Happy New Year’s Detroit Red Wings fans! They’ve uncharacteristically propelled themselves into playoff talks to begin this season. After breaking their 25-year playoff streak, the Red Wings have found themselves out of the playoff race come the new year ever since. Since making the playoffs in 2015-16, their record at the New Year hasn’t been exciting – 16-16-4, 15-16-7, 15-19-7 and 10-28-3 (2016-2019, respectively.)
Attempting to cling to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a 15-15-3 record, behind the Boston Bruins by one point (Detroit has played five more games than Boston) and ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers by one point. The Red Wings have a lot to play for in 2022, including a possible playoff berth. To spark a playoff push, they need a few players to turn their game around in 2022 and produce more, including but not limited to Michael Rasmussen, Filip Zadina, and Adam Erne.
Since being drafted ninth overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Level Draft, Rasmussen has been underwhelming and hasn’t lived up to expectations. Currently in his third season with the Red Wings, Rasmussen finds himself with 10 points (three goals and seven assists) in 30 games played, pacing out for 27 points in an 82-game season. Rasmussen might not be the stud they expected when drafting him, but he can still bounce back and help Detroit in more ways than one.
Rasmussen is a big body forward will silky hands – 6-foot-6 and 229 pounds. Using this frame in both the offensive and defensive zone is essential to his success, bullying smaller players off the puck while also using length to keep defenders away from the puck. Rasmussen needs to keep staying strong in the faceoff circle and get some more pucks to the net.
Zadina finds himself on this list as another underwhelming high draft choice (2018) from the Ken Holland era. Drafted as a goal scorer, Zadina only has a meager 19 goals in 118 games and only four goals in 31 games this season. These are not goal scorer numbers, much less good enough to be playing on a second line in the NHL. He’s no stranger to taking shots either, currently having the second-most shots on the team with 71 (10 behind team leader Dylan Larkin.) While it is great to get pucks on net and create chaos, Zadina is scoring on only 5.6 percent of his shots.
General manager Steve Yzerman has shown he is not afraid to make a big splash in the trade market. With Zadina not being a Yzerman draft pick, he could find himself as one part of these big splash trades at the deadline. Boston’s Jake DeBrusk has asked for a trade, so maybe Yzerman is looking to switch underperforming players with a high ceiling.
For right now, Zadina just needs to focus on putting the puck in the back of the net. He takes too many shots to not be scoring, much less scoring at a decently high rate.
Adam Erne finds himself on this list due to his regression from last season. Yzerman brought him to Detroit in his first offseason as general manager. After last season, he looked like a possible diamond-in-the-rough third-liner Yzerman brought in.
Erne had 20 points (11 goals and nine assists) in 45 games last season. He was one of the few bright spots, accumulating only a minus -1 rating on a team that finished 19-27-10, impressive numbers for a third-line, grind-style player.
However, this season there has been regression among Erne’s stats, as he’s only accumulated nine points (three goals and six assists) in 31 games while also boasting a minus -11 rating. He’s getting his most time on ice per game in his entire career, a nice benefit from a successful 2020-21 campaign. He needs to grind more with his linemates and strive to play more sound defense and squeak in a few more goals when the opportunities present themselves. If he can get back to last season’s form in 2022, it will help the Red Wings’ playoff push and take some pressure off the top lines.
The Red Wings are in uncharted territory as of late, staring at a chance to make the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. With improvement in a few basic areas and improvement from a couple of key players on this roster, Detroit can make a realistic push for playoffs in 2022.
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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.