What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. This week Tony Wolak, Devin Little, Logan Horn, and Jordan Orth are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
It has been years since Detroit Red Wings fans have talked about the playoffs with sincerity. The team’s playoff drought reached seven years last season, and key figures in the Red Wings’ front office and coaching staff still use the “R” word when referring to this team: rebuilding. Despite that, a busy offseason and a strong start to the 2023-24 season has people wondering if this is the season their playoff drought will come to an end.
Naturally, our panel of writers is mixed on whether or not this season’s group has what it takes to bring playoff hockey to Little Caesar’s Arena for the first time. Here’s what they think of the Red Wings’ playoff chances this season:
No Jim Mora quote here—PLAYOFFS?!—the Red Wings have the talent, depth, and resources to make the 2024 NHL Playoffs.
I’m an optimist. I can see a path to the postseason. The Red Wings will score more this year. It’s possible that the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and Florida Panthers take a slight step back, too.
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The key, in my opinion, is Ville Husso. Detroit’s top netminder needs to show he’s No. 1 material – as he’s being challenged to do. If Husso steps up, then the Red Wings have a great case for a playoff berth. If not, then they’ll fall short of the postseason once again.
Little: So Close, Yet So Far
There are so many reasons to believe in the Red Wings this season. Dylan Larkin finally has a bona fide sniper to pass to. Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are both another year older and (hopefully) another year better. There are veterans up and down the roster that have played for the Stanley Cup – and some of them have even won it. To top it all off, there are a handful of prospects in Detroit’s system that are either actively pushing for NHL jobs, or should be making that push by season’s end. The ingredients are all there for this season to be the one that effectively ends what has been a long and sometimes painful rebuild.
But the fact of the modern day NHL is that it’s not just about how good your team is, it is also about how good all the other teams in the league are. There simply aren’t many “bad” teams this season, and most of the teams that fit that description play in the Western Conference. The Red Wings are in, in my opinion, the toughest division in the league; the Atlantic Division might produce up to seven playoff-caliber teams this season, and there won’t be room for all of them. I think the Red Wings will be a playoff-caliber team in 2023-24, but they’ll fall short due to an abundance of slow, declining veterans on their roster.
Horn: No Playoffs
I don’t think this Red Wings team is there quite yet, especially considering the strength of the Atlantic Division. They’ll be better than last year, even if they don’t improve much in the standings, and will hopefully be playoff-race adjacent for the majority of the season, but I don’t see enough improvement to see the postseason as a realistic option for Detroit this year.
If Husso can sustain the great play we saw from him early last year, Seider and Raymond both take steps forward, and Alex DeBrincat scores 35-plus goals, then I think they could have a good chance to make it, but that’s a lot that needs to go right. I’d guess their playoff odds are near 10 percent right now, but I hope they prove me wrong.
Orth: Too Tough of a Division
With the new additions, the team will be much improved. The big thing will be the bounce back with Husso in net to solidify the goaltending position for the season. If the chemistry with the returners and new players can catch on quickly, the Wings should have a chance to make a push.
But being in a division with teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bruins and the Lightning, even with their losses and injuries (Tampa Bay), it will be hard to crack the playoffs this season. I believe they’ll be in the hunt for most of the season but end up falling short while showing a lot of improvement and promise for next season as well.
What do you think? Will the Red Wings make the playoffs this season? Let us know in the comments section down below!