Much like the final scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”, the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings are trying to look on the bright side of life. However, that’s been a hard task with the team languishing as the worst in the league.
Detroit has taken their lumps this season and there’s been a lot of bad statistics. The Wings are dead last in goals allowed with 265, which is 30 more than the next worst team (Ottawa Senators). They’re also last in goals scored with 142, which is 32 less than the 30th-place Los Angeles Kings. Those statistics obviously mean that Detroit has the worst goal differential in the league.
Other glaring stats are the team is the worst at the penalty kill with 74.3 percent and 28th in power play success rate at 14.9 percent. Detroit is at the bottom of the league in save percentage at .886 and Ottawa is the next worst at .900.
However, it’s not been all bad for the club in 2019-20. One does have to go a ways to find some positives, but they’re out there.
2019-20 Detroit Red Wings Bright Spots
This may contradict the worst team save percentage, but Jonathan Bernier carries a .907 save percentage this season. The Red Wings are fifth in shots allowed with 32.8 and worst in shot differential at –5.7.
Bernier is 14th in High-Danger Shots against according to Natural Stat Trick. He’s saved 232 of those chances, which is good enough for 13th among all goalies. The Laval, Quebec native has an .838 high danger save percentage.
Those numbers are middle of the pack, but let’s also consider the Wings have a defence made up of mostly struggling veterans and younger players trying to find their way. Bernier has settled in after scuffling in his first year in Hockeytown.
Finding a long-term solution in net should be on general manager Steve Yzerman’s to do list, but Bernier can at least be a stop gap if Yzerman doesn’t land a big name via trade or free agency. Jimmy Howard will probably not be back due to his age and troubles in net this season. At least Bernier can hold the fort until a new course is found.
Robby Fabbri & Tyler Bertuzzi
Both Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi will be restricted free agents at the end of the season, but both will be high priorities for Yzerman. Fabbri’s 15 goals is close to matching his rookie season with the St. Louis Blues in 2015-16.
Bertuzzi and Fabbri were teammates together with the Guelph Storm in the OHL and have been on the same line and power-play unit at times. The duo has shown some flashes of their old chemistry in an otherwise lacklustre offensive season.
The younger Bertuzzi leads the team in goals with 21 and brings plenty of energy to the squad. He gives a maximum effort and isn’t afraid to throw around his weight. Yzerman will make sure both are locked up at least for the next few seasons.
Detroit’s defence has taken its lumps this season, but Filip Hronek has stood out. The young Czech has gotten an increased workload this campaign and he has nine goals and 22 assists to show for his effort.
He started to put things together at last year’s IIHF World Championships and that’s seemingly translated to the NHL. However, one wonders if he’s getting too much too soon. Here’s hoping that his minutes can be thinned out and he doesn’t have to do so much.
The current Red Wings D-group with Filip Hronek has struggled. However, there is some promise in a pair of young defenders. Sixth-overall pick Mortiz Seider has shown flashes of what made Yzerman take a risk on him in the draft. Seider was playing other younger players, but he was showing a complete game with physical hits and solid passes. The young German looks to be a cornerstone of the team’s blue-line group for years to come.
Rookie Gustav Lindstrom has also shown his simple yet effective game with the team. He has one assist in 16 games played, but is also using his physical play. He’s looked like an experienced veteran despite him being in the league for just over a dozen games. The Swede may be another part with Seider and Hronek that will be key in the team’s turnaround.
More Ping Pong Balls
The main thing is the Red Wings will likely have the best chance to land Alexis Lafranierre. Detroit is assured a top-four selection if the standard draft procedure is used. A talented player like Quinton Byfield, Tim Stützle or Jamie Drysdale will be there for the taking even if the Wings miss out on the top pick.
However, the recent suspension of the season due to the COVID-19 outbreak has put uncertainty into the whole lottery process. This will be one of the things the owners will have to sort out once things get up and running again. However, it’s likely that Detroit will have a favourable draft position.
What It Means for the Future
If it’s the end of the season for the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings, there are some positives. There may not be a lot, but they’re there. Detroit got some big wins over the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and made life miserable for the Montreal Canadiens.
The rebuild is still going to take at least a few more seasons, but there will be some of the bad contracts coming off the books. Detroit will have six more picks in the upcoming NHL Draft barring any deals made before or during that weekend.