Red Wings: 3 Goods & 3 Bads From the 2023-24 Season

The Hockey Writers

It may not seem like it, but the Detroit Red Wings’ 2023-24 season concluded a week ago. Now that the dust has settled, it is time to look back and figure out what worked and what didn’t work for the Motor City’s hockey team this season.

On THW’s Red Wings podcast, The Hockey Writers’ Grind Line, each show begins with a segment called “1 Good/1 Bad” where we highlight something good and something bad from the week. In the spirit of that segment, this article is going highlight three “goods” and three “bads” from the season as a whole.

Detroit Red Wings 3 Goods & 3 Bads From 2023-24
Detroit Red Wings 3 Goods & 3 Bads From 2023-24 (The Hockey Writers)

While they may not do it exactly like this, general manager Steve Yzerman and his staff are in the process of doing the same thing so that they can make a gameplan on how to improve for next season. But before we get into all of that, let’s celebrate the Red Wings’ successes and frustrations this season.

Good #1: All 82 Games Had Meaning 

You’ll have to forgive newer Red Wing fans if they didn’t know how to react to their favorite team playing meaningful games past the trade deadline. After all, it had been nearly a decade since that last happened.

Although the Red Wings ultimately fell short of clinching a playoff spot, their pursuit of it breathed new life into the place they call Hockeytown. Casual hockey fans started tuning in again and, in a year dominated by the Detroit Lions’ rise to prominence in the National Football League, people started talking about the Red Wings again. 

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Playing 82 meaningful games was huge for the team’s youngest and least-experienced players, but it also helped bring the Red Wings’ brand back from the dead. After all, they were the most-watched team in the NHL – at least at one point of the season. 

Bad #1: Puzzling Coaching Decisions

Frustration surrounding a coach’s decisions is hardly exclusive to hockey; as the old adage goes: coaches are hired to be fired. But in a season where one more point in the standings would have secured a playoff spot, it was perhaps a little too easy for fans and media to zero in on some questionable decision-making by the Red Wings’ coaching staff.

When Yzerman spoke to the media and said that his team struggled with the fundamentals of defense, that’s an indictment on the coaching staff. In the face of defensive collapse after defensive collapse this season, head coach Derek Lalonde, staying true to form, chose consistency on the blue line over shaking things up. 

Related: Red Wings: 3 Burning Questions Heading Into the 2024 Offseason

Lalonde also handled his three goaltenders in a peculiar way, waiting a full month before allowing Alex Lyon to see the crease. When Lyon showed signs of fatigue in the second half of the season, Lalonde continued to ride him, even when James Reimer started winning big games for the team down the stretch. Mix in an over-reliance on pairing Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane together and it’s clear that Lalonde is still learning which levers to pull as an NHL head coach and when to pull them.

Good #2: Lucas Raymond

If you look up in the sky, you might see a shooting star. If you look out on the ice at Little Caesars Arena, you will definitely see one. 

After a sophomore season that led many to question his ceiling at the NHL level, Lucas Raymond responded by adding more muscle and strength to his frame, and that led to him becoming, arguably, the Red Wings’ best forward this season.

In terms of pure production, Raymond reached 30 goals and 70 points for the first time in his career. More importantly, he scored a lot of big goals, including 3 overtime winners and other monumental goals down the stretch as the Red Wings’ season was on the line. It’s one thing to be good, it’s another to be clutch. 

Raymond is a restricted free agent this summer and has earned every penny of his next contract. 

Bad #2: Post-Deadline Collapse

A lot of people, myself included, have attempted to pinpoint the game that ultimately cost the Red Wings a playoff spot, but the reality is that it wasn’t one single game – it was a full-blown collapse in the month of March that doomed Detroit’s playoff standing.

A collapse around that time of year has been an annual tradition for the Red Wings since the start of their rebuild. In previous seasons, the Red Wings were sellers at the trade deadline, leading to an exodus of talent that resulted in a stockpile of losses to finish out the season. Even though Yzerman elected to mostly stay put at the deadline this season, that familiar collapse still happened, and they were never truly able to recover from it.

There are a number of explanations for why this happened. Some folks point to the absense of Dylan Larkin while others point to the addition of the Priority Waste patch on the team’s sweaters. Regardless of the reason, the Red Wings let a massive cushion in the standings slip through their fingers; if they had just a .500 record in that month, I’d be writing about their playoff series with the New York Rangers right now instead of this. 

Good #3: Griffins Make the Playoffs

Despite their playoff chase this season, the Red Wings have not made the playoffs since 2016. To make matters worse, the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Red Wings’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, had not made the playoffs since Yzerman assumed the role of GM in the Spring of 2019. 

Key phrasing there: had not. 

The Griffins made the AHL playoffs this season, clinching second place in the Central Division on the final day of the season. Powered by some of the Red Wings’ top prospects including Simon Edvinsson, Marco Kasper and Sebastian Cossa, the organization has hope that the Griffins are set for a long playoff run that would provide experience that is impossible to replicate. You can’t draw a straight line from AHL success to NHL success, but playing for a championship at one level should prepare those players to play for a championship at the next. 

If the Red Wings are going to compete for Stanley Cups  anytime soon, success over in Grand Rapids is part of the equation.

Bad #3: Sub-Par Goaltending (Again)

The Red Wings have utilized their goalies in a “1A/1B” tandem since the mid-2010s when Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek were the team’s two goaltenders. This season, the Red Wings added a “1C” option as they entered the season with Lyon, Reimer and Ville Husso on the roster. Unfortunately, the extra option did not translate to a noticeable increase in goaltending quality.

The Red Wings have not had a goalie start half of their games and finish with a goals-against average (GAA) below 3.00 since Thomas Greiss started 29 games and had a GAA of 2.70 in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season. Expanding on this further, Greiss is also the last Red Wings “starter” to finish with a save-percentage above .905. In other words, the Red Wings have had to make do with mediocre goaltending for three straight seasons now. With Husso and Lyon signed for next season, it is not clear if or how there will be improvement in this area next season. 

Now it’s your turn! What is a good and a bad from the season that you want to mention? Drop your thoughts in the comments section down below!

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