left. They had a -122 goal differential which was 70 (yes, 70) goals worse than any other team in the league. They had three separate losing streaks longer than eight games. The longest of these streaks was a 12-game losing streak from November 14th to December 10th.
Outside of their top line, the team’s offense was non-existent. They had only five players on the entire roster with at least 25 points this season (Larkin, Bertuzzi, Mantha, Robby Fabbri, Hronek). Through 71 games, the Red Wings managed just 145 goals for a staggering 2.04 goals per game. There wasn’t a single qualified goalie in the NHL who had a goals against average (GAA) that low.
As for the defense, well, let’s start with the fact that they didn’t have a stable six all year. There were 14 different defensemen who played at least one game for Detroit this season. Offensively, they were mostly inept. Following Hronek’s 31 points, the next two top defenseman scorers were Madison Bowey and Mike Green with 17 and 11 points respectively.
And to the more important part, the team was absolutely atrocious defensively. They allowed a whopping 267 goals for an average of 3.76 per game. There was just one player on the entire team with a defensive point shares (DPS) in the top 200 in the league. This was Patrik Nemeth, whose 3.3 DPS put him at 56th in the NHL. The next highest was Alex Biega at a 1.6 DPS, which was 211th in the NHL. If it wasn’t for Jonathan Bernier‘s stellar year in net, it would’ve been even worse.
Lastly, let’s touch on special teams. The Red Wings finished 29th in the NHL in power play percentage at a measly 14.9%. What’s even worse is that the team gave up a league leading 13 shorthanded goals. That is 6% of their power plays that they allowed a goal on. As for the penalty kill, it’s fairly simple. They were dead last in penalty kill percentage at 74.3%. You look at all of these stats and you begin to understand why they were the worst team in all of hockey.
In a season like this, you’re gonna get your awful performances and your awful moments. Some players will be worse than others, and some games will be worse than others. Let’s take a look at some of those, shall we?
There are three players who stood out as the worst performers for the Red Wings this season and two of them wear an “A” on their jersey. Justin Abdelkader managed just three points in 49 games while making $4.75 million this year. For comparison, Jonathan Bernier, who is a GOALIE, also had three points this season. Abdelkader’s fellow assistant captain Frans Nielsen also turned in the worst year of his career managing just nine points in 60 games, all while making $5.5 million this season.
Earlier, I mentioned how if it hadn’t been for the play of Bernier, the team’s goals against average would’ve been even worse. Well, to confirm that, let’s look no further than the play of Jimmy Howard. He was dead last in the NHL in both save % (.882) and GAA (4.20). And yes, while some of that is due to the awful defense in front of him, Bernier had a GAA of 2.95 playing behind the same defense. Howard was also pulled in six of his 27 starts.
Lastly, we move on to the ugliest moment of the season for multiple reasons. It was late in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs when a scrum led to…
This play was immediately followed up on by…
This was an awful look for a Red Wings team that was struggling, and in my opinion, should’ve led to a suspension for Andreas Athanasiou. They also lost Mantha for nearly two months thanks to a punctured lung from the scrum. It was the ugliest of an awful season for the Detroit Red Wings.
That’s a really big question, isn’t it? When you’re as bad as the Red Wings were this season, surely there’s nowhere to go but up. And with the positives listed earlier, there is potential already in Detroit. The bigger question will be: what new players will be there next year? One would expect Moritz Seider to make the jump to Detroit next season. There will be questions about what other defensemen join him as the contracts of both Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson have expired.
There’s also the NHL Draft coming up. The draft lottery takes place on June 28th where the Wings have an 18.5% chance to strike gold and land Alexis Lafrenière. He’s someone you would expect to make the leap straight to the NHL and contribute immediately. If they don’t come away with the first overall pick, you have players like Quinton Byfield and Tim Stützle who would be solid options as well and could also come straight to the show.
The biggest mystery is what Steve Yzerman will do in free agency. With multiple contracts coming off the board, the Wings will have some money to spend. He’ll have to use some of that to lock up restricted free agents Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha, but that should be easy to do. We’ll see if Yzerman decides he wants to add more established talent.
Hockeytown is in its worst stretch since the Dead Wings era. Coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history, we’ll see what they can muster next year. With a lot of young players coming into their own and draft picks galore, look for an improved Red Wings in 2020-21.
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