The Detroit Red Wings open their 2021-22 NHL season Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena with a matchup against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning (who are already 0-1-0, thanks to a 6-2 loss Tuesday to the Pittsburgh Penguins. At least the Bolts got to raise their latest banner in front of fans.)
After two chaotic seasons for the Wings, life should be mostly back to normal when the puck drops at 7:30 p.m. Dylan Larkin is still the captain, the jerseys are still red and white and the Wings are still projected to finish well back of the playoff herd. Still, there have been plenty of changes in the past few months. Here’s what you need to know going into the opener:
The new kids
In general manager Steve Yzerman’s third season leading the franchise, Wings fans will finally get to see the results of his early drafts with his first two first-rounders making the opening-night roster:
Moritz Seider: A surprise pick at No. 6 overall in 2019, Seider has grown into a defenseman with the potential to dominate. As a 19-year-old, he had two goals and 20 assists with a minus-5 rating in 49 games with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL. The Wings farmed him out to Rögle of the Swedish Hockey League in 2020-21 to ensure he had a full season of work; in 41 games, he posted seven goals and 21 assists and was named the league’s top defenseman. With the Wings, expect to see him paired with defenseman Nick Leddy (we’ll get to him in a bit), who should provide some veteran leadership.
THE FABULOUS MO: Poised, talented and makes his own bed
Lucas Raymond: The No. 4 pick in 2020 also spent the 2020-21 season in Sweden, though unlike Seider, he’s a native Swede. As a 18-year-old, he had six goals and 12 assists in 34 games with Frölunda of the SHL. Raymond was even more impressive in the preseason with the Wings over the past month, leading the team with six points (two goals, four assists). He should get a chance to impress early in the regular season, too, as he’ll likely be paired with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi on the Wings’ top line.
THE NEXT STEP: Raymond’s next challenge: Keep impressing Yzerman
Arrivals and departures
The rookies aren’t the only newcomers wearing the Winged Wheel this season. Here’s the biggest names who came and went during the offseason.
Goodbye, Jonathan Bernier: The veteran goalie went 9-11-1 last season with a .914 save percentage and 2.99 goals-against average. An impending unrestricted free agent, he was dealt to Carolina just before the NHL draft, and then signed with New Jersey to backup youngster Mackenzie Blackwood.
Hello, Alex Nedeljkovic: An Ohio native who has lived in the Metro Detroit area for a decade, Nedeljkovic led the NHL in save percentage (.930) and GAA (1.90) in 23 appearances with the Hurricanes as a rookie last season. He finished third in Calder Trophy voting, but Carolina balked at the asking price for the restricted free agent and dealt him to the Wings for Bernier and a 2021 third-round pick. The Wings signed him to a two-year, $6 million contract.
Goodbye, Luke Glendening: The Grand Rapids native who worked his way from walking-on at Michigan to a talented faceoff man for the Wings (with 15 points in 54 games last season) signed a two-year deal with Dallas in the offseason.
Hello, Pius Suter: A former Swiss League MVP, Suter had 14 goals and 13 assists in 55 games as a rookie with Chicago last season. (That included five goals and an assist in eight games against the Wings.) The Blackhawks declined to re-sign him, though, and the Wings picked him up on a two-year, $6.5 million deal.
SUTER THE SHOOTER: New signing looks like he’ll fit perfectly on second line
Goodbye, Dennis Cholowski: The 2016 first-rounder (No. 20 overall) was selected by Seattle in the expansion draft (by, yes, an octopus) after putting up 10 goals and 17 assists in 104 games over three seasons on defense with the Wings (including 16 games last season). The defense-heavy Kraken sent Cholowski to the minors to open the season.
DENNIS THE MENACE: What losing Cholowski in expansion draft means
Hello, Nick Leddy: The former Blackhawks and Islanders defenseman enters his 12th season in the NHL, acquired by the Wings for Richard Panik and a 2021 second-round pick. Leddy is a solid playmaker who had two goals and 29 assists in 56 games in New York last season; his best season came in 2016-17, when he had 11 goals and 35 assists.
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What’s new everywhere else?
OK, so those are the big changes on the Wings’ roster; anything new around the league?
A new team! The NHL is back to an even number of teams with the inaugural season for the expansion Seattle Kraken, who opened their season Tuesday night with a 4-3 loss to team No. 31, the Vegas Golden Knights. The Kraken will be road warriors for the next two weeks, with visits to Vegas, Nashville, Columbus, Philadelphia and New Jersey before their home opener Oct. 23 against the regional rival — just 140 miles apart! —Vancouver Canucks. (Seattle’s new team will play in Climate Change Arena in downtown, formerly known as Key Arena when it played host to the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics. Only the roof, a historical landmark which dates to the 1962 World’s Fair, is the same, located just a few hundred feet away from the iconic Space Needle.) The Kraken play in the Pacific Division, along with Vancouver, Vegas, Calgary, Edmonton and the NHL’s three California teams, as the Arizona Coyotes move into the Central Division. (The NHL’s “traditional” divisions are back, after a season with the seven Canadian teams sequestered north of the border forced some shuffling, meaning lots more games against Toronto and Montreal for the Wings.)
THE NEW 32: Ranking all the NHL teams by watchability
A new TV network (times two)! If you were tired of getting a Chicago Blackhawks game on NBCSN seemingly every week, rejoice! The NHL’s deal with NBC is done; in its place is an agreement with TNT (which will air games Wednesday night and some Sundays in 2022, as well as the Winter Classic on Jan. 1) and ESPN (which has pegged Tuesday nights for its flagship broadcasts). The downside of the deal? Disney’s ESPN+ and Hulu streaming services replace NHL.TV as the league’s online presence, and those two will get several dozen online-only games this season. The Wings will have eight games available only on ESPN+/Hulu — Oct. 29 vs. Florida, Nov. 16 vs. Dallas, Dec. 7 vs. Nashville, Jan. 11 vs. San Jose, March 8 vs. Arizona, March 10 vs. Minnesota, April 14 vs. Carolina, and April 21 vs. Florida — and two on TNT: Jan. 26 vs. (of course) Chicago and March 30 vs. the N.Y. Rangers. The Wings’ 72 other games this season will be on Bally Sports Detroit. (ESPN and TNT will split the playoffs, though Wings fans aren’t likely to have to worry about that this season.)
STREAM OF THOUGHT: Wings’ national TV schedule: If you don’t have ESPN+, you’re out of luck
A new (old) Olympic break! Four years after NHL players were forced to miss the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea — Russia won, Germany took silver and Canada settled for bronze; it was weird, in other words — they’ll be back playing for their national teams in Beijing in 2022, as the NHL will shut down its regular schedule from Feb. 3-22. Most of the Wings will likely have the break off. One who won’t? Seider, who was already named to the German roster (along with Kraken goalie Philippe Grubauer and Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl). As for the rest? Rosters won’t be announced till January; Larkin is a candidate for Team USA, though that’s a crowded field. Even if he doesn’t head to China, Larkin may be busy that first weekend in February; the NHL is holding its All-Star weekend in Las Vegas on Feb. 4-5, culminating in the usual 3-on-3 tournament between divisional squads.
If outdoor games are more your thing, here’s the lineup: The Wild host the Blues at Target Field (MLB) in Minneapolis in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, the Predators host the Lightning at Nissan Stadium (NFL) in Nashville on Feb. 26, and the Maple Leafs will face the Sabres in the previously Canadian-only Heritage Classic on March 13 … at Tim Hortons Field (CFL) in Hamilton, Ontario, about 70 miles from both Toronto and Buffalo.
The regular season is set to wrap up in late April, allowing for a more normal playoff and offseason schedule — AKA, more time to worry about the draft lottery.
