Red Wings’ Season a Success & Fuel for the Future

The Hockey Writers

Prior to the 2023-24 season, Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman set expectations for his team.

“It’s not playoffs or bust, but we’re going to try to win every game and we’re going to try to make the playoffs,” Yzerman noted to the media.

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With two games to go, Yzerman’s goal of reaching the playoffs is still a possibility. Detroit needs to win, and they need a little help from Eastern Conference rivals, but a postseason berth is still possible. And that is enough to deem the 2023-24 season a success.

Significance of a Red Wings Playoff Berth

Playoffs would be a huge accomplishment for the Red Wings. It’s been a successful season regardless, but a postseason berth would elevate a passing grade to an A-plus.

Derek Lalonde Detroit Red Wings
Derek Lalonde has the Detroit Red Wings close to the playoffs in Year 2. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For one, making the playoffs would show that the Red Wings are ahead of schedule. A majority of the prospects accumulated during the rebuild haven’t reached the NHL yet, let alone become everyday contributors. And there’s plenty of talent on the horizon.

“The Detroit Red Wings’ pool is led by half a dozen higher-end prospects and followed by legitimate depth in numbers right through to the end of the list. They don’t have a top-10 forward prospect but they’ve got two top-10 D prospects, they’re the only organization in the league with two top-10 goalie prospects, and there are another two (or three) forwards who are going to be really solid NHL players, plus several others who’ve got a chance to play games.”

–Scott Wheeler, The Athletic (from ‘Detroit Red Wings are No. 2 in 2024 NHL prospect pool rankings’ – The Athletic – 2/29/24

Further, a postseason berth would serve as a development aid for the young players currently in the lineup – the players that are expected to carry the franchise forward. That means Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond, Simon Edvinsson, and others. In terms of high-pressure minutes, nothing compares to playoff hockey. These players will be counted on in these moments.

Postseason hockey also is a huge revenue booster, and that’s a big deal for a league that generates a significant amount of their income from game-day receipts. In addition, there’s the general positivity that comes with making the playoffs – the franchise obviously hasn’t experienced this in quite some time, and instead has only endured the negativity of losing and poor draft lottery luck.

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

What’s Next for the Red Wings?

First thing’s first – the Red Wings need to win their remaining games. Then what?

If Detroit reaches the postseason, then that’s great. They get to experience all the things outlined above. And if not, then the season is still a success. They came close to making the playoffs, and that’s more than could be said in recent years.

Either way, change is coming. The degree of which is up in the air.

Yzerman could take a passive approach to the offseason, and trust that the rebuild will continue to bear fruit as we move into the future. This would entail a couple value signings and/or minor trades to supplement the current roster, with a few prospects joining the fray as well. 

He could also pursue a more aggressive strategy to get over the hump. This would more or less be a repeat of the 2023 game plan. Think another Alex DeBrincat-type of deal, plus kicking tires with top free agents.

Which path should the Red Wings follow? Being passive could result in more of the same – fighting for a wild card spot in the waning days of the season. Then again, that’s what happened with an aggressive approach last offseason.

Related: Red Wings’ Simon Edvinsson: The Future Is Now

There’s no simple answer here. Both could work out favorably. Both could fall short of expectations as well. Luck plays too big of a role in the game to definitely say one option is better than the other.

Final Word

Detroit’s 2023-24 season was a success, but reaching the postseason would be a win for the organization. It would also serve as validation that the agony of long, drawn-out rebuild was worth it. That trading homegrown players like Gustav Nyquist, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Filip Hronek for picks and prospects finally paid dividends down the road.

Beyond that, it will be an intriguing offseason for the ultra-competitive Yzerman. He’ll have the opportunity to reaffirm his position in the upper echelon of NHL general managers. On top of elevating the Red Wings into a bonafide playoff team, Yzerman will need to re-sign key players like Raymond and Seider, improve the blue line, and figure out how to stabilize Detroit’s goaltending.

We’ll cover those tasks in depth in the coming days. In the meantime, it’s win and get in. Then from there, anything can happen. It’s the playoffs, after all.

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