Why Moritz Seider ‘being in a really good place’ is great for Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Free Press

Moritz Seider reflected on his second year with the Detroit Red Wings with his trademark optimism.

Although, ultimately, the Wings fell short again in their quest to advance to the playoffs, they weren’t mathematically eliminated until there was just one week left in the season. That’s two weeks later than last year’s elimination date, and to be in the race for that long mattered.

“It was a great feeling and we want to keep that,” Seider said Wednesday. “That should be the memory we should go with into the summer, having those kinds of feelings to be in the mix. I think that will give us a lot of confidence next year. Just the fact we were pushing that far, and that late in the season, is a really good improvement.”

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Seider was on a video call, his background showing a plant and artwork that included the words, “Hakuna Matata” — the phrase from “The Lion King” which famously means “no worries.”

It’s not that Seider has no worries, but the 22-year-old has shown a preference for positivity as he has grown with the Wings. He just posted his second straight 82-game season, and although his five goals and 37 assists in 2022-23 fell short of the 50 points that helped win him the 2022 Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, Seider’s overall play improved: He registered 207 hits and 190 blocked shots in his second year, compared to 151 hits and 161 blocked shots as a rookie.

“I think I am in a really good place,” Seider said. “I found my stride during this season. I blocked shots better, so I was happy with that. I think I’m a better defender than I was last year, I’m doing a good job of trying to shut the best line down on a daily basis. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

(Seider said he has decided to “probably not go” to play for Germany in May’s Worlds, citing a preference to rest his body.)

Wings head coach Derek Lalonde made a point throughout the season of lauding Seider’s growth, something that showed especially on the power play, and with how few times Seider found himself in trouble — that is, forced to make a risky play with the puck. Bob Boughner, the former NHL defenseman who was hired to coach the Wings’ defense last summer, has praised Seider’s physical play and his penalty killing.

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Seider’s physicality is helped by his 6-foot-4, 204-pound body, and by his smarts. For all the times opponents have targeted him — Dylan Larkin said earlier this week that Seider shouldn’t have to be looking over his shoulder for cheap shots — Seider hasn’t wasted time fighting. He knows he’s way too valuable to the Wings to have sitting in the penalty box.

“You have to weigh the importance of who you are taking in the box with you,” Seider said. “If I’m out there playing against the third or fourth line, maybe it’s not the best choice to get tangled up and get into a scrum and be out there for two minutes on the bench, and we might be down a goal or two, so you always have to weigh the importance of the situation.

“As long as it’s fair and square and right into my face, I don’t have a problem with anyone playing hard. I think that’s the respect everyone is showing to the game. It’s just about cheap shots after the whistle, stuff that the refs don’t see, then you get a little more frustrated. But I just have to find a way to stay calm and stay relaxed and just play my best game.”

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Seider, who was Steve Yzerman’s first draft pick — at No. 6 overall in 2019 — after being named general manager four years ago, emerged as the Wings’ best defenseman as a rookie. Seider took on a more vocal leadership as he grew comfortable asserting himself.

“I want everybody to listen to me but you can just not do that by just opening up your mouth and speaking,” Seider said. “You have to lead by example and you have to repeat it every single day, and that is what I am trying to do. I want to be the hardest working guy out there, I want to be out there in important situations, and it’s great when teammates recognize that, and it gives you even more trust to do even more.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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