Free Press sports writers share their thoughts on how the Detroit Red Wings‘ season will play out, and go on the record on whether the team can end their five-season playoff drought:
Helene St. James
Best-case scenario: The Red Wings enjoy good health and play competitively — and finally win the draft lottery.
Worst-case scenario: Injuries decimate the lineup, leading to finishing near the bottom of the standings, and then getting pushed back in the lottery again.
Breakout player: Lucas Raymond is the early favorite after such a good camp, but Moritz Seider may ultimately have the most impact as he strengthens the back end, and with that, the entire team.
Goals leader: Robby Fabbri. I would have picked Tyler Bertuzzi, but he stands to miss 10% of the Wings’ games because his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine means he can’t play in Canada, as it stands now.
Will they make the playoffs? Hard to see the Wings squeezing out one of the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division, or beating out one of the Metropolitan’s Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders, New York Rangers or Pittsburgh Penguins for a wild-card spot.
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Best case scenario: Defenseman Moritz Seider looks fantastic, Filip Zadina displays the talent that made him the No. 6 pick in 2018, the Wings improve their scoring, goalie Alex Nedeljkovic doesn’t miss a beat, other prospects move up, everybody stays healthy but they still lose and end up with the first pick. Kumbaya, baby.
Worst-case scenario: Jakub Vrana injures his shoulder — oh wait, that already happened. Seider proves he’s not ready, Larkin regresses, Nedeljkovic takes a step back and the Wings continue to struggle to score. And then, to pour salt on the wound, no No.1 pick. Ugh, I’m so sick of rebuilds.
Breakout player: I would have said Vrana, but his injury changed those plans. So I’ll move to option No. 2: Seider will adjust quickly, show his talent and become a cornerstone of the future.
Goals leader: Larkin will bounce back and have a fantastic season, if he can stay healthy.
Will they make the playoffs? No. It’s not impossible, if everything comes together perfectly, but it’s not likely because this team just doesn’t have enough talent.
Best-case scenario: The Wings improve dramatically in their goal scoring and power-play efficiency with the help of talented rookie Lucas Raymond and a healthier Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi. Moritz Seider has a strong rookie season on the blue line and Alex Nedeljkovic pitches a few shutouts while establishing himself as the goaltender of the future.
Worst-case scenario: Injuries ravage the team again and stunt the growth of rookies. Scoring continues to be a problem and the power play continues to be a mess. The Wings struggle to win 30 games and miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
Breakout player: Pius Suter.
Goals leader: Robby Fabbri.
Will they make the playoffs? No.
Best-case scenario: The young guys show promise. The middle vets stay healthy. The power play looks better. Moritz Seider reminds everyone that Steve Yzerman knows how to navigate the draft. Oh, yeah: They finally win the lottery next year.
Worst-case scenario: Injuries. The young guys show less promise. They luck into enough wins to fall in the lottery (not that it matters with their draft luck).
Breakout player: Lucas Raymond. He had a nice camp. The fans deserve a youngster to take all that promise from Traverse City to Little Caesars.
Goals leader: Robbi Fabbri.
Will they make the playoffs: No. But they won’t miss them by as much.