3 Red Wings Bounce Back Candidates for 2023-24

The Hockey Writers

The Detroit Red Wings are heading into the 2023-24 season with the hopes of becoming a playoff team for the first time since 2015-16. General manager Steve Yzerman has been hard at work improving the roster with the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Jeff Petry, Shayne Gostisbehere, Justin Holl, JT Compher, and James Reimer, but for the season to culminate in a playoff berth, there are a few players that will have to step up from their performances of 2022-23. With that, here are three players that could bounce back in 2023-24.

Ben Chiarot

I think it’s safe to say Ben Chiarot’s first season in Detroit was not what Yzerman expected when he signed him to a four-year $4.75 million average annual value (AAV) contract last offseason. He was supposed to be a good partner and mentor for Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider but ended up being a borderline top-four defenceman and defensive liability. He finished with an ugly minus-31 plus/minus rating and 42.3 Corsi For percentage (CF%) and was probably the worst partner that Seider has had in his brief NHL career.

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

Hopefully, Chiarot’s first season was just an anomaly and he can bounce back in 2023-24 alongside a familiar face in Petry. While he spent most of his time at even strength with Shea Weber (1,154:42) in Montreal, he did see 634:28 with Petry and the duo’s numbers were pretty good as a pairing. According to Natural Stat Trick, in 159 recorded games together, they had a 53.41 CF% and only allowed 28 goals. That means the Canadiens had the puck more often than not when they were on the ice.

Overall, Chiarot will be tasked with less ice time this season and won’t be starting on the top pairing with Seider. He will likely line up with Petry on the third pairing and see 15-17 minutes rather than the 20:37 he saw last season. This will hopefully lead to fewer mistakes as he won’t see the top guns as often and should be matched up against the third and fourth lines of the other team. As a result, fans should see a more efficient Chiarot in 2023-24, one who kills penalties, blocks shots, and hits people without being a defensive liability.

Alex DeBrincat

For most players, a 27-goal season would be something to celebrate. But in DeBrincat’s case, that is a down year by his standards. After matching a career-high 41 goals in 2021-22 and 32 the season before that, 27 is somewhat disappointing. Now playing for his hometown team in Detroit after only one season in Ottawa, he should be motivated to get back to the 40-goal plateau and show everyone why Yzerman traded for him and locked him into a four-year contract worth $31.5 million ($7.875 million AAV).

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The undersized, but skilled DeBrincat should fit in nicely alongside Dylan Larkin on the top line. Both have toolboxes built on speed and dynamic puck control that should give the opposition fits in the offensive zone. When DeBrincat was with the Chicago Blackhawks, he had tremendous chemistry with another speed threat in Patrick Kane. I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar chemistry develop with Larkin, which would make quite the dynamic duo, especially since Larkin is at the top of his game right now. All things considered, DeBrincat could make his way back to the 40-goal club (and maybe even the 50-goal penthouse) by the time the 2023-24 season comes to a close.

Ville Husso

To close out this journey through bounce-back candidates, let’s take a look at starting goaltender Ville Husso. While he finished his first season in Detroit with a winning record of 26-22-7, his other stats were nothing to write home about. In a career-high 56 starts, he recorded an ugly 3.11 goals-against average (GAA), and .896 save percentage (SV%). The only bright spot alongside his record was his career-high four shutouts. As you might imagine, his advanced stats weren’t pretty either as he finished with 17 really bad starts (RBS) – starts that ended with a SV% below .850 – a minus-13.5 goals-saved above average (GSAA), and only a .464 quality start percentage (QS%). All of those stats ranked near the bottom of the NHL.

Ville Husso Detroit Red Wings
Ville Husso, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Suffice it to say, the Red Wings did not get the goaltender that stole Jordan Binnington’s job in St. Louis during the regular season in 2021-22. That Husso started 38 games and had a 2.56 GAA and .919 SV% alongside a .605 QS% and 15 GSAA. He even got a third-place vote for the Vezina Trophy. If the Red Wings had that goaltender during the 2022-23 season, they might have fared a bit better in the standings and could have made the playoffs as a wild card.

Going into this season, Husso should be well-versed with the rigors and pressure of being a starting goaltender in the NHL. During the Red Wings’ end-of-season press conference, head coach Derek Lalonde acknowledged the fact that he might not have been prepared enough to be a full-time starter.

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“I think he hit a little bit of a physical and mental wall,” Lalonde said. “Hopefully, this will be a learning experience. Hopefully, there will be some growth. Maybe take him a little beyond his threshold. I think all goalies that take that step into being a starter go through it. He just went through it towards the end of the year” (from ‘Red Wings’ Ville Husso aims to be better-prepared for heavy workload in future’, mLive Michigan, 4/21/23).

Along with being better prepared physically and mentally for the grind of the regular season as a starter, Husso will also have a better defense in front of him. With all the veteran additions Yzerman made in the offseason, he might face fewer high-danger chances, which will in turn improve his numbers and boost his confidence. All in all, fans should see a better Husso in 2023-24.

If Chiarot, DeBrincat, and Husso bounce back and become past versions of themselves, the Red Wings will be that much closer to realizing their goal and making the playoffs this season. The rebuild seems to be nearing an end, and this trio will be key in making that a reality sooner rather than later.

Advanced stats were from Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick

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