As a rebuilding club, the Detroit Red Wings prioritize more than just wins and standings points. They also emphasize player development as an important—if not the most important—benchmark for a season.
When he took over as coach of the Red Wings, Derek Lalonde was asked to improve team defense. He did that. But what about individual players? How many Red Wings improved under his guidance?
To examine this, I compared players’ year-over-year data to determine who improved offensively and/or defensively with Lalonde and his coaching staff in charge. Here’s what the data said.
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Well, before we get to the data, here’s a quick overview of my analysis. I selected Corsi-against per 60 (CA/60) and scoring chances-for per 60 (SCF/60)—both at five-on-five—as my primary metrics based on research previously conducted by DragLikePull. SCF/60 represents offensive contributions and CA/60 represents defensive contributions.
I compared the overall change in these metrics from year to year. For example, if a player’s 2021-22 SCF/60 was 26.5 and his 2022-23 SCF/60 was 28.9, then the overall change would be a 9.06 percent increase in SCF/60 ((28.9 – 26.5) / 26.5 = 0.0906 = 9.06 percent increase).
With this in mind, I evaluated players who suited up for the Red Wings this season and last season. This excludes Jonatan Berggren (no NHL games last year) and recent acquisitions like Ben Chiarot, David Perron, and Dominik Kubalik since they played for other teams with different systems in 2021-22.
Now, let’s dig into the data.
Which Red Wings Improved in 2022-23?
To illustrate year-over-year improvements and declines among qualifying Red Wings players, the chart below shows percent increases/decreases for SCF/60 on the x-axis and CA/60 on the y-axis.
A couple players jump out immediately. First, how about Jake Walman? The blueliner’s SCF/60 improved by 10.97 percent year-over-year – the biggest offensive leap by any player. He also saw his CA/60 decrease by 12.87 percent to 53.77 in 2022-23, which, again, topped the team. Clearly, his three-year extension was well-deserved.
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I also want to call out Robby Fabbri. His year-over-year numbers are not great, and I want to make it clear that this shouldn’t be a concern.
Fabbri was limited to just 28 games while he recovered from his third torn ACL, which isn’t an easy injury to come back from. The fact that he suited up at all is a plus. Give him an offseason to train and get back to full strength, then judge his production.
Most Improved Red Wings
Starting on offense, here are the three Red Wings who improved the most under Lalonde:
- LD Jake Walman – 10.97 percent
- C Michael Rasmussen – 7.71 percent
- LD Jordan Oesterle – 7.59 percent
It’s not surprising to see Rasmussen listed here. The 24-year-old had a career year and figures to play a vital role in Detroit’s lineup moving forward. He’s an early candidate to replace Tyler Bertuzzi in the top six.
In addition, these three Red Wings improved the most defensively this past season:
- LD Jake Walman – 12.89 percent
- C Pius Suter – 5.86 percent
- RW Filip Zadina – 4.90 percent
Brought in to be an offensive contributor, Suter did it all for the Red Wings this season. He played up and down the lineup and was stout defensively throughout the campaign. His penalty killing was outstanding, too.
“Hopefully these younger players we have on our team now play a bigger role next year,” noted Steve Yzerman during his end-of-season press conference. Based on the performance of Detroit’s young players this year, that’s a realistic possibility.
Rasmussen, Walman, Zadina, and Joe Veleno all took a step forward statistically. They’re up to the task – they’re ready to play a bigger role next season as Yzerman hopes.
The whole team needs to do the same. That’s how the Red Wings can emerge from their rebuild as playoff contenders.
Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.