4 Reasons the Red Wings Missed the 2022 Playoffs

The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs in 2021-22, making it the sixth straight year they’ve been on the outside looking in when postseason hockey comes around. That is the second-longest that the team has ever gone without making the playoffs (they missed seven straight times from 1970-71 until 1976-77). 

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Everyone knows that the Red Wings are deep within a rebuild, but this was the year when expectations began to rise. More and more of the top-end prospects from recent drafts have made the team in a full-time capacity, and two of them (Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond) earned Calder Trophy buzz as two of the very best rookies in the NHL. Red Wings fans also saw players like Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin have excellent offensive seasons, not to mention the trade for one of last year’s Calder Trophy finalists in goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.

Lucas Raymond Detroit Red Wings
Lucas Raymond, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With all these things breaking right for the Red Wings this season, how on earth did they miss the playoffs? Here are four of the biggest reasons the Red Wings missed the 2022 playoffs in no particular order.

1. Red Wings Defence Was an Issue

What Went Wrong?

The Red Wings allowed the 30th-most goals in the NHL this season (312 GA), only ahead of the bottom-dwelling Arizona Coyotes and Montréal Canadiens. The lowest that any playoff team ranked in goals against this season was 19th, held by the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, the Maple Leafs managed to score the second-most goals in the NHL, 85 more than the Red Wings scored. 

Related: Red Wings’ Future Is Bright Following William Wallinder’s SHL Accolades

Moritz Seider is a lone bright spot among the murky depths of the Red Wings’ D-corp. There are a lot of excellent prospects on the way for the Red Wings on defence, but that couldn’t have felt any further away this season as the likes of Filip Hronek, Danny Dekeyser, and Marc Staal each saw far higher usage than should be expected of them. Especially since Detroit traded away Nick Leddy at the trade deadline, the Red Wings have had four or five defencemen playing regular minutes that would be best suited for the third pair. 

What Needs to Happen

The Red Wings need a few more of their defensive prospects to graduate to the NHL level in the next few years, primarily the likes of William Wallinder and Simon Edvinsson. They also need a few of their established defenders to play better in reduced roles, as I’m confident guys like Danny DeKeyser would have better results overall if they played against weaker competition. If those two things happen, then the Red Wings’ D-corps will look a whole lot stronger very soon. 

2. Red Wings’ Unreliable Goaltending

What Went Wrong?

The Red Wings committed to a tandem of Alex Nedeljkovic and Thomas Greiss this season but were unable to find consistent goaltending out of the pair for any extended period of time. That’s not to say that the goaltenders were bad, just that they were not reliable on a game-by-game basis, as both Nedeljkovic and Greiss were very hot and cold over the course of the season.

Alex Nedeljkovic Detroit Red Wings
Alex Nedeljkovic, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Red Wings had 18 games this season where their starting goalie finished the game with a save percentage of .940 or higher. That means 18 games with stellar goaltending that helped them steal a few wins that they may not have deserved. However, they also had 25 games this season where their starting goalie had a save percentage of .870 or lower, and 10 of those 25 saw their starter earn a save percentage below .800.

What Needs to Happen?

Certainly, defence matters, and if the Red Wings can significantly bolster their defence, their goalies will improve statistically as well. As far as tangible decisions, Thomas Greiss is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and the Red Wings will likely be looking for a backup/tandem goaltender to pair with Nedeljkovic for the next few years until goaltending prospect Sebastian Cossa is ready for the NHL.

Keep an eye on the St. Louis Blues, who must decide this offseason if they will re-sign Ville Husso as their starting goaltender while paying Jordan Binnington like a starter. The Blues also have Charlie Lindgren hitting free agency. Lindgren has dominated the AHL this year (24 wins in 34 games with a .925 sv%) and has impressed in five NHL games. He could be an interesting pick-up for a team in need of some goaltending depth. Also of note, the Red Wings recently announced that they would not be renewing Jeff Salajko’s contract as their goaltending coach. Finding the right replacement for that position will be incredibly important to the team’s future in net.

3. Special Teams Struggles

What Went Wrong?

The Red Wings had the worst penalty kill in the league, killing 73.8% of penalties, and had the 26th ranked power play, converting on 16.3% of their opportunities. The Red Wings struggled on special teams this season in a major way. They often looked passive and disorganized on the power play, which is typically the easiest part of a game to look powerful and dominant. 

Jeff Blashill Detroit Red Wings
Jeff Blashill, Former Detroit Red Wings head coach (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The penalty kill was the real issue, though, as both the systems and personnel were insufficient. If you need proof that the systems were not nearly good enough, look at one of the 31 teams with a better penalty kill than Detroit, the Seattle Kraken. The Kraken had a brand-new coaching staff and had to start from scratch when it came to defensive systems on the penalty kill, and yet they still managed a better penalty kill percentage than the Red Wings.

What Needs to Happen?

The Red Wings have already taken the first step by deciding not to re-sign head coach Jeff Blashill. A new head coach (and assistant coach to replace Doug Houda) will hopefully go a long way in establishing some new patterns, strategies, and lineups for the special teams. The Red Wings would also benefit from bringing in a new player or two who could join the penalty kill specifically, as having Sam Gagner and Marc Staal lead your team in penalty kill ice time would’ve sounded a lot better in 2007 than in 2022. 

4. Moritz Seider Couldn’t Play 60 Minutes a Night

What Went Wrong?

Unfortunately, Mo Seider is just one man and could not manage to stay on the ice for the entire game. All kidding aside, the Red Wings are simply better when Seider is on the ice. The problem with relying so heavily on one player for defensive security is that the team suffers when they aren’t on the ice. Seider led all rookie defenders in ice time and had the 35th highest average ice time in the whole NHL. 

Moritz Seider Detroit Red Wings
Moritz Seider, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Seider looked solid all season but could only do so much considering the dearth of blue-line talent in Detroit this season. He led all regular Red Wings defenders in many categories, spanning the realms of both counting stats (led in points, assists, plus/minus) and advanced analytics (led in Corsi for percentage and Goals for percentage). All this while starting more of his shifts in the defensive zone than any other player on the team. 

What Needs to Happen?

The Red Wings need to shore up their defensive depth with either existing prospects, top-end talent in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, or in free agency this summer. If they find a way to give Seider a top-pairing linemate (perhaps Simon Edvinsson?), then they will certainly be moving in the right direction.

So…What About Next Season?

Yes, the Red Wings missed the playoffs, but there are still reasons for optimism. They have two excellent young players in Seider and Raymond, who have established themselves at the NHL level, one of the best prospect pools in the NHL, a guaranteed top-10 pick in the 2022 draft and have Steve Yzerman leading the team, one of the most trusted and respected general managers in the NHL. The playoffs will certainly be the goal next season, and though they very well may miss again (barring a surprise leap up the standings like the Los Angeles Kings pulled off this season), they are certainly going in the right direction.