Red Wings: Playoffs or Bust In 2023-24

The Hockey Writers

No more excuses for the Detroit Red Wings. At this point, it’s playoffs or bust.

The Red Wings haven’t made the playoffs since 2016 – and that postseason run ended quickly. But after years of rebuilding, the organization is finally ready to make a serious bid for the playoffs.

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They’ll have plenty of competition, though. The Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators are in the same boat – rebuilt teams ready to emerge as legit playoff contenders. There’s also the reloaded Toronto Maple Leafs and 2023 Stanley Cup runner-up Florida Panthers. And finally, while the Tampa By Lightning and Boston Bruins aren’t as deep as previous years, they’re still dangerous.

Still, the Red Wings should be targeting a playoff berth. And it’s clear that the organization feels the same way.

Yzerman’s Moves Point to Playoff Push

General manager Steve Yzerman reshaped the roster for a second consecutive summer, bringing in nine NHLers – five forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie. The quality of the new players indicate that the Red Wings want to be even more competitive in 2023-24. 

Steve Yzerman Detroit Red Wings
Steve Yzerman’s recent moves suggest that he wants to win now. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Above all else, trading for and extending Alex DeBrincat is a sign that the Red Wings are going for it. You don’t trade a first-round pick for a former 40-goal scorer just to be passive the next season.

The same could be said about the Jeff Petry trade. Yzerman had just signed Shayne Gostisbehere and Justin Holl to improve Detroit’s defensive depth. Adding Petry in an August trade was a luxury move. The Red Wings didn’t necessarily need him, but are stronger with him on the roster.

Related: What Is the “Yzerplan” Exactly & How Is It Progressing?

With DeBrincat, Petry, and the other newcomers on the roster, the Red Wings have their deepest team in years.

Young Players Motivated By Contract Status

If you thought Yzerman had a busy offseason this year, then wait until next summer. In addition to unrestricted free agency and the draft, Detroit’s GM will also need to work out new contracts for Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, Michael Rasmussen, Jonatan Berggren, and Joe Veleno.

Lucas Raymond Detroit Red Wings
Look for Lucas Raymond to have an impressive 2023-24 season. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In the meantime, this is a good thing. Why? Well, all five players mentioned above will be motivated to have a career year in 2023-24 to set them up for lucrative, long-term contracts. 

Seider, Raymond, and Rasmussen, in particular, are core players who will see a lot of ice time this year. If they are motivated to bring their A-game every night, then the Red Wings will be better off – even if they have to pay them more next summer.

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Putting It All Together

When you combine Yzerman’s offseason moves with contract years for Detroit’s top young players, it’s clear that this team will be competitive in 2023-24. Then if you add in Dylan Larkin’s desire to start off his new, eight-year contract on a positive note and Ville Husso’s motivation to be a true, bonafide starting goalie, you have the makings of a playoff-caliber team.

Dylan Larkin Andrew Copp Detroit Red Wings
Dylan Larkin and the Red Wings should score more in 2023-24. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The pieces are there. It’s now on the players and coaching staff to execute and prove they belong in the 2024 playoffs.

That is the goal. Anything short of that should be considered a failure.

And if the Red Wings fall out of the playoff picture, Yzerman won’t be afraid to sell. David Perron, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Daniel Sprong are all pending UFAs who could help playoff-bound teams. Others—who were once considered core players (similar to Filip Hronek and Tyler Bertuzzi)—could be dealt, too.

But that’s a conversation for another day. Until then, it’s playoffs or bust for the Red Wings.

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