Red Wings Wednesday Weekly: No More Tears

Welcome to Red Wings Wednesday Weekly! In this weekly column, we will take a look at the Red Wings’ most-recent week of play, identify any players and/or trends that stood out, and then look ahead and find out what the next week may have in store for the team from Hockeytown. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section down below.

Welcome to a very special edition of Red Wings Wednesday Weekly! First, the bad news: The Detroit Red Wings have missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season. Even as fans accept the rebuild process, it’s a tough pill to swallow considering there used to be a time where the Red Wings didn’t even go five seasons without a Stanley Cup (see: 1997, 1998, 2002), but alas, the postseason is set to kick off yet again without winged wheel representation. Even so, it was evident this season that the team took strides in the right direction.

Now, the good news: We’re not done here yet! We’ll kick off by recapping the last games of the season and then take a look at some of the biggest highlights of the season. Let’s dive in!

Season Series Split With Columbus

5/7 at Columbus: Win, 5-2
5/8 at Columbus: Loss, 5-4 (OT)

The Red Wings wrapped up their season last weekend, splitting on back-to-back nights with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and ultimately finished their series 4-2-2 against them. The games themselves were pretty vanilla, considering it was a battle for the basement in the Discover Central Division. Even so, the series was not without its excitement, especially considering Friday’s win featured Joe Veleno’s first career NHL goal, which did not disappoint.

If goals like that continue, JV 2.0 is going to be fun to watch for a long time. Veleno’s goal highlighted a solid, all-around game that saw the Red Wings overcome a 2-0 second period deficit and roll off five unanswered goals en route to their win.

Saturday’s season-ending loss featured a goal from — who else — Jakub Vrana, but we’ll talk about his impact on the team momentarily. The game itself was a see-saw affair that saw Detroit tie the game late in the third period before losing in overtime with just 21 seconds left. It was a tough way to end things, and in a sense, the game was a microcosm of the entire season — slow start, solid rally, but in the end, there’s still a lot of work to do.

3 Takeaways From Last Week’s Games The 2020-21 Season

1. This Team Was Better Than Last Year

There’s no escaping it now — the Yzerplan is in full bloom, and though there’s clearly loads of improvement, we may have seen the worst version of the rebuilding Red Wings… in 2019-20. Take a look at the below — it’s easy to see how the Red Wings improved compared to a season earlier.

Goals For2.00 (31st)2.27 (30th)
Goals Against3.73 (31st)3.05 (20th)
Wins17 (31st)19 (27th)
Points Percentage.275 (31st).427 (27th)

It’s easy to see the marked improvement compared to last season. There are certain variables that are tough to measure, such as the league’s back-to-back game format this season, but regardless of those circumstances, there were a number of teams who finished below Detroit in each category. Considering the bulk of the team’s pipeline has yet to make its NHL debut, it’s encouraging to see how the team performed, especially considering the myriad of injuries it faced.

2. Jakub Vrana Is Accelerating the Rebuild

It’s early. Like, super early. But all signs right now point to general manager Steve Yzerman winning the Anthony Mantha deal at the trade deadline. Mantha initially stormed out of the gate with the Washington Capitals but has stalled a bit, notching eight points on four goals and four assists in 14 games after the deal. Vrana, meanwhile, has 11 points on eight goals and three assists in 11 games. Remember, the Red Wings also got Richard Panik (four points in 11 games), a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 second-round pick.

Advantage, Red Wings.

Obviously Vrana is not expected to keep up a point-per-game pace, but it was refreshing to see his speed, agility, and effort on full display as the Red Wings closed out their season.

3. The Future Is Right Around the Corner

All of this excitement and the vast majority of the Red Wings’ deep prospect pool has yet to take the ice. Yes, it was a treat to see Veleno in the lineup and ultimately notch his first-career NHL goal, but the likes of Moritz Seider, Albert Johansson, Lucas Raymond, Jonatan Berggren, Theodor Niederbach (and the list goes on…) haven’t even sniffed the NHL yet. Every one of the aforementioned players has excelled in the SHL this season, and though no one is a lock for next year, one has to think at least a few of these names will get quality looks next year.

Moritz Seider Grand Rapids Griffins
Moritz Seider, Grand Rapids Griffins (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Seider, in particular, has stood out and helped Rogle BK get to the final round before ultimately falling in the series 4-1. He’s been the toast of the town almost all season, earning a reputation for stellar play and punishing hits.

Well, it’s been an interesting year, to say the least. We took a look back at previous posts, and here’s what we noticed as constant trends throughout the year. Share your thoughts on any of these topics in our comments section below.

3. Blashill’s Job Security

This one may be the hottest topic of all right now. Everyone was expecting an announcement on coach Jeff Blashill’s future by now, and that had yet to happen by the time this piece was published. It’s anyone’s guess as to what Yzerman’s next move is going to be, though heading into last weekend’s final slate of games, it seemed as if it was a foregone conclusion that the coach would be back for at least one more season.

Jeff Blashill Red Wings bench
Jeff Blashill’s future hangs in the balance. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Now, as we wait a bit longer for any sort of update, the rumor mill has started to swirl. Blashill’s overall record of 172-221-62 with the Red Wings, as well as only one playoff appearance, certainly gives one plenty to think about. Time will tell!

2. Special Teams Were Anything But

Regardless of what happens with Blashill’s future, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see the Red Wings part ways with other members of the coaching staff, given its dreadfully abysmal performance on both the power play and penalty kill. The team’s 10.81 percent power play clip was 30th in the league, a step back from its 14.88 percentage last season (they ranked 29th).

The penalty kill trended along with the overall defensive theme this season — not good, but better. This season’s kill percentage of 78.71 was actually 21st-best in the league at the time of publishing, far above its 31st-ranked 74.34 success rate last season. So, even though it was tough to watch at times, there was definite improvement. Here’s a strange footnote: Despite the better benchmark, the Red Wings failed to score a single shorthanded goal this season.

1. Play the Kids, Play the Kids, Play the Kids

The single-most recurring theme all season revolves around the youth and rebuild. We touched on how well the prospects had played overseas this season, but what’s been truly impressive is how rookies have stepped up throughout the organization. Whether it was Jonatan Berggren’s hot start in October, Filip Zadina’s growth throughout the season, or Jakub Vrana’s top-six skill set, the fact that the oldest player listed is 25 years old speaks volumes to the direction of the rebuild.

Joe Veleno, Detroit Red Wings
Is Joe Veleno ready to be an impact player? (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

We’ll leave you with this thought: Vrana-Veleno-Zadina-Cholowski-Seider is a true possibility next season. From an age perspective, that’s 25-21-21-23-20. Now THAT’S going to be fun to watch.

Final Thoughts

Well, this season has sure been a trip, and though the NHL Playoffs are never the same without the Red Wings participating, it gives a great litmus test of where Detroit fans everywhere hope to be in the near future. Another season is in the books, and who knows? Maybe next season, the team starts a new playoff streak.

For now, though, we eagerly await fall training camp. Fade to black….

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