As of November 26, 2020, the NHL is still aiming for January 1, 2021, as the opening night for the 2020-21 season. While that date seems more unlikely with every passing moment, it’s important to keep in mind that hockey will be back at some point. That includes the Detroit Red Wings, who have not stepped on the ice since March 10th and are anxiously waiting for hockey to return. Today, I’m going to try something different and give you the essential guide for being a Red Wings fan heading into the upcoming season. Enjoy!
What you Need to Know About the Red Wings
- The Red Wings have not had a winning season in the last four years. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2015-16, which was also the last time they won a playoff game. Detroit hasn’t won a division since clinching the Central Division in 2010-11, finishing no higher than third in the Atlantic Division since joining in 2013-14.
- 2009 was the last year in which the Red Wings made the Stanley Cup Finals when they lost Game 7 on home ice to Max Talbot and the Pittsburgh Penguins. They won the Stanley Cup in 2008 at Mellon Arena, home of the Penguins, which was the last time they hoisted the prestigious trophy. Game five of the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals was the last time the Red Wings clinched the Stanley Cup on home ice.
- The Red Wings current home is Little Caesars Arena, which opened in 2017. They share it with the Detroit Pistons of the NBA, and it was supposed to host the 2020 NCAA Frozen Four hockey tournament before the cancelation of all NCAA sports due to COVID-19. The arena was named the 2018 Sports Facility of the Year at the 2018 Sports Business Awards.
- 2019-20 was an awful season for the Red Wings, to put it lightly. They had the worst record and goal differential by a mile, and there’s a good argument to be made for them being considered the worst team of the Salary Cap era. It can’t get any worse than last season, and that’s part of the reason for Red Wings fans being slightly optimistic.
Who Plays for the Red Wings Now?
If you’re like me and grew up watching the Red Wings with Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Henrik Zetterberg, among others (yes, I am that young), I’ve got some bad news. Most of those players from the last time Detroit won the Stanley Cup are either retired or extremely overpaid, like Darren Helm and Valterri Filppula. I would be remissed if I didn’t mention Datsyuk is absolutely killing it in the KHL for Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg.
The Red Wings best player is arguably Michigan’s own, Dylan Larkin. His point total fell off noticeably in 2019-20 compared to the year before (I don’t know who’s didn’t), but as the local kid who can put up plenty of points, he’s extremely popular within the fanbase and franchise. The big question heading into 2021 will be if Larkin is named the 37th captain in team history.
Other names to look out for include Anthony Mantha, who recently signed a four-year, $22 million deal as an RFA, and Tyler Bertuzzi, the nephew of former NHLer Todd Bertuzzi. Larkin, Mantha, and Bertuzzi will likely be the Red Wings’ top forward line heading into next season as they’ll all enter 2021 at age 26 or younger. They’re also hoping to perform better offensively, as the three of them scored a combined 56 goals last season, not nearly enough from a team’s top line.
On the back end, the name to know is Filip Hronek. The 23-year-old from Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic, is the best Red Wings defensive prospect they’ve had in years, and if you watch any highlights of him, you’ll know why pretty quickly. He had 31 points in 65 games last season, and assuming he still has room to improve, Red Wings fans will be in for a treat watching him.
Without naming the whole roster, other names you might be familiar with include Thomas Greiss, who signed a two-year deal with the Red Wings. Former Anaheim Duck and Ottawa Senator Bobby Ryan signed with the team in the offseason, and I can’t believe it’s been eight months since his hat trick he scored in his return. D-man Troy Stecher also joined the Red Wings after not receiving a qualifying offer from his hometown Vancouver Canucks. Plenty of names to get excited about if you root for Detroit.
Who’s Coming up in the Red Wings System?
This is the part of the article where Red Wings fans start to grin immensely. THW writer Devin Little wrote on his “untouchable” prospects last week, and these are the guys that give Detroit fans any measure of hope. It’s very similar to the SpongeBob meme when Squidward goes into the fetal position and moans “FUUUUTURE” repeatedly.
Moritz Seider is probably the best-known prospect in the Red Wings’ system. He was drafted sixth overall in 2019 and has performed so well in the DEL and SHL that he’ll likely play in the NHL once his European seasons have finished. He’s a modern-day NHL D-man that projects to be a top-pairing defenseman at some point soon.
Their most recent first-round pick, Lucas Raymond, is also a name you need to know. He has 12 points in 19 games with Frolunda of the SHL and doesn’t turn 19 until March. He’s a decent consolation prize for not getting Alexis Lafreniere (never bring that up to a Red Wings fan by the way) and will surely be playing some kind of top-six role when this team becomes a contender again.
Keep in mind that while this team has plenty of awesome prospects, they still have 17 draft picks over the next two years. That’s right, the team with the loaded prospect pool is going to get even better over the next two seasons. Don’t tell me you are not entertained.
Who Are the Red Wings Playing in 2021?
Normally, this would be an easy question that I would just respond with “every NHL team.” However, since COVID-19 is surging in most of North America, the likelihood of the Red Wings playing home games and traveling is still unclear at this time. Fortunately, we can guess and predict what’s going to happen, but I don’t think anyone truly knows what next season is going to look like (outside of the very likely Canadian Division).
Earlier this month, I predicted what the Red Wings schedule might look like for next season. Looking back on that post a little over three weeks later, I’d say the same things if I was writing that post today. They’ll likely play between 48-70 games, mostly against teams that are geographically close to them (ie; Chicago, Columbus, Minnesota, Pittsburgh), and we’ll possibly see fans attend games.
Fellow THW writer Ryan Guenter discussed the Red Wings’ new division with realignment, and he had some intriguing takes on potential opponents. There’s a whole world of possibilities when it comes to setting up divisions and matchups for next season; it’s just a matter of what direction the NHL wants to go in. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing bubbles or hub cities again, but it’s all up in the air at this point.
Best Moments in Red Wings History (Part 1)
The Red Wings have a storied past, and I could tell you an amplitude of moments from the vault. At The Hockey Writers, we’ve recently discussed the rich history of the Detroit Olympia, the home of Red Wings hockey before Joe Louis Arena, and the career of former Detroit netminder Dominik Hasek. You know, some kids would compare me to Hasek when I’d play the goalie in road hockey, but I wasn’t nearly as good as him.
In case you were unaware, the Detroit Red Wings were originally located in Victoria, BC, Canada and were first known as the Cougars. The Victoria Cougars actually won the 1925 Stanley Cup, defeating the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens in four games in a best of five series. It was the last time a non-NHL team won the cup, since they were members of the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL). In the fall of 1926, the team would move to Detroit to become the Red Wings.
The Detroit NHL franchise would be known as the Cougars for several years before being renamed the Falcons in 1930. It wasn’t until 1932, under new owner James Norris, that the team’s name would switch to the Red Wings, and the rest is history. So, if you’re someone who appreciates history, then the Red Wings are your team.
Best Moments in Red Wings History (Part 2)
I’ve watched a lot of past sporting events since the first lockdown in March. One of my favorite games I watched, from beginning to end, was Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference Semifinals between the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues. While the score wasn’t the most attractive (a 1-0 double-overtime game can be a bit painful), it’s the build-up to the game that makes it a memorable one for the fanbase.
The 1995-96 Red Wings finished the regular season with 131 points, the most all-time for an 82-game season, and guaranteed home-ice advantage for the entire playoffs. Keep in mind that the last time Detroit won the Stanley Cup was 1955, so they were in a 40+ year drought heading into that season. Many people thought that this was going to be the team that would break that streak, but going into the second round, they matched up with an always difficult opponent, Wayne Gretzky and the St. Louis Blues.
The teams would split the first four games, with Detroit taking the first two and St. Louis winning the next two. In Game 5, the Blues pulled off a stunning 3-2 overtime victory at Joe Louis Arena, sending the series back to St. Louis for Game 6. The Red Wings would avoid elimination, winning 4-2, and would host the all-important Game 7 with the series tied.
