Steve Yzerman’s goal is for the Detroit Red Wings to improve year after year. It will require a team effort to do so in 2023-24.
Dylan Larkin and Moritz Seider will certainly lead the charge, but Derek Lalonde and his coaching staff need to challenge the next tier—Lucas Raymond, Jake Walman, and Ville Husso—to step up. Here, I outlined how these three players could be put to the test, the value it would provide the Red Wings, and success metrics to consider for evaluation purposes.
Can Lucas Raymond Drive a Line?
Value: The Red Wings spent quite a bit of draft capital on Lucas Raymond (fourth overall in 2020). They drafted him to be a driver and a cornerstone piece of the rebuild, not a passenger on someone else’s line. If Raymond is able to be the facilitator on his own line, the Red Wings will be able to trot out two dangerous lines, with Larkin driving the other.
How to Test: Deploy Raymond on a line with Andrew Copp and David Perron. There, he’ll serve as the driver and main facilitator, with Copp as the first man in and Perron as the primary shooter.
Success Metrics: Zone Entry Percentage, Expected Goals-For per 60, Expected Goals-For Percentage (all metrics compared against time spent with Larkin).
Is Jake Walman For Real?
Value: When Walman joined Seider on the top pair last season, both of their games improved. It was a case of the sum being greater than the two parts.
So, does this mean that Walman is a top-pairing defenseman? Perhaps. It’s certainly worth testing. Having an all-situations top pair is an essential component of playoff teams. Counting on Walman as a top-pairing blueliner would allow the Red Wings to ease Simon Edvinsson along and prioritize other positions when considering acquisitions. In addition, further reliance on Walman could allow the Red Wings to deploy their lesser defensemen more selectively.
How to Test: Give Walman more responsibility by increasing his average time on ice to 22-plus minutes. This would mostly be a boost to his even-strength ice time, which—at 16:47—ranked fifth among Red Wings blueliners last year.
Success Metrics: Zone Exit Percentage, High Danger Chances Against per 60, Expected Goals-For per 60 (all metrics compared against time spent apart from Moritz Seider).
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Can Ville Husso Succeed With a Heavy Workload?
Value: The Red Wings need to know if Husso can be a bonafide starter so they can structure their goaltending depth accordingly. Backup James Reimer signed for one year, so Yzerman will need to address the crease once again next summer. If Husso succeeds, then another pure backup goalie will suffice. But if he falls short of expectations, it would make sense to find a 1A/1B to pair with Husso. It would be prudent to scour the market for a better starting option – Husso’s contract expires after the 2024-25 season.
How to Test: Give Husso the start in 55-60 games. He started 56 games last year, but faltered down the stretch as the wear and tear of an NHL season caught up to him.
Success Metrics: Quality Start Percentage, Steal Percentage, Goals-Saved Above Expected (five-game rolling average throughout the season for all metrics).
These three Red Wings—Raymond, Walman, and Husso—are essential parts of the organization. If they can take their games to the next level, the Red Wings will be better off – deeper, more well-rounded, and in a position to push for a playoff spot. Challenging them is the only way to find out if they can take that step.