Detroit Red Wings midseason grades: Steve Yzerman’s plan spawns multiple As

Detroit Free Press

The most encouraging development to emerge from the first half of the Detroit Red Wings’ season is how well general manager Steve Yzerman’s draft picks have performed.

Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond have strengthened the foundation of the rebuild, infusing skill and swagger into the lineup. In less than three years, Yzerman has shaped the Wings with savvy draft selections and opportunistic trades, forming a roster that is competitive, though not a Stanley Cup contender.

[ STEVE’S INNER CIRCLE: Yzerman strengthens Wings’ front office with hiring of Nicklas Lidstrom ]

During the first half, the Wings won five consecutive games for the first time since spring of 2019. At 18-17-6, their .512 winning percentage shows how much they’ve improved since finishing last season at .429. They project to do even better when top-line forward Jakub Vrana makes a comeback in February after undergoing surgery in October.

[ VRANA TALKS PROGRESS: Jakub Vrana vows he will play this season ]

There are numerous good stories at the midpoint.

Dylan Larkin’s strong play has calmed internal worry over his struggles last season. Tyler Bertuzzi has bounced back in tremendous form from back surgery, and Alex Nedeljkovic has given the Wings the promising young goaltender they have lacked. Veterans including Marc Staal and Sam Gagner have provided a valuable and calm presence to support a team led by players 26 and younger.

[ Subscribe now for the latest news and analysis on the Red Wings from Helene St. James ]

There are areas that need improvement, most notably the power play and team defense, but that the Wings are even within reach of the playoff picture shows how far they’ve progressed. That means good grades (players needed to appear in at least 10 games to warrant one) for many, though more is needed from others.

Forwards

Tyler Bertuzzi: A

Age: 26.

Status: Signed through 2022-23 at a $4.75 million salary cap hit.

Stats: 19 goals, 16 assists, plus-14 in 33 games.

Buzz: Any concern over how his back surgery would affect him ended when he scored four goals in the opener. Bertuzzi is a master at scoring goals around the net, and he’s a spark plug who can jumpstart any line.

Adam Erne: C-

Age: 26.

Status: Signed through 2022-23 at a $2.1 million salary cap hit.

Stats: Three goals, nine assists, minus-16 in 40 games.

Buzz: Hasn’t been as effective as he was last season (11 goals, 20 points in 45 games) offensively or defensively. He averages more than a minute per game on the power play but has no points there.

Robby Fabbri: B-

Age: 26.

Status: Signed through 2024-25 at a $4 million salary cap hit.

Stats: 11 goals, seven assists, minus-13 in 39 games.

Buzz: Finds ways to get into scoring positions and does a good job around the net, but he lacks in defense and discipline. Fabbri has been in the box numerous times when opponents scored (Jan. 21, Stars; Dec. 31, Capitals).

Sam Gagner: B-

Age: 32.

Status: Expiring contract with $850,000 salary cap hit; unrestricted free agent.

Stats: Four goals, nine assists, minus-8 in 41 games.

Buzz: Solid veteran presence who helps keep things calm and averages more than two minutes per game killing penalties.

Dylan Larkin: A

Age: 25.

Status: Signed through 2022-23 at a $6.1 million salary cap hit.

Stats: 19 goals, 18 assists, plus-4 in 37 games.

Buzz: Has had the comeback season needed after last season (23 points in 44 games) and provided solid leadership. A superb skater, he’s consistently a threat to score and good defensively.

DESERVED RECOGNITION: Wings’ Dylan Larkin named to All-Star Game

Vladislav Namestnikov: B+

Age: 29.

Status: Expiring contract with $2 million salary cap hit; unrestricted free agent.

Stats: 11 goals, nine assists, plus-1 in 41 games.

Buzz: This is the Namestnikov the Wings hoped for when they signed him, not the one who had 17 points in 53 games last season. Abrasive and effective, he projects to be a trade deadline chip.

Michael Rasmussen: C-

Age: 22.

Status: Signed through 2023-24 at a $1.46 million salary cap hit.

Stats: Four goals, nine assists, minus-12 in 39 games.

Buzz: He’s grown into his role centering the third line, but needs to use his 6-foot-6 body to create space in front of opposing nets and watch his penalties (28 minutes).

Lucas Raymond: A

Age: 19.

Status: Signed through 2023-24 at $925,000 salary cap hit.

Stats: 11 goals, 21 assists, plus-1 in 40 games.

Buzz: What a joy he’s been to watch — an intelligent player, no panic with the puck and he consistently gets into position to score. He’s put himself in the conversation for rookie of the year from the opening game and was named rookie of the month for November.

AW MAN: Lucas Raymond is an All-Star to Wings, but passed over by Last Man In voters

Carter Rowney: C

Age: 32.

Status: Expiring contract with a $825,000 salary cap hit; UFA.

Stats: Two goals, two assists, minus-3 in 22 games.

Buzz: Has added a veteran presence and helped fill the role of fourth-line center. (Injured).

Givani Smith: C+

Age: 23.

Status: Signed through 2022-23 at a $750,000 salary cap hit.

Stats: Two goals, two assists, minus-4 in 32 games.

Buzz: He disappointed with a poor camp and then struggled to provide energy and physicality without ending up in the penalty box. He’s at his best when he’s abrasive and making simple plays with the puck.

Mitchell Stephens: C

Age: 24.

Status: Expiring contract with a $737,500 salary cap hit; restricted free agent.

