The Detroit Red Wings are now 24 games into the 2022-23 season. While that is not quite a third of the way through the 82-game schedule, that’s more than enough to time to have a good grip on team and individual trends this season. For example, with a record of 12-7-5, it’s clear that the Red Wings are not going to be one of the basement-dwellers this season, and could very well be in the playoff picture on the final night of the season. In other words: things are trending up in Hockeytown.
However, that does not mean that everything is going hunky-dory in Detroit. In fact, there are a few individuals on the team that are underperforming to this point in the season, and enough time has past where it’s valid to be concerned about their slow starts. While there is still plenty of time for these players to right the ship, here are three players that have been a bit of a disappointment to start this season.
One of the reasons people were excited about the Red Wings entering this season was their goaltending tandem. When general manager Steve Yzerman brought in Ville Husso from the St. Louis Blues in the offseason, the expectation was the the Finnish goaltender would pair with the incumbent Alex Nedeljkovic to form one of the highest-upside tandems in the NHL this season. While Husso has lived up to that billing this season, the man fans call “Ned” has fallen short in a big way.
In eight games this season, Nedeljkovic has a 2-3-2 record, an eye-popping 3.97 goals-against average, and a .880 save-percentage. Perhaps more troublesome than his stats is the fact that he has simply looked out of rhythm most nights and often allows goals that NHL goalies simply should not allow. While the original intent was for Husso and Nedeljkovic to be a true tandem in net, head coach Derek Lalonde has instead opted to lean on Husso as “Ned” has not inspired confidence through the first quarter of this season.
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Nedeljkovic is in the final year of the two-year contract he signed with the Red Wings when he was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2021 offseason. With pride and a future payday on the line, he still has time and incentive to turn his game around. That being said, he will need to make the most of the opportunities the coaching staff gives him because his starts are starting to become far and few in between.
I’m going to take some of the blame for this one. In February of this year, I wrote a piece about how Gustav Lindström had become a bit of an unsung hero as a quiet defenseman that just takes care of business in his own zone. Since then, things have gone downhill in a big way.
The Red Wings have a bit of a third defensive pairing problem this season, and the 24-year old Swede is part of it. While Lindström has never been known for creating offensive pressure, he has been known for his ability to alleviate pressure in the defensive zone. However, according to Natural Stat Trick, this season the Red Wings have been outshot 100-78 at five-on-five, and the opposing team has controlled 58.2% of offensive chances with him on the ice. All the “eye test” folks out there will also have noticed a few too many instances where he is out of position in the defensive zone and, perhaps even worse, looks lost while the opposing team makes plays around him.
To be clear, expectations weren’t super high for Lindström entering this season. Still, after playing 63 games with the Red Wings last season, the expectation was that he would establish himself as an everyday NHLer that could be relied upon to play that quiet, smart game I wrote about 10 months ago. Instead, the 2017 second round pick still has to work on his defensive consistency – a troubling fact considering he could have been a needed stabilizing force on Detroit’s bottom pairing.
Speaking of underperforming defensemen, this is without a doubt THE most surprising inclusion on this list. Fresh off his rookie season where he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top freshman, Moritz Seider has not performed up to the standard he set last season.
During the 2021-22 campaign, Seider was one of only a handful of bright spots for a Red Wings team that imploded as the calendar flipped to 2022. He sometimes played upwards of 28 minutes a night and regularly had a positive impact on the ice. To that point, he finished the 2021-22 season with a 2.3 percent relative-Corsi at even strength, meaning that the Red Wings saw their offensive chances increase by 2.3 percent when he was on the ice. This season, he has a -1.7 percent relative-Corsi, meaning that the Red Wings see their offensive chances decrease when he’s on the ice.
Yes, the Red Wings have been better off without Seider on the ice this season. There could be a lot of reasons why, including his new defensive partner this season: Ben Chiarot.
Regardless of the what the cause is and what it will take to get him going again, there’s no way around it: Seider hasn’t performed up to expectations this season. There’s no reason to panic though; he is too talented and too well-adjusted for this to be anything more than a speedbump in what will likely be a very fruitful NHL career. Still, at the start of the season, if you would have told me or anyone else that follows this team that Filip Hronek would be the Red Wings’ top defenseman to this point, I would have assumed that you somehow forgot that Seider exists.
Plenty of Time Left
The thing about the NHL is that things change very quickly. Just as a game can go from 3-0 to 4-3 in the blink of an eye, players can go from being underperformers to becoming overperformers just like that. All it takes is time and opportunity and suddenly we all forget that those players were in a slump at all.
Considering the players on the list include their starting goalie from last season and their most talented defenseman, it should be seen as a positive thing that the Red Wings are still holding their own in the Eastern Conference. If these three players – or even just two of the three – can get going over the next 20 games or so, Detroit will be positioned to make some serious noise this season.
Or at least more than they already have.
I am a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. Dr. Pepper enthusiast. Catch me and my fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.