Both goalies, but mostly Blues’ netminder Jon Casey, were tremendous in the game. Chris Osgood made 29 saves in the contest, while Casey stopped an impressive 39 shots against. However, the one shot that got by him would be the last one, and it sent Red Wings fans into pandemonium.
Gliding over the blue line, Red Wings’ captain Steve Yzerman took the biggest slapshot of his career, getting it past Casey’s shoulder in the top corner for the game-winning goal. Detroit would win Game 7, taking the series against the formidable Blues, before falling to the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals that year. It’s even sweeter now that Yzerman is the GM of the team, but regardless, that goal will live on in notoriety for being one of the biggest moments in modern Red Wings history.
The Red Wings Jersey You Must Have
I’ll start by saying that the Red Wings new Reverse Retro jersey is not one worth buying. You can save your money there. My buddy Pat Brown talked about the Red Wings Reverse Retro jersey over a week ago, and while the team had so many designs to go with, I can’t believe they settled on that one. Thankfully it’s not the worse design I’ve seen, and I’m looking at you Maple Leafs fans.
I haven’t bought a Red Wings jersey recently (when you’re a college student, you just don’t have money to throw around on new jerseys), but my favorite has to be the red Gordie Howe jersey I got as a birthday present several years back. I prefer the red uniforms to the whites, but I also love my jersey because that’s what Cameron from the film Ferris Bueller is wearing while traveling throughout Chicago.
The next two jerseys on my bucket list are the white 2009 Winter Classic jerseys, which were a tribute to the original 1926-27 Detroit Cougars, and the red 2014 Winter Classic uniform. Both are clean and have beautiful logos on the front, making them must-haves for myself. Honestly, anything that’s not the Reverse Retro is a must-have for Red Wings fans.
Red Wings Traditions or Lore
My favorite Red Wings tradition is the playing of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey near the end of games when it’s likely Detroit will win. About three years ago, I watched the Red Wings take on the Canucks at Rogers Arena, and I’d say the crowd was a 60/40 split in favor of Vancouver. However, with Detroit leading in the final minute, thanks to a late goal from Tomas Tatar, “Don’t Stop Believing” started coming from the PA system.
All of the Red Wings fans in the crowd start going crazy, including yours truly, as the Vancouver supporters could do nothing about it. Now that I think about it, hindsight tells me that they were probably confused as to why everyone in a Detroit jersey was screaming their lungs off but fortunately, the Red Wings would go on and win. It was a moment that I’ll always cherish and makes me sad that we can’t gather in crowds right now.
In case you weren’t aware, Detroit is Hockeytown. Those are just the rules, and I don’t make them, I just enforce them. It’s too bad that they got rid of the center ice logo with the “Hockeytown” moniker on it because it is tradition, but it does look cleaner without it. If anyone says Detroit isn’t Hockeytown, happily correct them and provide them with the proper information.
It’s been a while, but of course, there’s the tradition of throwing an octopus onto the ice during Red Wings games (mostly in the playoffs). The tradition began in 1952 when Detroit had to win just eight games to clinch the Stanley Cup, and someone threw an octopus onto the ice, with its eight tentacles representing the amount of games needed to win the Cup. Since then, the tradition has evolved so much that Al Sobotka, the Operations Manager for Olympia Entertainment, has an octopus mascot named after him. Many teams have tried to emulate the octopus tossing in Detroit (the catfish in Nashville), but it’s not the same as the original.
You’ll Enjoy Rooting for the Red Wings
Sure, the Red Wings probably aren’t going to be good next season. But that’s part of the adventure of supporting a rebuilding team. You don’t want to be that person who hops from team to team, claiming that you’ve been a fan since day one. That’s why you should root for Detroit, a team with character, pride, and one of the best fanbases in the world. The results aren’t pretty now, but it’s about the journey, not the destination. Ask any of the THW Red Wings writers, and they’ll give you even more reasons to cheer for this team. It’ll be one of the best decisions you ever make, and you won’t regret it! I promise.
Currently writing about the Detroit Red Wings for THW
Content Creator for Speak Your Peace