It’s not exactly breaking news that the Detroit Red Wings are a bad NHL team this season. And it’s not unexpected, either: after their 25-season playoff streak ended in 2016-17, the Wings have missed the post-season three straight times and – you read it here first – they’ll miss it again this season. How do I know? Because they could win every single one of their remaining 28 games and they’d end up with 84 points, which would be well short of the 98 points the Columbus Blue Jackets needed last season to secure the last wild-card spot in the East. And given that the Wings have won just 12 of their first 54 games, something tells me they’re not going to win their last 28 in a row.
Detroit had a great run – 25 consecutive playoff appearances from 1991 through 2016, four Stanley Cup championships from 1997 to 2008 – but all that success comes with a price, and the Wings are paying it. Too many declining veterans on overpriced contracts has hampered their ability to compete both on the ice and in free agency, and they went nearly 30 years without a top-10 draft pick. That’s a real bad combination and it was inevitably going to end poorly…and here we are.
It will probably get worse for Detroit, too, before it gets better. They’re in the bottoming-out phase of a full-blown rebuild. Steve Yzerman, in his first year as the Wings’ GM, appears content to let the season play out and see what he has among the team’s current group of players. Plus, Yzerman surely plans to weaken the lineup further by trading roster players for picks and prospects at the deadline.
At least there’s some good news in all of this. The bad veteran contracts are starting to come off the books. The Wings have accumulated some top-10 draft picks in the past few seasons and can look to hot-shot prospects such as Filip Zadina and Moritz Seider to be the building blocks for the future. And, given that they’re virtually guaranteed to finish last overall this season, the Wings are the odds-on favorite to win the draft lottery and No. 1 pick in June.
So there’s hope for the future, even if there’s pain in the present. And to be sure, the Wings are bad, real bad. Here are 10 stats that speak to their struggles:
.259 points percentage
Not only are the Wings the worst team in the NHL this season, their points percentage says they’re the worst team in the NHL in the past 20 seasons. Not since the 1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers went 14-57-11 in their expansion debut, which translates to a .238 points percentage, has the league seen a train wreck like this. For comparison’s sake, the Los Angeles Kings have the second-worst points percentage this season at .398 and the Ottawa Senators had the worst mark last season at .390. It’s a good thing Detroit started the season by winning three of its first four games – since then, the Wings have gone 9-37-4 for a .220 points percentage. That’s what happens when you endure losing streaks of eight, 12 and six games, plus their current nine-game skid.
Jimmy Howard 2-20-2
The Wings’ No. 1 netminder won the team’s season opener but it’s been all downhill ever since. In fact, after collecting his second win of the season against Edmonton on Oct. 29, Howard has gone 0-15-2 in his past 17 appearances. No other goalie comes close to Howard’s ineptitude, with Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick (11-20-3) and Ottawa’s Craig Anderson (7-12-2) as the comparables. Among the 62 goalies who have played at least 10 games this year, Howard ranks dead last in goals-against average (4.12) and save percentage (.884). Obviously it’s a lot more about the team in front of him than Howard’s performance, but that probably doesn’t make him feel any better.
Minus-96 goal differential
The Wings are barely scoring two goals a game and they’re giving up almost four goals per contest. They have a record of 1-23 in games decided by three or more goals. Do the math through 54 games, and they’re minus-96. New Jersey is second-worst at minus-49.
Andreas Athanasiou minus-38
When you play for a team with a minus-96 goal differential, you’re going to have a lot of players with poor plus/minus ratings. Detroit is proving this to be true, and then some. Athanasiou has the worst plus/minus in the NHL, and Wings players account for the five worst plus/minus marks in the league, and six of the bottom seven spots. After Athanasiou, Valtteri Filppula is minus-37, Filip Hronek minus-29, Mike Green minus-27, Robby Fabbri minus-26 and Dennis Cholowski minus-23. In all, the Wings have 17 players in the double-digit minuses, plus three more at minus-9 and another at minus-8. Their only plus player is defenseman Brian Lashoff, who has spent most of the year in the AHL, with a plus-1 rating in nine NHL games.
2.04 goals per game
Nobody scores fewer goals than the Red Wings. They’ve been shut out in their past two outings and have scored more than two goals in a game only once in their past nine contests – a 6-3 loss to Colorado on Jan. 20. The next lowest-scoring teams are Los Angeles (2.46), Anaheim (2.49) and San Jose (2.54). The average NHL team scores about a goal per game more than Detroit. Does anybody have Pavel Datsyuk’s phone number?
3.80 goals-against average
Nobody gives up more goals than the Red Wings. Even New Jersey (3.47 GAA), Minnesota (3.28 GAA) and San Jose (3.25 GAA) are looking down on Detroit. As you might expect, the Wings’ .883 save percentage is the lowest in the league, with New Jersey second-worst at .889. Does anybody have Mike Vernon’s phone number?
14.5-percent power-play efficiency
Detroit’s power play sits second-last overall, with 24 goals on 166 PP opportunities, slightly ahead of Anaheim (20-for-140, 14.3 percent). The Wings have also given up a league-worst 11 shorthanded goals. Crunch the numbers and they’re plus-13 on the power play, which – as you’ve probably figured out – is last in the league.
73.2-percent penalty-kill efficiency
Detroit’s penalty kill sits last overall, with 44 goals against on 164 PK opportunities. The Wings have scored three shorthanded goals, ahead of only Boston and Tampa Bay (two apiece). Crunch the numbers and they’re minus-41 on the penalty kill, which – as you’ve probably figured out – is last in the league.
Leading scorer Dylan Larkin tied for 82nd overall in NHL points
Even the Wings’ best players are struggling to perform this season. Larkin, with 13 goals and 37 points in 54 games, is producing at a decent rate considering the lack of support around him, but he’s well off the pace of his personal-best 32-goal, 73-point output of last season. Only three teams (Anaheim, New Jersey and Ottawa) have leading scorers with fewer points.
Leading goal-scorer Tyler Bertuzzi tied for 58th in NHL goals
The Wings’ representative at the NHL All-Star Game, Bertuzzi has 17 goals in 54 games, putting him on track to beat his personal best of 21 goals which he set last year. Bertuzzi might be Detroit’s lone 20-goal man this season, unless Larkin, Fabbri (12 goals) or Anthony Mantha (12 goals) manage to pick it up down the stretch. Only one team (Dallas) has a leading goal-scorer with fewer goals.