Can the Detroit Red Wings take the next step in ’23-24?

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The Detroit Red Wings were poised for big things in 2023-24 from the moment they started making moves this off-season. The picture for the article shows the Stanley Cup in all its glory, and while that’s not the next step for the Red Wings, it’s a big-picture thing for Detroit.

The Detroit Red Wings have been entrenched into a rebuild that has lasted nearly ten years at this point, feeling like they have been struggling to get things going. With coaching changeover, GM turnover, and plenty of player turnover, there’s a new crew in town.

Steve Yzerman returned to Detroit and enacted his Yzerplan, which has been what this team has needed. Some folks are out on the Yzerplan and do not seem to think that Yzerman’s work has been enough, but I err on the side of optimism.

Yzerman has overhauled the roster, restocked the farm system in the minors through the draft, and extended key pieces to keep things intact moving forward, for the most part. While the Red Wings contended for a postseason spot in 2022-23, it was brief and sort of a lucky chance that that team pulled things together.

But, in 2023-24, it’s less chance and more on what the team can do. The 2023-24 regular season is just a handful of games in, so this is not playoffs talk but rather stewing on the idea of the Red Wings taking the next step as this season continues.

Detroit Red Wings look poised to elevate their game in 2023-24.

Yzerman made it very clear this summer that this year will not be a “playoffs or bust” mentality. With that in mind, what is the next step? For the Red Wings to call this year a success, what would have to happen?

They are coming off of the 2022-23 season, where they managed 80 points for seventh in the Atlantic Division, going 35-37-10. They scored 240 goals (24th of 32) and allowed 279 goals (23rd of 32), per Hockey-Reference’s season indexes.

They “competed” for a playoff spot, or at least played some meaningful games in February/March after the all-star break before things fizzled out. So, keeping this in mind, but also the comments from Yzerman, what are the next steps?

The team has been re-tooled. There are new offensive weapons, new goaltending, and added help on the defense core. It’s hard not to think this team can compete. Sure, it’s not playoffs or bust, but the team better be pushing hard to try and capture a playoff spot come next Spring.

If the Red Wings sulk in the bottom of the Atlantic Division, this year is a loss, and things must change quickly. But Detroit seems like they’re in the position to compete. It’s not to say they are heading toward a cup run and going to be competing for the Stanley Cup, but they may be able to earn a seat at the table and snag a low seed in the postseason.

Getting bounced in the first round is never fun, but given the criteria of “this is not playoffs or bust,” even making the playoffs would be a victory. After all, this town might go crazy if the Red Wings were making a playoff run in 2023-24.

The fans showed up last year when there was even a chance that Detroit might make the playoffs, so never underestimate the power of the fanbase backing up its team. Hopefully, Detroit can keep pace with the big dogs in the Division and try to make the leap to being a contender.

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