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NHL Burning Questions: Detroit Red Wings

Brighter days are ahead for the Red Wings, who are starting to build a long-term contender. Adam Proteau looks at three major questions for the club entering 2022-23.
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Welcome back to THN.com’s continuing “Three Burning Questions” series, in which we pose three big questions for every NHL team prior to the start of the 2022-23 regular season. This file contains Three Burning Questions about the Detroit Red Wings.

THREE BURNING QUESTIONS FOR THE RED WINGS IN 2022-23:

1. How quickly will Detroit’s slew of new acquisitions fit in? Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman used much of his salary cap space this summer on veteran free agents at all positions: in goal, he traded for, then signed unrestricted free agent Ville Husso; on defense, he added UFAs Ben Chiarot, Olli Maatta, Mark Pysyk and Robert Hagg; and at forward, he signed UFAs Andrew Copp, David Perron and Dominik Kubalik. Suddenly, Detroit’s outlook for 2022-23 improved significantly, to the point many observers believe they can be a playoff team this season.

Now, it may take all those new acquisitions to pan out as hoped for the Wings to make the post-season, but on paper, they do have a vastly improved group of forwards, a better defense corps, and a goaltending tandem (that also includes the returning Alex Nedeljkovic) that should be an improvement from last season’s dubious duo. Are the Red Wings better? No question. Does new head coach Derek Lalonde have enough talent to work with to at least be in the chase for a playoff berth in the improved Atlantic Division? Yes he does. Is it possible the Wings come up just short and finish fifth in the division? Yes, that also could happen.

But this writer feels like Detroit will be grinding it out in the final weeks of the regular season, and they’ll be in the mix for a playoff spot to the end of the year. It’s not only a question of the Wings being better – it’s also about the Ottawa Senators being better, and the Boston Bruins (who held the fourth and final playoff spot last season) being worse. Much needs to go right for the Red Wings to make a notable jump in the standings, but far crazier things have happened in hockey’s top league.

2. Is Steve Yzerman finished making moves? While Yzerman famously keeps his cards extremely close to his chest, he knows as well as anyone that his Red Wings remain a work-in-progress. Yzerman also has a substantial amount of cap room – more than $8.1 million, according to CapFriendly.com – to use at some point during the regular season. Do you think he’ll hesitate to spend it if he can take advantage of another team’s cap woes? Us neither. Yzerman will be watching opponents like a hawk, waiting to swoop in and extract draft picks, prospects, or NHLers that can provide an instant boost in exchange for that cap space.

For many years, the Red Wings have focused on the future. But now, it’s about taking that next competitive step this season. For that reason, Yzerman is no longer interested in next year, or the year after that. He wants to win now, and he’s going to use every cap dollar necessary to achieve that goal.

3. What’s the ceiling for Detroit budding superstars Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond? Yzerman hit the jackpot when he drafted German D-man Moritz Seider and Swedish winger Lucas Raymond, as both youngsters demonstrated their many skills last season. Seider averaged a team-best 23:02 of ice time and rightfully won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the best rookie in the NHL in 2021-22, while Raymond generated 23 goals and 57 points in 82 games. And the best part – Seider is just 21 years old, and Raymond is only 20.

So, to answer the question: yes, both Seider and Raymond’s best days are yet to come. Seider will likely continue to lead the Wings in time on ice, and despite Detroit’s improved depth on ‘D’, he could average more than 25 minutes per game and improve on the 43 assists and 50 points he posted last season. And Raymond is going to be on Detroit’s top line (including star center Dylan Larkin and winger Tyler Bertuzzi) in 2022-23; he’ll be playing more than the 18:03 of ice time he averaged last year, and his numbers on offense almost assuredly will rise notably.

Along with Larkin, Seider and Raymond are the foundational players Yzerman will be continuing to build the Red Wings around. And the sky is the limit for both youngsters.

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