Detroit Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman won’t provide an answer on any timeline–and it’s the smart move. Yzerman enjoys what not one other front office executive in the entire league has: goodwill with the fan base. Just look back to April 19, 2019 for evidence of that. Whimsically watching as he built the Lightning into what they are, his return ushered in optimism not felt in at least a decade.
The vast majority of the fan base knows it will take time–especially if it’s to be done the right way. But every fan base has its patience threshold–even with a franchise legend running the show.
As we’re a few weeks out until some real movement begins that will lend some clues as to just how much better the team will be, what’s a realistic timeline look like? And to set the bar here, we’re looking at just how much longer it’ll be before we’re actually looking at a team on the ice that could have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.
The Detroit Red Wings are still in transition in 2021-22
Unless he makes a blockbuster trade that signals a dramatic pivot, expect 2021-22 to be another season with growing pains. But it will be one with younger talent. If there’s anything that will keep the fanbase tuned in, it’s the debut of Moritz Seider and several other prospects which might even include Lucas Raymond on a short stint. With the hiring of Alex Tanguay to fix the powerplay, the eyes are on taking the future and making it the present.
But there’s also one other reason to stay on the right side of the lottery–Shane Wright. A deeper draft in 2022, the Red Wings have a chance to another crack at that top spot in the lottery. The draft will have a number of good players in it, and presumably with a full year of scouting young talent in normal circumstances,
It’s a year of purgatory. But it feels like it might be the last one for awhile.
2022-23 Gives Detroit a lot of Financial Freedom
Even after re-signing Tyler Bertuzzi this offseason to a similar deal or maybe a bit more (probably around $4M), Filip Hronek, and a few of the other RFA’s and UFA’s, the Red Wings stand to have but a handful of contracts on the books entering the 2022 offseason. So much so, that they’re projected to have just under $70M open up without any of the aforementioned signings above.
Realistically, they’ll have close to $45M if not more at their disposal. Yzerman has been planning for this since he took the job. It’s when he can really push forward and begin turning the tide on the rebuild.
The 2022-23 season seems like the first where if the Red Wings are going to realistically push for relevance, it begins here. Now, this of course relies on a number of factors going the Wings way. Namely:
- The top prospects “hit.” These include Seider, Raymond, Jonatan Berggren, whoever they take this draft and seeing the continued growth of Michael Rasmussen, Joe Veleno, and other prospects expected to fill in the gaps
- A bigger name hits free agency and Yzerman can use his “jedi” mind tricks to get them to sign
- How about drafting Shane Wright ? Or a really-close-to-making-it prospect from the 2022 draft who could maybe jump right in with the aforementioned players “hitting.” Obviously after the lack of luck when the Wings are in the lottery, it’s best to not even put any weight into this one. But one can dream, right?
Regardless, it’s the 2022-23 season that really opens possibilities where if Yzerman makes his moves forward. But there’s still a lot of questions instead of answers, and while 2022-23 could be the earliest season playoffs could be considered, it almost stands to reason that in 2023-24 is when losses really hurt again because they block the team from playoff contention–and not because it’s just a redundant exercise of coming up short.
It’ll be nice to no longer pin our hopes on what could be in the Draft. Instead, we’ll be watching to see if Yzerman can resurrect the franchise once more with yet another Stanley Cup Championship.