Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2020-21, where Last Word on Hockey gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2020-21 Stanley Cup pick. Today the series continues with the 2020-21 Detroit Red Wings.
2020-21 Detroit Red Wings
There aren’t a whole lot of things to say about the 2019-20 season for the Red Wings. Among the very few things there are to say, none of them are very positive. The team was historically bad with just 17 wins in 71 games. These poor results were paired with a minus 122 goal differential, over twice the mark of the second-worst team in the league. The Red Wings were one of the few teams that did not participate in the bubble playoffs. Overall, the 2019-20 season was fairly uneventful for Detroit.
In contrast to the regular season, the Detroit Red Wings engaged in a momentous offseason. The team re-signed one of their key pieces in Anthony Mantha. Along with bringing back Mantha, Detroit brought in some new players when they signed a flurry of free agents. The most notable of these is perhaps the signing of Bobby Ryan. New 2020-21 Detroit Red Wings also include Vladislav Namestnikov, Troy Stecher and Jon Merrill. Detroit also acquired Marc Staal in a trade with the New York Rangers. Additionally, Detroit made noise at the NHL Entry Draft. Though they did not acquire a pick as high as they would have hoped due to the draft lottery, the Red Wings still got a solid piece for the future in Lucas Raymond.
Robby Fabbri – Vladislav Namestnikov – Bobby Ryan
The Red Wings boast a pretty solid top line with Bertuzzi, Larkin and Mantha. Anthony Mantha recently re-signed with Detroit and will look to build on the progress he’s made over the last several seasons. The first line should be productive while the second line should be comprised of players looking to establish or re-establish themselves. This includes the new signees, Vladislav Namestnikov and Bobby Ryan. The second line could change significantly as the season progresses however, if the Red Wings look to introduce some of their younger more skilled forwards to a top-six role.
It should be said that it’s very likely the Red Wings bottom-six forwards may go through expected turbulence this season. This prediction is simply with how the roster stands. Will the Red Wings #4 overall draft pick Lucas Raymond manage to make the team out of camp? Will Evgeny Svechnikov finally find a place in the bottom-six? Could Zadina manage to climb his way into the top-six? With teams that lack talent, like Detroit, the bottom-six is an area that has the potential for seismic shifts.
As it stands, the Red Wings have a weaker bottom-six than most teams, especially teams looking to compete for a playoff spot. The Red Wings may be looking to use their depth-forward positions as a proving ground for young forwards or veterans looking to re-establish themselves in the upcoming season. The bottom-six may also be an area for the Red Wings to showcase veterans that they’d like to trade for future assets at the trade deadline.
Danny DeKeyser – Troy Stecher
Marc Staal – Jon Merrill
The top-four of the Red Wings defence corps features a new addition in Troy Stecher, a signing that should shore up a weak defence. It’s hard to guess whether the Red Wings top-four will look like this at years’ end. If Moritz Seider makes the team, he could make an immediate enough impact to find his way into the top-four. That being said, Filip Hronek should be a stable presence in the top-four. The talented youngster is really the only exciting name on the Detroit blue line; at least until Seider or one of the Red Wings other prospects makes their way into the lineup.
At the beginning of the season, the Red Wings bottom pair will likely consist of two newcomers in the form of Marc Staal and Jon Merrill. Merrill is a low-risk high-reward signing that may result in the Red Wings getting a cheap year of a defensively sound player. Staal, on the other hand, is likely to be a strong veteran presence in the locker room, but not too productive on the ice. He was mostly brought into the fold to acquire future assets while the Red Wings ate his cap hit. This was a great move in the front office that may not look pretty on the ice. The defence is not the most exciting area for the 2020-21 Detroit Red Wings.
If any area of the Detroit Red Wings is one to look to as a positive, it may be their goaltending. The Red Wings ditched long-term starter Jimmy Howard after a disastrous season and brought in Thomas Greiss. Greiss may very well end up as the starting goaltender by the end of the year, but Jonathan Bernier’s strong play last season should earn him the chance to be the Red Wings’ starter at the beginning of the year. Last season, Bernier registered a 2.95 goals-against-average with a .907 save percentage. This may not seem impressive, but on a team as bad as last years’ Red Wings, it’s good enough to earn him a look as a fairly regular starter. Look for both of these goaltenders to start roughly the same amount of games.
Players to Watch
Anthony Mantha has been an integral part of the Red Wings lineup for the last several years. That’s no different this year and, in fact, Detroit will look to Mantha to take a step even further. With the previously mentioned new contract and talented line mates, Mantha should have no issue reaching lofty expectations. The sharpshooter suffered an injury last year that held him to just 43 games. When he was in the lineup, however, Mantha produced scoring 38 points in those 43 contests. With an abbreviated schedule Mantha may not reach 30 goals, but look for him to be about on that pace.
In all likelihood this will be Filip Zadina’s first full season with the Red Wings. Detroit has taken Zadina’s development slow as they usually do, up to this point. The Czech forward was productive offensively in limited action last year, registering 15 points in 28 games. A lot is expected of the Halifax Mooseheads’ product and he can start fulfilling that promise this season. Though he’s likely to start the season in the bottom-six, Zadina should get ample opportunity to play his way into a top-six role with powerplay minutes as well. Anything less than a jump in production would be considered a disappointment for the 2020-21 Detroit Red Wings.
Filip Hronek has impressed for the Detroit Red Wings two years in a row. Last year he registered 31 points in 65 games, a jump from 23 points in his rookie campaign. While he may have his issues on the defensive end, Hronek is an exciting young player on a Red Wings’ team looking for some hope. It will be interesting to see if he can increase his point total or if he can become more effective defensively. However it ends up happening, Hronek should be improving this season and beyond. It appears that Detroit has found a top-end defender that can be a building block for years to come on the blue line.
Prediction for 2020-21 Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings should be better than they were last year. They brought in some productive players and their young core pieces should continue to improve. That being said, it’s unlikely they’ll make any sort of a push for a playoff spot. Even in what is arguably the weakest new division, it’s hard to see them finishing anywhere outside the bottom-two. That being said, if the Red Wings decide to utilize a lot of their young talent they may surprise some. Young, fast and hungry is a solid formula for success when there isn’t the most talent on the roster.