Detroit Red Wings’ 2023-24 Final Grades: Defense

The Hockey Writers

While the forward grouping of the lineup for the Detroit Red Wings’ 2023-24 season stood out in a bright way for the most part, the defensemen on the roster and the defensive play as a whole was one of the team’s biggest Achilles heels throughout the season. There were some bright spots from the group, including Moritz Seider but there were also some players who underperformed and were underwhelming this season. With that being said, how did the group grade out?

High Honors

Moritz Seider

2023-24 stats: 82 GP – Nine goals, 33 assists, 42 points, minus-7

Another season, another 82 games played by the Red Wings’ 2019 first-round pick. Moritz Seider was the most consistent and reliable defenseman for the team once again this season, even with a shaky start to his season. While the metrics may not be in his favor compared to some other defensemen in the league, Seider played a strong defensive game while being matched up against the opponent’s top forwards. He showed a continued and constant willingness to lay his body on the line in the defensive zone as well, whether it was blocking shots or laying hits on his opponents. He recorded 200-plus hits and blocked shots a piece this season.

Offensively, Seider set a career-high in goals with nine while also becoming more involved in the powerplay as the season went on (he set a career-high in powerplay goals with three). But what stood out quite a bit with his play in the offensive zone was the smart play he showcased with the puck as well as keeping plays and offensive zone pressure alive with saves at the blue line. Heading into the offseason as a restricted free agent, he should certainly be earning a pay raise along with a long-term extension.

Grade: A

Shayne Gostisbehere

2023-24 stats: 81 GP – 10 goals, 46 assists, 56 points, minus-16

After signing a one-year deal in the offseason with the Red Wings, the hope was that Shayne Gostisbehere would bring some much-needed offense to the defensive grouping for the team this season after being known to be more of an offensively-minded defenseman, and he did just that. His offensive game was once again strong, both in five-on-five play and on the powerplay, thanks to the strong shot he has. Where he lacked was defensively, where he struggled throughout the season, but the offense he brought to the team offset the downfalls in his own zone.

Grade: B+ based on his strong offensive numbers and play.

Honors

Ben Chiarot

2023-24 stats: 77 GP- Five goals, 15 assists, 20 points, minus-4

After a horrendous start to his time with the Red Wings last season following a four-year deal to come to Detroit, Ben Chiarot had a strong bounce-back season for the organization this season. Although his offensive numbers may not have been the greatest, his all-around play made a massive improvement this season. He showed a strong willingness to get involved in the offensive zone, jumping into rushes and the play on the offensive end of the ice throughout the season.

Ben Chiarot Detroit Red Wings
Ben Chiarot, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Defensively, while there were times that he showed glimpses of the struggles he had last season, he played a solid game to help where he could with the defensive play for the team. He looked more comfortable in his own end while also winning battles in the dirty areas of the ice and threw his body around quite a bit. What stood out the most about his defensive improvement this season was the jump he made with his plus/minus, where he jumped from minus-31 last season to minus-4 this season. The plus/minus statistic may not mean as much as it used to some people, but it still is a strong improvement and will hopefully bode well for him going into next season.

Grade: B

Olli Maatta

2023-24 Stats: 72 GP – Four goals, 14 assists, 18 points, plus-14

While Olli Maatta fought to get into the lineup at the beginning of the season, he became a mainstay as it progressed. His name was not talked about a ton on broadcasts, but for a defenseman that tends to be a good thing as they are not getting themselves in a bad spot defensively. There were times when his play did struggle a bit, but overall, he looked solid on the back end for the Red Wings on the third pairing this season. He was another defenseman whose numbers did not necessarily support the way he played outside of his plus/minus rating, which sat at a plus-14 on the season. He did not add a whole lot of offense scoring-wise but was solid enough to get himself involved thanks to some strong passing and playmaking from the blue line.

Grade: B

Underperformed

Justin Holl

2023-24 stats: 38 GP – Zero goals, five assists, five points, plus-8

Opposite of Maatta, offseason acquisition Justin Holl found himself in the lineup at the beginning of the season but quickly fell out of favor with head coach Derek Lalonde and fought to get much playing time as the season progressed. Many questioned the contract that general manager Steve Yzerman gave Holl and those questions and doubts certainly have not been silenced after the first year of the deal. With the possibility of more youth being brought into the lineup next season, Holl could very well find himself fighting for a spot in the lineup once again.

Grade: D

Jeff Petry

2023-24 stats: 73 GP – Three goals, 21 assists, 24 points, minus-7

Another offseason acquisition that came under fire and question by the Red Wings fanbase was the trade to acquire Jeff Petry. The veteran defenseman was brought in to add some experience on the backend but struggled mightily throughout the season. There were very few times when he looked like he belonged or deserved to be on the ice for the team, much to the dismay of the fanbase. Occasionally, Petry would make a solid play in the offensive zone, but for the vast majority of the season, he looked out of place in the defensive zone, getting beat on plays and finding himself in bad positioning.

Related: Detroit Red Wings’ 2023-24 Final Grades: Forwards

One of Petry’s few bright spots on the season came when the organization decided to call up Simon Edvinsson and pair the two together for the final 16 games of the season. Edvinsson seemed to help Petry’s play pick up a bit.

Grade: C-

Jake Walman

2023-24 stats: 63 GP – 12 goals, nine assists, 21 points, minus-2

Jake Walman’s start to the 2023-24 season looked like it would be a really strong one for him thanks to his offensive output in the first half stemming from his strong shot from the blue line. While being paired up with Seider on the top-pairing once again, he played against the opponent’s top players. He struggled a bit compared to Seider in the defensive zone but made up for it with his offensive output.

In the second half of the season, though, his offensive game seemingly slowed down, and he also fought the injury bug that shortened his season. If he had put together a full season like the one he played in the first half while staying healthy, his overall grade would have been a bit higher, but the Red Wings certainly were hoping for more from Walman.

Grade: C+

Incomplete/Not Enough Playing Time

Simon Edvinsson

2023-24 stats: 16 GP – One goal, one assist, two points

Throughout the season, fans called for Yzerman to call up young defenseman Simon Edvinsson. That finally happened on March 19 and he stuck with the team the rest of the season. In the short time that he was in the Red Wings lineup, he looked every bit of the defenseman that the team and fans hoped he would be. While he did not get involved on the scoresheet a ton, he made plenty of plays on both ends of the ice to help put goals on the board.

He also looked very comfortable handling the puck at both ends of the ice, specifically in the defensive zone, while breaking the puck out. There were times when his youth and inexperience did shine through, but with more playing time and experience those kinks should be able to be worked out. There is plenty to be excited about regarding the future of Edvinsson.

Plenty of Room for Improvements, But Reason for Excitement as Well

While the Red Wings’ defensive group was not a strong suit, fans have plenty to be excited about thanks to players like Edvinsson and Seider and the possibility of more youth pushing for spots on the roster next season. Addressing the defense will likely be a major area for Yzerman this offseason as the organization looks to finally end its playoff drought.

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