After an offseason that saw the Detroit Red Wings bring in several new players via free agency and trade, there were hopes that they could make the jump to being a playoff team, or at least in the playoff hunt towards the end of the 2023-24 season. Ten games into the season, the Red Wings have shown signs of life and hope for that to happen, while also showing where there is a need for improvement as well. So after a 6-3-1 start to the season, what exactly have the Red Wings shown their fans?
Offseason Additions Paying Dividends for Red Wings
Eight of the team’s offseason acquisitions have been able to make an impact on the lineup from top-to-bottom so far in the young season, being led by the headlining acquisition of Alex DeBrincat who is second on the team in points with 13, five of which have come on the powerplay. While he may be the biggest name that general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman acquired in the offseason, the others that were brought in have also made impacts on the team, helping lead to early season success.
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has made a major impact on the Red Wings’ first power play unit and has given it a strong flank-side shot that the team was missing last season. He has two goals and six assists alone on the man-advantage sitting eighth in the league and second among defensemen in powerplay points. While these guys have made a major impact on the scoresheet for the team, they have also opened up the play for the rest of the players around them, helping the offense improve drastically from last season.
The stat sheet is filled with the above names, but the unsung heroes out of the offseason acquisitions cannot be ignored either in JT Compher, Daniel Sprong, Christian Fischer, Justin Holl, and Klim Kostin. While these five have not made the biggest impact on the scoresheet, they have added different layers to the lineup. With Compher, he has given the team a spark in the faceoff circle having won 52% of his faceoffs so far and bringing some energy to the team with his strong forechecking and penalty-killing abilities as well. Sprong has also done the same thing with his rifle of a shot and playmaking abilities. He has been a strong player on the second powerplay unit as well, although he has not registered a point on the man advantage. He is proving that last season’s career year with the Seattle Kraken may not have been a fluke and has added seven total points this season.
At the bottom end of the forward grouping are Fischer and Kostin. Between the two players, they have totaled only one point but have brought energy and physicality to the lineup that Yzerman was looking to add this season. They have been able to give the top six a chance to get a break and continue the pressure in the offensive zone while playing a strong forecheck and creating chances for themselves that will hopefully end in getting on the stat sheet more throughout the year.
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On the back end of the ice are Holl and goalie James Reimer, who were both viewed with some criticism due to the length of their contract (Holl) and the prior season’s performance (Reimer). While Holl is not lighting the world on fire with his numbers, he has been solid throughout the first ten games for the Red Wings and has compiled a plus/minus of plus-7 which has him ninth highest league-wide for defensemen.
Reimer was coming off one of if not the worst seasons of his career with the San Jose Sharks in 2022-23. Many were questioning the move, but he has looked solid for the team when called upon to fill in for starter Ville Husso. He has been able to keep the Red Wings in games when they have struggled and given the team solid performances in three starts, going 2-1 with a 1.68 goals-against average (GAA), a .939 save percentage (SV%) and also tallied a shutout against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
These offseason acquisitions have added a much-needed boost to the depth of the lineup and hopefully can continue to do so throughout the rest of the season.
Red Wings Seeing Production Up-and-Down the Lineup
Piggy-backing off the depth of the lineup, the top line of Dylan Larkin, DeBrincat, and Lucas Raymond has grabbed the attention of many (deservedly so), but the team has seen production from other players aside from the newest acquisitions as well. Joe Veleno has had a great start to the season on both ends of the ice. He has shown a willingness to play in the defensive zone, make plays on the back check, and get himself more involved on the scoresheet, putting up five goals and six points through the first ten games of the season. On the back end, Moritz Seider has gotten off to the best start of his young career statistic-wise (10 points) and has played solid with his defensive partner Jake Walman, helping lead the way for the Red Wings’ defense.
Defensive Play and Discipline Need Improvement
While the newest Red Wings have proven to be a major positive on the team ten games into the season, there are always areas that need improvement. The defensive zone play and team discipline are two aspects of the Red Wings’ game that need to be worked on if they want to have continued success throughout the rest of the season.
The Red Wings have taken the sixth most penalties per game in the league and have put their penalty kill to the test too often, even though they currently have the league’s 13th-ranked penalty kill. Untimely penalties have done the team in, in spots where they either have momentum killed by the penalty or in crucial times of the game.
The team’s lack of discipline at times throughout games has also put stress on the defense, which has been spotty to start the season. Along with penalty kill situations, the overall defensive play has shot the team in the foot while being unable to clear the puck and giving opponents extra unnecessary opportunities and continued offensive zone pressure. There have also been a few too many defensive zone lapses that have led to a high number of high-quality scoring chances given up, whether it be missed assignments or unforced turnovers in their zone.
Tied in with the team’s defense is a lack of consistent goaltending play. While Reimer has had a solid start to his time with the Red Wings, Husso has been up-and-down to start the year, even with his numbers looking better so far compared to last season. He played his best game in his last start against the New York Islanders on Oct. 30 but has given up goals that are seen as “weak” and has been a little more inconsistent than fans and the organization would like him to be. There have been times when he looks like the goalie who finished last season struggling.
The team’s defense and goaltending both will need to improve if the Red Wings hope to have themselves in position for a playoff spot come the end of the year.
Team Has to Play a Full 60 Minutes
The Red Wings have struggled to play a full 60 minutes in a few of their games to start the season, whether it be getting off to a slow start against the Boston Bruins or letting the Pittsburgh Penguins sneak back into a game after holding a three-goal third-period lead.
The team will need to be able to put a full 60-minute game together to combat their opponent’s pressure and attacks while closing out games to have continued success the rest of the season. Keeping the pressure on their opponents has been an issue, seemingly playing laid back when they have leads in games instead of keeping their foot on the gas pedal and putting a game out of reach.
Overall, there have been quite a few things that the Red Wings have shown so far that should have fans excited about the rest of the season. There are also a few spots that need to be cleaned up to become a playoff contender this year as well. The rest of the season has all of the makings to be an exciting one for the team and its fans.