Red Wings: 3 Key Insights Into Detroit’s Offseason Strategy

The Hockey Writers

At this point, the Detroit Red Wings are just about done with their offseason chess moves. General manager Steve Yzerman left the door open to more tinkering, but didn’t “have anything on the go at the moment” when asked during his post-free agency availability.

Yzerman’s moves (and non-moves) were telling, though. If you read the tea leaves closely, there are three main takeaways from the offseason. Let’s dive in.

Red Wings Have High Expectations for Simon Edvinsson

Toward the end of the 2023-24 season, Simon Edvinsson looked right at home on Detroit’s blue line. He averaged close to 20 minutes a night, spent time on the penalty kill, and frequently jumped into the play with confidence.

Mind you, the Red Wings were in the midst of a playoff chase. And yet, Derek Lalonde continued to deploy Edvinsson in high-leverage situations. The rookie was up to the challenge.

Simon Edvinsson Detroit Red Wings
Simon Edvinsson will be with the Red Wings full-time next season. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Given this, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the Red Wings dealt Jake Walman. It wasn’t just about the cap space – Edvinsson is ready. 

Detroit’s blue line additions are further proof of that. Erik Gustafsson is a role player and William Lagesson will likely be in the AHL. 

That’s it. No other moves were made. That’s because Edvinsson will anchor the second pair and could end up partnered with Moritz Seider before the 2024-25 campaign is over.

Detroit’s Defensive Improvement Must Come From Within

During his end-of-year press conference, Yzerman mentioned that Detroit’s top priority was to improve team defense. 

“We need to be better at all aspects of keeping the puck out of our net,” Yzerman noted.

Detroit’s GM stated this multiple times throughout his availability. His offseason moves didn’t exactly reflect that, though. 

Sure, Cam Talbot will shore up Detroit’s goaltending. Otherwise, no major moves were made to improve team defense. No Matt Roy. No Nikita Zadorov. No Chris Tanev.

What does this mean? It means that, more so than anything else, internal growth will drive defensive improvement. The team—everyone—needs to improve defensively, “whether it’s a different system or getting better at the way we play,” according to Yzerman.

Growth from within will help the Red Wings reach a level of play that is required come playoff time. It’s valuable preparation for the next phase of their rebuild.

Yzerman’s Plan Hasn’t Changed

When Yzerman took over as GM in 2019, he preached patience. His strategy to rebuild the Red Wings would take time. 

Since then, Yzerman hasn’t wavered. No corners have been cut. His strategy remains the same:

  1. Draft – Find, target, and select high-end, high-character prospects.
  2. Develop – Provide adequate time (and resources) for prospects to grow in junior, European, or minor leagues.
  3. Compete – Create meaningful competition in order for these prospects to earn professional roles.
  4. Mature – Once in Detroit, surround the prospects with strong leaders so they can learn to play the right way.
  5. Lead – Demand that these players step up and take charge of the team.

This offseason was no different. We saw that firsthand in the players Detroit drafted, with Michael Brandsegg-Nygard—a competitive, high-IQ, and talented prospect who plays a two-way game—being the most notable example.

“We have a Red Wing DNA and a type of prospect that we watch, and that’s what we want to continue to bring into the organization,” noted Kris Draper at the 2024 NHL Draft (from ‘Why Red Wings stuck to their ‘DNA’ and drafted Michael Brandsegg-Nygård at No. 15’ – The Athletic – 6/29/24).

Yzerman’s plan for free agency held true to his overall strategy. He surrounded his core with high-quality leaders to help them evolve into impact players. 

Patrick Kane is a future Hall-of-Famer who can mentor Lucas Raymond and Jonatan Berggren. Vladimir Tarasenko is well-respected around the league. Christian Fischer and Tyler Motte are high-motor glue guys who play the game the right way. And Erik Gustafsson provides Simon Edvinsson and Albert Johansson with meaningful competition for minutes, especially on the power play.

Related: Red Wings’ Projected Depth Chart for 2024-25

This was all done by design – the same design that Yzerman has adhered to in the five-plus years he’s been in the GM seat. That consistency and stick-to-it-ness has produced one of the top prospect pipelines in the NHL and a team on the cusp of playoff contention. And it’s all sustainably built.

Final Word

Moving forward, playoffs are a must. If the Red Wings want to improve each year, then the postseason is the logical next step given the fact that Detroit’s missed out in 2023-24 by the narrowest of margins.

These three insights show that the Red Wings are serious about achieving this goal. They’re counting on Edvinsson to be an impact player. The organization also expects everyone to be better defensively. When you add in Yzerman’s organizational strategy and Detroit’s offensive prowess, playoffs are a realistic possibility for 2024-25.

The Hockey Writers Substack banner Detroit Red Wings

Articles You May Like

Red Wings Top 25 Prospects: Post-2024 NHL Draft
Which NHL Playoff Drought Will End This Season?
Red Wings’ Playoff Drought Will End This Season
Grading the Red Wings’ 2024 Offseason

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *