The Detroit Red Wings, believe it or not, are a quarter of the way completed with the season. A ton of games packed into just over a month saw Detroit churn through 20 and fall just a game under .500. The lower point of the road trip and the first 20 games was the 2-1 loss to lowly Arizona, which highlighted a need for the Red Wings to catch their breath. Here are eight observations heading into a couple of games with St. Louis and Buffalo.
1: The schedule doesn’t get any easier as the Red Wings have a tilt with St. Louis tomorrow and then Buffalo Saturday. The winless road trip could very well be a chance to recover and Detroit could hop right back to .500. On the other hand, it could be another unfortunate set of circumstances that see the Red Wings slip a bit more down the standings.
2: For all the hand wringing about the road trip, it’s fair to say Detroit is a bit further ahead record wise than many of us thought. The bump felt from Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, the top line, and Alex Nedeljkovic wore off a bit and the Red Wings regressed to the mean. I didn’t exactly have them setting the world ablaze, believing them to still be a bottom ten team with a shot at a lottery pick. So it’s not all bad, and in fact, might even be closer to what we all expected.
3: What the record hasn’t done is improve Jeff Blashill’s standing in many Red Wings’ fans minds. I ran a quick poll that only had 90 respondents, but was overwhelming in terms of how they felt: 45.6% of those polled feel Blashill should be replaced. Now again, 90 isn’t exactly a huge number but to see nearly half call for the coach’s head is quite the statement.
4: While the successes of Raymond and Seider have been positive, it’s the lack of secondary scoring and the frustrating losses to teams like Arizona that really pace those opinions. Other young players like Michael Rasmussen and Givani Smith just haven’t been as good as needed when it comes to the offense. Beyond that, it’s fair to wonder if the team needs a new voice and approach. But it certainly seems like half of a season, especially one that was looking more for incremental progress, is a better measuring stick.
5: Injuries to Mitchell Stephens and Troy Stecher which will keep them out for several months now provides more opportunity to younger Red Wings. Joe Veleno should see more ice time and not another moment in Grand Rapids unless his game goes to total hell. Stecher is more interesting. Danny DeKeyser hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire and appears to be this year’s Frans Nielsen in terms of the fanbase being “done” with a particular veteran. Could another young defenseman, maybe Donovan Sebrango, make his way to Detroit?
6: DeKeyer’s difficulties this season is closing what had once been great potential. Injuries and some poor teams ultimately caught up to the defenseman who will only turn 32 in March. But his struggles this season have underscored just how important it is for Detroit to have talent in the pipeline. If Simon Edvinsson is really as good as advertised, he seems to be the best candidate to break camp with the team next fall. Sebrango has been nothing but impressive since his juniors and jump to the AHL. Jared McIassac hopefully can stay healthy, giving the Wings another strong option should more spots open up.
7: One big addition that will happen down the road will be Jakub Vrana’s re-entry into the lineup. For all the issues with the Red Wings scoring, Vrana should be an antidote to that. Until then, should the injury bug nip at the Wings some more, could Jonatan Berggren make an appearance? He continues to impress and his playmaking was evident in the preseason–something that has continued with Grand Rapids.
8: St. Louis and Buffalo are in different spots when they face Detroit this week. St. Louis is four games over .500 at 10-6-2 while the Sabres have also regressed to the mean following their hot start, now sitting 7-9-2. Detroit rallied to beat Buffalo the last time they met and have to play St. Louis. A split seems to be the most likely outcome, but it’ll be interesting to see if there’s further consternation within the Wings fan base should they drop a couple and watch the losing streak inch on.