Stats: Four assists, minus-5 in 16 games.

Buzz: Brings speed and energy to the fourth line and helped the penalty kill, potential for there to be a bit more offense. (Injured).

Pius Suter: B

Age: 25.

Status: Signed through 2022-23 at a $3.25 million salary cap hit.

Stats: Nine goals, 10 assists, minus-8 in 41 games.

Buzz: He makes smart decisions with the puck and does a good job around the net. He has provided a spark centering the second line, making smart decisions and doing a good job around the net. He’s been an effective penalty killer, but has just three power play points.

Joe Veleno: C-

Age: 22.

Status: Signed through 2022-23 at a $894,167 salary cap hit.

Stats: Three goals, one assist, minus-8 in 25 games.

Buzz: Had a great season debut with a goal and an assist after being driven from Detroit to Toronto by Yzerman, but since has been quiet. He needs to demonstrate he can be trusted defensively in order to gain a bigger role.

Filip Zadina: D

Age: 22.

Status: Expiring contract with 894,167 salary cap hit; restricted free agent.

Stats: Four goals, seven assists, minus-16 in 39 games.

Buzz: He works hard, but he hasn’t figured out how to make his shot — which is why he was drafted No. 6 in 2018  — an asset at the NHL level. Opponents take away his shot from the circle, so he needs to go to the net more. He’s still young, so there’s hope he just turns out to be a late bloomer.

Defensemen

Danny DeKeyser: C-

Age: 31.

Status: Expiring contract with a $5 million salary cap hit; unrestricted free agent.

Stats: Zero goals, three assists, minus-7 in 33 games.

Buzz: Dekeyser’s strength always has been doing little things to break up plays, but he hasn’t been the same since back surgery in December 2019. He’s been partnered with Seider at times and has been a healthy scratch.

Filip Hronek: B-

Age: 24.

Status: Signed through 2023-24 at a $4.4 million salary cap hit.

Stats: Four goals, 16 assists, minus-10 in 39 games.

Buzz: He should have better numbers considering that he’s no longer tasked with being the top shutdown defenseman, but Hronek hasn’t thrived in his reduced role.

Nick Leddy: C-

Age: 30.

Status: Expiring contract with a $5.5 million salary cap hit; unrestricted free agent.

Stats: One goal, 10 assists, minus-20 in 39 games.

Buzz: Had a good start in his new surroundings, with two assists in his first game, but he was expected to generate more offensively. Averages around 1:45 per game on power plays but has just two points.

Gustav Lindstrom: B

Age: 23.

Status: Signed through 2022-23 at a $850,000 salary cap hit.

Stats: Zero goals, six assists, plus-1 in 32 games.

Buzz: Does a good job on the third pair, sticking to making simple plays and keeping risks to a minimum.

Jordan Oesterle: C

Age: 29.

Status: Signed through 2022-23 at a $1.35 million salary cap hit.

Stats: Zero goals, three assists, minus-2 in 20 games.

Grade: He’s slotted into the lineup to partner with Seider and has also been a healthy scratch for half the season. Good depth guy.

Moritz Seider: A

Age: 20.

Status: Signed through 2023-24 at a $863,333 salary cap hit.

Stats: Three goals, 23 assists, plus-1 in 41 games.

Buzz: From patrolling the blue line to jumping into plays to playing both special teams, Seider does it all, and does it with flair. Like Raymond, Seider is a leading candidate for rookie of the year. He was rookie of the month for October.

POISED, TALENTED AND MAKES HIS OWN BED: Why the Wings adore Moritz Seider

Marc Staal: B+

Age: 35.

Status: Expiring contract with a $2 million salary cap hit; unrestricted free agent.

Stats: One goal, four assists, plus-7 in 34 games.

Buzz: He’s been a solid partner for Seider/Hronek/Lindstrom, is a key part of the penalty kill, and part of the leadership group. Wouldn’t be surprising to see him brought back for another season.

Goaltenders

Thomas Greiss: C

Age: 35.

Status: Expiring contract with $3.6 million salary cap hit; unrestricted free agent.

Stats: 6-7-1, 3.36 goals-against average, .894 save percentage.

Buzz: He does a nice job as a backup for the most part, but he doesn’t make the highlight-reel saves that give his teammates a chance to win when they aren’t playing their best.

Alex Nedeljkovic: B+

Age: 26.

Status: Signed through 2022-23 at a $3 million salary cap hit.

Stats: 12-10-5, 2.78 goals-against average, .916 save percentage.

Buzz: He emerged as the bona fide starter after rotating starts the first five weeks of the season, delivering multiple big performances to keep his teammates in games. Occasionally gives up a soft goal, but overall he’s established he’ll be the team’s No. 1 goaltender for the immediate future.

Coach Jeff Blashill and his staff: B

The fact that it is halfway through the season and the Wings are in the conversation for a wild card spot — and not for the best draft lottery odds — reflects well on Blashill. The Wings consistently work hard and have shown growth in how much better they handle adversity than even last season. The big blemish remains the power play (15.4%), but Blashill has the Wings forging an identity that plays to their limited strengths.

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

Articles You May Like

2 Sharks forwards the Detroit Red Wings need to inquire about
Red Wings LIVE 12.4.22: Austin Czarnik
3 Red Wings with Disappointing Starts to the 2022-23 Season
Despite late-game comeback, Red Wings fall to Sabres 5-4 (SO)
Red Wings: Taro Hirose deserves another look in Detroit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *