Red Wings Mailbag: Strong Start, Healthy Lineup & More

The Hockey Writers

The Detroit Red Wings are about a third of the way through the 2022-23 season. To this point, they have been one of the bigger success stories of the season as general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman’s offseason additions have helped propel the Red Wings to a point where they currently sit in the upper half of the NHL standings. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that they have arrived here while dealing with some key absences in their lineup.

Detroit Red Wings Mailbag
Detroit Red Wings Mailbag (The Hockey Writers)

I opened up the mailbag and elicited questions from followers over on Twitter, and most of the questions pertained to the Red Wings’ strong start and whether or not it was for real. But, of course, that’s not all that was on the minds of fans that responded to my request. Without further ado, let’s dive in and answer your questions.

Are the Red Wings for Real?

“Do you think this team’s early success is more of an exception or expectation of their anticipated results through 2022-23? Is it sustainable?” – @MrAlwaysWrite
“Possible playoff push?” – @Nelson0973
“What does the Red Wings’ recent comeback vs. the Buffalo Sabres tell you about this young team?” – @DevilsState

I lumped all of these questions together because they basically all address how the Red Wings have played so far this season, what it says about them, and whether or not it’s time to buy stock in the team from Hockeytown.

To put it bluntly, I think we’re still finding out what this season’s Red Wings team is capable of. There’s no way around it: they have been impressive to start this season; they were in a playoff spot at American Thanksgiving, a benchmark that is important because around 75 percent of teams that are in a playoff spot at that point will still be in a playoff spot at the season’s conclusion. That fact, coupled with a few impressive victories including their recent 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, inspires confidence that this team can go toe-to-toe with anybody in the NHL on any given night. Considering they defeated the Lightning without the likes of Tyler Bertuzzi, Jakub Vrana and Robby Fabbri in their lineup, it’s pretty fun to imagine what this team might be capable of with a fully healthy roster.

Related: Ranking Red Wings’ 2022 Offseason Additions

Latest News & Highlights

But just as the Red Wings have impressed to this point in the season, there have been plenty of instances where observers found themselves thinking “here we go again” as the team slipped back into old habits. There was the 8-3 loss on Halloween night against the Buffalo Sabres, the 8-2 loss on Nov. 10 against the New York Rangers, and several other instances where the Red Wings let the game slip through their fingers. Their win against the Lightning was a game where the Red Wings were the better team through 40 minutes, and then some clutch goaltending from Ville Husso and some timely empty net goals allowed them to escape with two points.

Still, the game on Nov. 30 against the Sabres is a really good example of how this season’s team is different from years past. The Sabres were up 4-1 after 40 minutes, and it looked like the game was well on its way to becoming a repeat of the horrors from Halloween night. Instead, the Red Wings came out with a vengeance in the third period and simply overwhelmed the Sabres, leading to a tied game at the end of the period. If the third period was 25 minutes long, Detroit probably captures another two points that night. Instead, they went into overtime and lost it in a shootout.

In prior seasons, and even earlier this season, the Red Wings would have laid down and died in that game. It’s a sad truth that Red Wings fans have become numb to the feeling of seeing their team get blown out; it’s something that has happened so often since the turn of the decade that it eventually cost Jeff Blashill his job as head coach. When asked why he made the change, Yzerman stated that the Red Wings’ defensive play needed improvement, thus leading to the hiring of Derek Lalonde as the team’s new head coach. To this point in the season, it appears that the team has responded to their new coach and have a newfound resiliency in the face of adversity.

Derek Lalonde Detroit Red Wings
Derek Lalonde, Detroit Red Wings Head Coach (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

All of this is to say that I think the Red Wings have proven that they are a more resilient bunch this season – there’s no smoke and mirrors going on here, I think it’s for real. As for whether or not I think these early results are what we can expect for the rest of the season, I think we can maybe expect some slight regression, especially considering there are a lot of expected contenders that are underperforming to this point (the Lightning, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, etc.) But I don’t think that the Red Wings are suddenly going to slip back into being the team we’ve all grown accustomed to since Yzerman took over as GM. This season’s team is a different group, and you can tell that there’s simply more talent to go around.

As for the playoffs:

If the Red Wings are still in a playoff spot on Christmas, I think I’ll start buying stock into the idea that they are a legitimate playoff contender this season. There’s a lot of big games between now and then, so let’s wait and see how they do.

What Does a Healthy Red Wings Lineup Look Like?


This is something I intend to tackle a bit more in depth in a full article because it’s something that I’ve been wondering for a while myself. Even with the likes of Bertuzzi, Fabbri and Vrana out of the lineup, the Red Wings have been able to make it work; that is perhaps one of the biggest reason for optimism regarding the Red Wings this season.

The truth is that there’s no easy answer to this. Fabbri is on track to become available on Jan. 1 and Bertuzzi should follow suit a couple weeks later. Winger Filip Zadina should also become available sometime in January as well, though his timetable still sounds a little muddy. Defenseman Mark Pysyk was originally slated to return around the same time as Fabbri, but that may or may not be the case anymore.

Sounds like #LGRW defenseman Mark Pysyk has reinjured his surgically repaired Achilles. Originally underwent surgery in July, was working his way back – only to suffer another significant blow.
Tough injury. All the best to him.

With Vrana in the player’s assistance program with no legitimate timeline attached, I’m going to exclude him from the “fully healthy” roster for the sake of trying to assemble a roster we may actually see by the end of January.

Let’s start this by sharing what I think the roster could look like, and then we’ll go from there:

Dominik Kubalik Dylan Larkin David Perron

Tyler Bertuzzi Andrew Copp Lucas Raymond

Adam Erne Michael Rasmussen Oskar Sundqvist

Robby Fabbri Joe Veleno Jonatan Berggren

The extra forwards would be Zadina and Pius Suter. The defense remains largely the same, though Pysyk might factor in on the third pairing alongside Jake Walman.

There are a ton of variables at play here, not just in where players are slotted in, but which players are on the roster in the first place. The idea that the Red Wings will need to make a trade to create roster space is not a new one, and with the ascension of 22-year-old Jonatan Berggren to becoming a legitimate NHL winger, that need to make space has never been greater. I don’t think he’s going back down to the American Hockey League; if he does, it will only be because he doesn’t have to pass through waivers and Yzerman is on the verge of completing a trade. Make no mistake: Yzerman will not put a player on waivers and risk losing them for nothing just to create a roster spot. The only way that happens is if the trade market is bone dry.

So then who might be moved out to create that room? Suter and Adam Erne could be moved out for middle-to-low-end returns. On the higher end of things, Bertuzzi and David Perron should have plenty of suitors should the Red Wings make either of them available. Zadina could also be moved, though his trade value is probably close to zero right now, but he’s the type of low-risk, potentially high-reward option teams would jump all over if he hit the waiver wire.

For the sake of creating conversation, here’s one more lineup idea, and something a bit closer to what I personally would be intrigued to see:

David Perron Dylan Larkin Lucas Raymond

Robby Fabbri Andrew Copp Dominik Kubalik

Tyler Bertuzzi Michael Rasmussen Oskar Sundqvist

Jonatan Berggren Joe Veleno Filip Zadina

I also expect that winger Elmer Söderblom will find his way back to Detroit eventually. As I said, moved are almost certainly coming….

Seider/Chiarot Pairing

“Whats it gonna take to separate Seider and Chiarot off the top pairing? Is Lalonde basically waiting for a LHDman to get injured to do so?” – @MoSeiderFanBoi

Lalonde has been willing to shuffle around his forward lines throughout the season, mostly due to injuries. However, he has also shown a willingness to change things up when a player or a line simply isn’t performing well. That being said, that same willingness to move things around has not really been seen on the blue line. Until Walman returned from injury, the Red Wings’ defensive pairings remained essentially the same as they did in their first game of the season. To this day, Detroit’s first pair of Moritz Seider and Ben Chiarot and their second pair of Olli Määttä and Filip Hronek remain untouched, assuming everyone is healthy.

This has sparked some lively debate as the team’s second pairing is heavily outperforming their top pair. While Hronek is on his way to having a career-best season and Määttä has already topped his production from last season, Seider and Chiarot have been a mixed bag at best, and an anvil around the team’s ankles at worst. So what gives? Why isn’t Lalonde making a change?

Related: Red Wings: 3 Solutions to Moritz Seider’s Sophomore Slump

Two things come to mind here. One, the Red Wings aren’t exactly overflowing with quality candidates to skate alongside Seider on the top pairing. Walman might be worth a look, but he’s definitely not a top-pairing defenseman in terms of his play in his own end. You can say the same thing about Jordan Oesterle. Sure, they could move Määttä up with Seider, but with how that second pairing is performing this season, I know I wouldn’t be keen on breaking that up.

Which leads me to the second thing: Chiarot was signed to a four-year deal this offseason likely with the intention of building chemistry with Seider to become his go-to partner for the foreseeable future. These things can sometimes take time, and with the lack of options on the roster to make a change, perhaps Lalonde (and Yzerman) are instead opting to give Chiarot and Seider all the time in the world to get in sync. Sure, things don’t look great right now, but they can afford to continue giving them time because they are still collecting wins and points despite the top pairing struggles.

Ben Chiarot Detroit Red Wings
Ben Chiarot, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

One thing I will say about this situation is that I don’t believe there is anything to worry about in terms of how this slump will affect Seider’s long-term development. I believe he is too talented to let this hold him back from reaching his potential, and I also believe that he is too talented to let this slump last too long. Besides how the second pairing is doing together, one of the reasons I don’t think placing Määttä with Seider is the answer is because Seider is talented enough to figure himself out. It may take some more time, but I trust his ability to bounce back, and I don’t think it’s worth potentially throwing away Hronek’s strong start just to get the reigning Calder Trophy champion back up to pace.

More Red Wings Questions?

And that’s it for this edition of our Red Wings mailbag column. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions for this article. If you would like to ask a question for a future mailbag column, follow me on Twitter over at @HockeywithDevin, or leave a comment on this article and I’ll be sure to take note of it. See you all in the next one!

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