How Much Did the Red Wings Improve in 2023-24?

The Hockey Writers

It’s officially the offseason for the Detroit Red Wings. Playoffs were in reach, but, ultimately, the team fell short. Barely.

“It was an exciting season,” general manager Steve Yzerman noted during his end-of-year press conference. “Overall, it was progress.”

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For the third consecutive year, the Red Wings improved. That’s a good sign the rebuild is working. But how much exactly did they improve? Let’s dig into the data to quantify Detroit’s progress and identify what it will take to reach the postseason in 2025.

2023-24 Red Wings vs. 2022-23 Red Wings

First, we’ll compare Derek Lalonde’s two teams – this year’s group versus last season’s team. How much did the organization improve in Year 2 of the Lalonde Era?

Metric 2022-23 Red Wings 2023-24 Red Wings Net Difference

Points % 0.488 0.555 13.73%

GF/GP 2.89 3.35 15.92%

GA/GP 3.35 3.33 -0.60%

PP% 21.1% 23.1% 9.48%

SH% 78.3% 79.6% 1.66%

When looking at the highest-level of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), it’s clear that the Red Wings were much better than a year ago. The 13.73 percent growth in points percentage is a sign of that.

Improved special teams was nice to see as well. The additions of Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, J.T. Compher, and Shayne Gostisbehere paid off in that regard. The four combined for 73 power play points in 2023-24.

As for the penalty kill, Olli Maatta was a top-10 defenseman league-wide in limiting high-danger chances against. Christian Fischer rated highly as well.

A knock, though, was Detroit’s performance with Dylan Larkin out of the lineup. They were 4-10-0 without their captain. Excluding these games, the Red Wings had a .610 points percentage, which would have placed them sixth in the Eastern Conference and in possession of the first wild card spot. Contingency planning needs to be a priority this offseason – Detroit can’t perform this poorly without Larkin.

Red Wings Offense: Year-Over-Year Comparison

While the Red Wings upgraded their roster last summer, the end result of their offensive numbers probably could have been better. Here’s what the data said:

Metric 2022-23 Red Wings 2023-24 Red Wings Net Difference

CF/60 49.55 54.14 9.26%

GF/60 2.24 2.7 20.54%

xGF/60 2.22 2.26 1.80%

HDCF/60 9.68 8.96 -7.44%

All statistics at five-on-five. Metric definitions are provided below.

Again, newcomers DeBrincat, Kane, Compher, Gostisbehere, and Daniel Sprong represented clear improvements over the players they replaced. They afforded Lalonde the opportunity to slot his lineup more effectively in terms of skill set and role. He was able to roll four solid lines more often this season.

Five-on-five scoring saw a 20.54 percent improvement year-over-year. That was to be expected.

What wasn’t expected, though, was so many double-digit goal-scorers. In all, 13 Red Wings reached the 10-goal plateau – Larkin, Kane, DeBrincat, Compher, Sprong, Gostisbehere, Lucas Raymond, David Perron, Michael Rasmussen, Andrew Copp, Robby Fabbri, Joe Veleno, and Jake Walman. 

Alex DeBrincat Detroit Red Wings
Alex DeBrincat elevated Detroit’s offense after coming over in trade with the Ottawa Senators. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In addition, Red Wings defensemen combined for 188 points – a 12 percent increase year-over-year. Clearly, this was a deeper and stronger team offensively.

That said, they had trouble generating high-quality chances. Detroit’s HDCF/60 dropped 7.44 percent from last season, which was already 5.65 percent lower than Jeff Blashill’s final year with the Red Wings. Overall, they ranked 31st in the league in terms of HDCF/60.

Simply put, quantity improved – quality did not. The Red Wings need to find players who can consistently produce quality chances and/or adjust their offensive game plan to be even more dangerous in the offensive zone.

Red Wings Defense: Year-Over-Year Comparison

On the surface, Detroit’s defense declined in their second year with assistant coach Bob Boughner. It’s a bit more complicated than that, though.

Metric 2022-23 Red Wings 2023-24 Red Wings Net Difference

CA/60 58.10 63.63 9.52%

GA/60 2.80 2.88 2.86%

xGA/60 2.60 2.67 2.69%

HDCA/60 12.4 11.1 -10.48%

Context is important here. During the season, the Red Wings employed a defensive strategy that intentionally allowed more low-danger chances as a way to limit high-danger chances. Essentially, the plan was to keep the puck to the outside and minimize shot attempts from the slot. 

This “quantity instead of quality” plan, in turn, inflated Detroit’s xGA/60, which ranked poorly throughout the year. But as a volume stat, the metric is an inaccurate representation of a team that purposely allowed a high number of low-danger shots.

Did the strategy work? Kind of.

  • Goals against didn’t change much year-over-year. 
  • There was an 10.48 percent decrease in HDCA/60, so the Red Wings improved in that regard. 
  • Detroit’s HDCA/60 was average (14th-best) relative to the rest of the league.
  • Better goaltending could have reduced the amount of high-danger chances that stemmed from rebounds and total goals allowed.

So, yeah, it kind of worked. That said, there’s still work to be done defensively.

Good teams don’t dig themselves a hole that they have to climb out of. Good teams lock it down defensively when protecting a lead. The Red Wings struggled with both this year.

The remedy? Equal parts personnel and strategy. 

Find balance in defensive deployments so Moritz Seider isn’t the only blueliner tasked with shutting down opponents’ top lines. Adding a bonafide top-four defenseman would go a long way. The Red Wings could also bring in defensively inclined players at all positions and restructure their forecheck and zone exit strategies to be a much stingier team to play against. There are plenty of options Yzerman, Lalonde, and company can consider when deciding on how to improve team defense in 2024-25.

Assessment of the 2023-24 Red Wings

Overall, the Red Wings improved offensively, but took a small step back defensively – a reverse of what happened last season. This netted out in a 11-point improvement standings-wise.

It’s fair to say that this was not enough, though, especially when you consider the talent that was brought in, the emergence of Lucas Raymond as a game-breaker, and the familiarity that the returning players had with the coaching staff. The season was a success, but more arguably could have been accomplished.

The Red Wings have been trending upward since bottoming out in 2019-20. That said, the rebuild can no longer be a crutch – it’s “playoffs or bust” moving forward.

Advanced Metrics Definitions

Below are quick definitions of the metrics used to quantify Detroit’s on-ice efforts:

  • CF/60 & CA/60 – Corsi-for/against per 60. Shots on net, missed shots, and blocked shots per 60 minutes of five-on-five play.
  • GF/60 & GA/60 – Goals-for/against per 60.
  • xGF/60 & xGA/60 – Expected goals-for/against per 60 – according to Natural Stat Trick’s shot location model.
  • HDCF/60 & HDCA/60 – High-danger chances for/against per 60 – per Natural Stat Trick’s shot location data.

Stats courtesy of and Natural Stat Trick.

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