The Athletic’s Craig Custance examined the Atlantic Division’s teams to determine how they “stack up” against the blueprint of the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, and here’s what Custance has to say about the Red Wings when compared to the league’s best team:
DETROIT RED WINGS
1. Great centers – Henrik Zetterberg’s back issue is serious, so it’s hard to project exactly what the Red Wings will get from him this season, if anything. Dylan Larkin is good with an inner drive to become great. Michael Rasmussen, Detroit’s first-round pick in 2017, is going to make the team out of camp barring a surprising development, but it’s most likely on the wing. It’s a time of transition down the middle in Detroit and they could ideally use another high-end center.
2. A game breaker – The Red Wings lost a ton of one-goal games last season in large part because they didn’t have that elite player to pull them ahead in crucial moments. They hope they’ve got one in Filip Zadina, but we don’t even know if he’s going to make the team out of camp. It’s a little early to give him game-breaker status here.
3. Offensive defensemen – Detroit brought back Mike Green in large part because he was one of the few Detroit defensemen to provide offense last season from the blueline. Filip Hronek may get there one day and will get a look in camp, but he’s not there yet. Trevor Daley can skate and transport the puck but doesn’t provide a ton of offense. This is a real area of need at the NHL level for Detroit.
4. A core hardened by the playoffs – The core moving forward is going to be built around guys like Larkin, Zadina, Anthony Mantha and others, but there’s still a ton of playoff experience on this roster, for whatever that’s worth. We’ll give them the check mark here, out of respect to guys like Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.
5. Size – The Red Wings’ NHL team has size and the amateur group has made a point to keep drafting it even as the league trends smaller and faster. They have to be encouraged that a team like Washington still was able to use size to its advantage during a time in which speed typically gave teams an edge.
Total – 2 out of 5. To get to Stanley Cup contender status, the Red Wings rebuild could use another star center, a top pair offensive defenseman and for Zadina to be a star. So yeah, there’s still work to do.