Friday night is the second-to-last game of the season for the Detroit Red Wings. They’ll be squaring off against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a back-to-back series to close out their 2020-21 NHL season. As of right now, the Red Wings are tied for 28th place with the New Jersey Devils. The Blue Jackets sit just a single point ahead of them. These next two games will be key to determining their overall standing before the draft. Win, and they’ll be nearly six places higher in the overall standings. Lose, and they’ll have higher odds to win the draft lottery. The end of the Detroit Red Wings 2020-21 season starts today.
Pros and Cons: Winning vs. Losing
With that being said, what should the Red Wings do? There are certainly pros and cons to both sides. On one hand, tanking for a higher pick increases the chance of netting a star player. On the other, playing like you mean it helps to establish a winning culture. Games like these two are imperative for rebuilding teams. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of both sides for the Detroit Red Wings 2020-21 season.
Winning the Last Two Games of the Red Wings Season
It might not seem like the best draft strategy, but winning the last two games could make all the difference with the team’s confidence. After a tough season, it’s important to secure those little wins. Guys like Joseph Veleno, Givani Smith, and Michael Rasmussen need all the positivity they can get to help foster the winning culture prided in Detroit. Teaching the younger players to persevere through the toughest of times will go a long way in building the chemistry contending teams covet.
Given Detroit’s history of dropping in the draft rankings, a small shift in standings seems nominal, at best. There’s no guarantee that the Red Wings will pick first overall, even if they lose the last two games. Additionally, the 2021 draft doesn’t have a clear-cut star player. It might be better to pick somewhere in the 5-10 range than it would be to pick first overall. Something small like a few victories at the end of the season may help the team end on a positive note.
Losing the Last Two Games of the Red Wings Season
On the other hand, is losing the last two games of a pandemic-shortened season really that big of a deal? We’re approaching the end of a season that’s been chalked up as a wash for the majority of the NHL. While ending the season with two losses isn’t great for morale, it’s just two games. Those two losses could create a break in the standings to help the Red Wings finally secure a star player to complement Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond.
Sure, there’s no clear-cut star player for the 2021 NHL Draft. But it’s bold to assume that general manager Steve Yzerman doesn’t have a plan. He’s likely already picked out his guy. Whether he picks him first or seventh overall won’t matter to him. Red Wings fans know firsthand to trust Yzerman’s judgment based solely on Seider’s monstrous SHL season. If we’re to trust the Yzerplan, there’s a method behind the madness, regardless of where the Red Wings wind up on the standings.
The thing the Red Wings need the most right now is talent. They need to secure as many high-potential players as they can muster through the draft and development. At this point in time, losing the next two games puts them in a better place to secure a high-ceiling player than winning the games does. As the Red Wings’ season comes to a close, the most logical strategy should be losing the next two games. They need to give Yzerman the best chance he can get to draft high; losing the games should help him.
Having said that, intentionally trying to lose a game is not a healthy mindset for a team. In an ideal scenario, the Red Wings play their hearts out but come up short at the end. It’s more than likely that this will end in a series split. No matter what happens, the draft will be affected, for better or worse, by both of these games.