3 Red Wings Who Need to Step Up Their Game

The Detroit Red Wings are struggling worse than any other team in the NHL. They currently sit at the bottom of the standings, carrying with them the lowest goal differential in the league. The team has been scored against over 50 times more than they’ve scored. Nearly half of the players that have suited up this season have yet to reach the 10-point plateau. Six players haven’t scored a single point. Three players on the Red Wings’ roster have the lowest plus-minus differential in the entire NHL.

Dried up scoring threats, collapsing defensive efforts, and inconsistent goaltending have all played key roles in getting the team in their current rut. Something has to change, and soon. The Red Wings have plenty of talented players and several core veterans that should be putting in more effort to add scoring to this team. If the Red Wings hope to dig themselves out of the statistical black hole they’ve found themselves in, these players will need to step up their game to assist their team.

1. Frans Nielsen

Nielsen has one point — a lone assist — in 26 games. He’s also one of the team’s highest-paid players, earning $5.25 million a year until the 2022-2023 season. (from ‘NHL teams still digging out from 2016 free-agency debacles,’ New York Post, 11/15/2019) He was signed to serve as a veteran presence, utilizing his two-way game to stymie defensive threats while serving up his fair share of points. This season, he’s done neither. Nielsen is a statistical black hole, bringing down the production of his linemates almost every time he’s on the ice.

Frans Nielsen (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Nielsen is a very talented player, having been nominated for both the Selke and Lady Byng trophies multiple times throughout his career. While age is certainly beginning to take a toll on his production, his contract, coupled with his lack of effort during high-stress situations, speaks for itself. Nielsen needs to give his all game-in and game-out. That’s been his playstyle for the majority of his career, and that trend needs to continue if he hopes to draw closer to his old numbers.

2. Adam Erne

One of general manager Steve Yzerman’s first moves after assuming control of the Red Wings was to trade for Erne, a young, skilled forward from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since the trade, though, he has done very little to stand out on the ice. He has played 22 games this season. Currently, he sits at the bottom of the Red Wings roster in scoring with a whopping zero points. While he wasn’t brought on as a scoring threat, it was expected that he would at least have earned a few points almost a third of the way through the season.

Detroit Red Wings Adam Erne Florida Panthers Aleksander Barkov
Detroit Red Wings left wing Adam Erne and Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov fight for the puck. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

If Erne wants to cement his role on the ice in Detroit, he’ll need to step up and play harder. Like Nielsen, he’s struggled with consistency for the majority of the season. He’s been unable to stand out among a crop of forwards eager to earn a spot on NHL ice. He’s currently deployed on the fourth line beside Christoffer Ehn and Brendan Perlini, two players that also sit without a point on the roster. With less pressure on his mind, he may be able to recover his lost point totals as the season continues.

3. Madison Bowey

Acquired from the Washington Capitals last season as a piece from the Nick Jensen trade, Bowey has been unable to cement a role with the Red Wings throughout the 2019-20 season. He makes costly mistakes, often coughing up the puck in key moments. While the vast majority of the Red Wings’ defensive corps has been shaky at best, he stands out among them as one of the most frequent offenders. His defensive judgment calls, coupled with the costly penalties he’s taken in key games, have earned him a spot on this list.

The Red Wings’ game against the Nashville Predators on Nov. 4 showcased a variety of Bowey’s lapses on plays — specifically his work on the blue line. While he’s still a very talented player, pressure tends to be the bane of his game. He frequently made impulse decisions behind the net to try and confuse his opponents rather than playing it smart and safe. He’s still young and likely has an opportunity to redeem himself, but, as of right now, he’s got a long way to go before he can earn a full-time spot on a roster.

James Neal, Madison Bowey
Edmonton Oilers’ James Neal takes the puck away from Detroit Red Wings’ Madison Bowey (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan)

Who do you think needs to step up? Who has surpassed your expectations? Let us know in the comments!