Mark your calendar
Despite the three-week break in February, the Wings and the rest of the league are back to an 82-game schedule after the coronavirus pandemic stopped the 2019-20 season at approximately 71 games and limited 2020-21 to 56 games. Some of the more notable games:
Canadian bakin’: After a season without facing any Canadian teams, the Wings will face three — Vancouver, Calgary and Stanley Cup runners-up Montreal — in seven days beginning Saturday (so brush up on the lyrics to “O, Canada,” eh?).
Bolted down: The Wings will have three more games against the defending champion Lightning, with two in March and one in mid-April.
Under the sea: And, finally, the Kraken come to Little Caesars Arena on Dec. 1 for the NHL’s first cephalopod-vs.-cephalopod matchup. (For the record, we’re taking Al the Octopus any day of the week over whatever the Kraken name their, well, kraken.) The Wings head to Seattle in mid-March for the rematch; maybe by then, we’ll have a name for Seattle’s mascot.
BREAKING DOWN THE SCHEDULE: What’s on deck for 82 games, in Olympic year
Here’s the Wings’ full schedule, with times and TV:
All games on Bally Sports Detroit, except where noted.
Thursday, Oct. 14: Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 16: Vancouver, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 19: Columbus, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 21: Calgary, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 23: at Montreal, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 24: at Chicago, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 27: at Washington, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 29: Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Saturday, Oct. 30: at Toronto, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 2: at Montreal, 7 p.m. (Bally Sports Detroit+)
Thursday, Nov. 4: at Boston, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 6: at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 7: Vegas, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 9: Edmonton, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 11: Washington, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 13: Montreal, 7 p.m. (BSD+)
Monday, Nov. 15: at Columbus, 7 p.m. (BSD+)
Tuesday, Nov. 16: at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Thursday, Nov. 18: at Vegas, 10 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 20: at Arizona, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 24: St. Louis, 7:30 p.m. (BSD+)
Saturday, Nov. 27: Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 30: at Boston, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 1: Seattle, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 4: N.Y. Islanders, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 7: Nashville, 7 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Thursday, Dec. 9: at St. Louis, 8 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 10: at Colorado, 9 p.m. (BSD+)
Tuesday, Dec. 14: N.Y. Islanders, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 16: at Carolina, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 18: New Jersey, 8 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 20: Colorado, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 23: at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
Monday, Dec. 27: at N.Y. Rangers, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec. 29: at N.Y. Islanders, 7:30 p.m. (BSD+)
Friday, Dec. 31: Washington, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 2: Boston, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 4: San Jose, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 6: at Anaheim, 10 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 8: at Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 11: at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Thursday, Jan. 13: Winnipeg, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 15: Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 17: at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 18: at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 21: Dallas, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 22: at Nashville, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 26: Chicago, 7:30 p.m. (TNT)
Friday, Jan. 28: at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 29: Toronto, 7 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 31: Anaheim, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 2: Los Angeles, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 23: Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 26: at Toronto, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, March 1: Carolina, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 4: at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 5: at Florida, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, March 8: Arizona, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Thursday, March 10: Minnesota, 7 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Saturday, March 12: at Calgary, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, March 15: at Edmonton, 9 p.m. (BSD+)
Thursday, March 17: at Vancouver, 10 p.m.
Saturday, March 19: at Seattle, 10 p.m.
Tuesday, March 22: Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 26: Tampa Bay, 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 27: at Pittsburgh, 5 p.m. (BSD+)
Wednesday, March 30: N.Y. Rangers, 7:30 p.m. (TNT)
Friday, April 1: Ottawa, 7:30 p.m. (BSD+)
Sunday, April 3: at Ottawa, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, April 5: Boston, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 6: at Winnipeg, 7:30 p.m. (BSD+)
Saturday, April 9: Columbus, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, April 12: Ottawa, 7:30 p.m. (BSD+)
Thursday, April 14: at Carolina, 7 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Saturday, April 16: at N.Y. Rangers, 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 17: Florida, 1 p.m. (BSD+)
Tuesday, April 19: at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.
Thursday, April 21: at Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Saturday, April 23: Pittsburgh, 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 24: at New Jersey, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, April 26: Toronto, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 29: at New Jersey, 7 p.m.