Red Wings: What Does a Successful 2022-23 Season Look Like?

The Hockey Writers

The Detroit Red Wings are ready to take the next step in their rebuild after a busy summer. But how do you quantify that next step?

We can do so by setting goals for the season – similar to corporate annual planning. The Red Wings are technically a business, after all.

We’ll start with Detroit’s 2021-22 numbers and establish target goals for a few key performance indicators. (These underlying metrics are good reference points when determining exactly how much the team improved year-over-year.) If the Red Wings hit these target goals, then you can consider the 2022-23 season a success.

With that being said, let’s dive in.

Red Wings Goal #1: Improve Team Defense

Last year, Detroit’s team defense was a mess, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to improve upon their 2021-22 numbers. The table below outlines the prior year’s performance, plus goals the team can shoot for this season:

Metric 2021-22 Red Wings 2022-23 Goal

CA/60 58.16 53.80

GA/60 3.04 2.58

xGA/60 2.71 2.51

HDCA/60 13.19 11.61

During the 2021-22 campaign, Detroit let in the fourth-most five-on-five goals (on a per 60 basis) of any team. Above all else, this needs to change.

Reducing their five-on-five goals against by half a goal is a reasonable ask – it’s a 15 percent decrease year-over-year. One way to do so is to limit high-danger chances against (HDCA/60). Detroit ranked last in this category last year. To do so, the Red Wings need to place an emphasis on keeping pucks to the outside and away from the slot.

Moritz Seider Detroit Red Wings
Moritz Seider exiting the defensive zone for the Detroit Red Wings. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“Collectively, the whole mindset of the team has to change a little bit,” Steve Yzerman noted prior to training camp. (from ‘Red Wings training camp: What we learned from Steve Yzerman on arrival day’ – The Athletic – 9/21/22) “It’s not like we’re not going to try and score—we want to do that as well—but there is a certain responsibility for all players, when they’re on the ice, to have in the back of their mind, regardless of where the puck is, to be on the right side of the puck.”

Bringing in Ben Chiarot, Olli Määttä, and Andrew Copp should help. But as Yzerman noted, improvement is dependent on the whole roster. The Red Wings need a cohesive approach that all five skaters on the ice commit to – something that Derek Lalonde and Bob Boughner need to instill from the beginning.

Improving team defense is a mandatory objective for the Red Wings, especially if they want to push for a playoff berth this year. It’s difficult to win games when you’re constantly trailing.

Red Wings Goal #2: Increase Offensive Output

Offensively, Detroit showed signs of growth last season. Still, there’s room for improvement, as the table below demonstrates:

Metric 2021-22 Red Wings 2022-23 Goal

CF/60 49.81 53.55

GF/60 2.38 2.62

xGF/60 2.34 2.52

HDCF/60 10.26 11.29

The Red Wings ranked in the bottom-third of the league in most offensive categories last season. On the bright side, it was a step up from dead last the year prior. But the goal now is to move into the middle-third of the NHL.

If Detroit improves its five-on-five Corsi-for per 60 (CF/60) and expected goals-for per 60 (xGF/60) by 7.5 percent, they’ll be smack dab in the middle of the league based on last year’s numbers. The same goes for 10 percent improvements in goals-for per 60 (GF/60) and high-danger chances-for per 60 (HDCF/60). 

Dylan Larkin Detroit Red Wings
Can Dylan Larkin reach another level offensively for the Detroit Red Wings? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This is certainly attainable, especially when you factor in the additions of Copp, David Perron, and Dominik Kubalik – plus a full season’s worth of hockey from Jakub Vrána. And if Detroit’s young core can take another step—looking at you, Filip Zadina—the Red Wings should have no problem reaching these target goals.

But the game isn’t played on paper. The Red Wings need Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Lucas Raymond to dominate their shifts. They also need their offseason additions gel with the likes of Vrána, Zadina, and Pius Suter in the middle six. There’s certainly hope that the team takes another step offensively – they just need to follow through and actually do it.

Related: Projecting Dylan Larkin’s New Red Wings Contract

Red Wings Goal #3: Establish Functional Special Teams

Over the past few seasons, the Red Wings haven’t been able to take advantage of power plays on a consistent basis. Their penalty kill hasn’t been much better. With this mind, improved special teams play needs to be a focus heading into the new season.

Metric 2021-22 Red Wings 2022-23 Goal

PP% 16.3% 19.6%

SH% 73.8% 79.3%

Based on early viewings of Detroit’s power play strategy, it appears that Lalonde and company plan to better utilize the bumper and net front. The two roles previously served as de facto decoys with the quarterback and flanks controlling the puck most of the time. But with the new plan of attack in place, defenses will need to account for the constant bumper/net front motion – in addition to keeping track of the puck. 

Raymond and Suter FWIW appear to be kind of rotating between the netfront and bumper (maybe depending on side the puck is on?). Should be good for low to high possibilities

If you add in a healthy Vrána, a revitalized Zadina, and the newly acquired Perron, we should see improvement from Detroit’s 26th-ranked power play. Having not one, but two effective power play units this year will help as well.

Moving on to the penalty kill, the Red Wings ranked dead last (73.8 percent) for the 2021-22 season. If you flip that percentage, 26.2 percent of Detroit’s penalties resulted in a power play goal against. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs (27.3 percent) and St. Louis Blues (27 percent) scored with that much proficiency last season.

This year, Lalonde—who oversaw the penalty kill with the Tampa Bay Lightning—Boughner, and assistant coach Jay Varady will all contribute to team strategy. Copp, Chiarot, and Määttä should have prominent roles as well.

Final Word

Between having a new coaching staff and the choppy play typically seen early on, it would be foolish to expect improvement right away. That said, the Red Wings have pieces in place to be a much better team this season.

It’s ultimately up to the players. If they can change their mindset, as Yzerman suggested, and continue to grow offensively, then these target goals are certainly in range – and reaching the playoffs is within the realm of possibilities. 

Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

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