The Detroit Red Wings were having a memorable season before heading into the Christmas break, considering the lack of excitement before general manager Steve Yzerman showed up. Dubbing every decision made as part of the Yzerplan, excitement began to build. Fans are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it is bright.
A couple of main takeaways from this season have been the success of players Yzerman has brought into the organization, improved sense of team comradery and heart, and a couple of possible assets to deal at the deadline.
Players Brought Into Detroit
Yzerman has brought in more than just talent to join this roster. He brought in a few players that would fit specific roles on the team, and Vladislav Namestnikov is a good example. Namestnikov was brought in two years ago to help bolster the bottom-six forwards. He wasn’t anything special last season, but he’s blossomed into a very nice third-liner in 2021-22 and can even fill in for the second line if there is an injury or illness. He already has 16 points on the season and is shooting at over a 22 percent clip, nearly tying his total of 17 points from last season.
Pius Suter is another forward Yzerman brought in to help uplift the second line and provide a reliable center. Suter on the second line gives Filip Zadina and Robbi Fabbri another strong linemate. All three on this line are averaging about a point every other game, creating a more prolific second line when compared to years past. The Red Wings’ second line is getting the opportunities but still needs to find the back of the net more often, as Zadina, Suter, and Fabbri are shooting at 5.6, 7.7, and 12.1 percent, respectively.
Red Wings Playing With Heart and Comradery
This Detroit team is playing with a lot of heart and never seems to give up, as they’re always trying to scratch and claw their way back into games. It begins with captain Dylan Larkin, as he has become a vocal leader both on and off the ice. Early in the season, Larkin got hit from behind into the boards by Mathieu Joseph and got up and sucker-punched him. Landing himself a one-game suspension, Larkin agreed he shouldn’t have punched Joseph but also stated that the Red Wings are done being pushed around – “Enough is enough.”
Larkin wants the league to know, teams cannot just come into games and push them around like in years past. The Red Wings are scrappy and will step up to teams after a cheap shot or a dirty hit.
Another great example of Detroit playing with heart is blocked shots. Blocking shots not only makes your goalie happy, but it also electrifies the crowd in the home barn. For example, the Red Wings played at home vs. the Florida Panthers in late October. Finding themselves down one goal, late in the third, they stepped up to the plate and blocked five of six shots in a span of 45 seconds. The atmosphere was going bonkers at Little Caesars Arena, and the players were feeding off it. Shortly thereafter, they’d score the game-tying goal. They’d ended up losing in overtime, but they were able to steal a point in a game against one of the best teams in the NHL.
Red Wings at the Trade Deadline
The Red Wings also find themselves in a good position to be sellers at the deadline if Yzerman chooses to be. Currently, they’re in the second wild-card spot for the playoffs, but depending on how January and February go, they might want to deal some expiring contracts for young talent/prospects or picks for the draft.
A couple of early potential candidates to think about trading are Nick Leddy, Sam Gagner, and Namestnikov. Leddy is an obvious possible trade candidate; teams are always looking for reliable defensemen while making a playoff push or playoff run. Namestnikov is also a viable choice to be traded to a contender looking to raise the offense of their third or fourth line.
Yzerman is also not shy about making big splashes and shaking things up, making it entirely possible he makes a big blockbuster trade. Jake DeBrusk has asked for a trade out of Boston, and the Red Wings could be a potential landing spot for the young player who has been underwhelming during Boston’s campaign. However, it is unlikely, but not out of the realm of possibilities a trade will occur between two teams battling each other for the same wild card spot. In my eyes, if Yzerman is willing to let go of Zadina, sending him to Boston to get DeBrusk could help both teams. Two young and underperforming prospects could be an easy one-for-one swap. Both Zadina and DeBrusk could use a change of scenery, possibly changing the trajectory of both careers.
If Yzerman wants to create a big splash, he could also turn his attention to Arizona Coyotes budding star Jakob Chychurn. Bringing in a younger defenseman to help solidify the Red Wings’ blue line would also be beneficial and very doable.
Yzerman is making smart decisions, and it is panning out on the ice and in the prospect pipeline. He is bringing in a mix of young talent and some veteran players on expiring deals to help guide and teach the young players. This mix of players has also grown throughout the season and shows a lot of heart in close games and in front of the hometown fans. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles this trade deadline by either being quiet or making a big splash.
The Red Wings are on an upward trajectory, and the fans know it to be true. Little Caesar’s arena is jamming every game, and Hockeytown is back.
I first developed an interest in writing at a young age, always wanting to write and tell stories. I attended the University of Michigan where I studied economics and minored in writing. Content contributor for the Detroit Red Wings at The Hockey Writers.