The Detroit Red Wings are entering their final stretch of the 2020-21 season, with just eight games left on the schedule. With no shot at the playoffs, it can become difficult for fans to find a reason to tune in. However, for those diehard fans willing to stick with the team through the remainder of the season, there are certainly some storylines worth keeping an eye on.
How many more wins could they get?
Through 48 games, the Red Wings have a total of 39 points. That is tied for the 2019-20 team total points through 71.
To anyone that has followed the Wings this year, it is obvious that this is a better team, especially on the defensive side on the ice. With eight games left in the season, this squad has a chance to prove it and (bar disaster) will exceed their point total from last year.
With the amount of free agent contracts looming in the offseason, fans are not going to witness players give up on the season. Some players are not just fighting for the team at this point, they are fighting for a contract. Someone like Sam Gagner has this final stretch to prove that he belongs back in the Winged Wheel next season.
While unlikely (in fact, probably impossible), if the Red Wings win all of their remaining games, they will not just be a .500 hockey team – they will be one with a winning record.
What about Draft Position?
There is a problem with Detroit going on a solid run in the final nine: draft position.
Currently, the Red Wings are slotted at the number seven spot in the 2021 NHL Entry Level Draft, as their 16 wins put them above the likes of Ottawa, New Jersey and fellow Central Division member Columbus.
However, there is something to be said about the lack of elite talent at the top of this year’s draft. Although there is certainly strength at the top (Owen Power, Matty Beniers, WIlliam Ecklund, etc.), there is not quite an Auston Matthews or even Alexis Lafreniere sitting atop the draft rankings. It would not be the worst scenario if Detroit remained roughly in their current slot heading into the lottery.
Although it is unlikely the Red Wings catch up with league-worst Buffalo, it never hurts to have better odds in the draft lottery, especially if you are a team still relatively early in the rebuild stages. While Detroit performing less than stellar in their final games might be tough to watch, it could help GM Steve Yzerman in the long run, giving him a better shot at getting “his” guy with his first pick in the draft.
The Young Guys
The easiest thing to root for down the stretch is the young prospects and players slowing improving their game. We have already seen it this season with guys like Michael Rasmussen, finally utilizing that large frame of his to set screens at the net and win puck battles. Filip Zadina has also steadily improved his game this season, rounding out the defensive side of his game and improving his offensive toolkit.
Perhaps more exciting for Detroit fans is the opportunity to watch Joe Veleno get his shot in the NHL. Officially a member of the main roster, Veleno is gearing up for his Red Wings debut. He accompanied the team in their trip to Dallas and seems poised to make his entrance in the Wing’s home stand against the Stars.
Whatever the case, it seems fans will finally get their chance to see Veleno as a member of the main squad. That alone is a solid reason for any Detroiter to tune in to these final games.