The Athletic’s Sean McIndoe writes a weekly column in which he discusses 5 teams that are “On the road to the Cup” and 5 teams that are “headed toward the best lottery odds,” and this week, he makes special mention of the Red Wings as a middling franchise amidst a rebuild:
Not ranked: Detroit Red Wings – The Wings are the last team in the league that we’ve never included in either the top or bottom five or a “not ranked” section. Let’s fix that today.
Why the lack of attention? It’s largely because in the big picture, this story is kind of boring. I don’t mean that as an insult. It’s just that in a weird season where lots of teams are spinning off in unexpected directions, Steve Yzerman has his Red Wings chugging along on the path back to contention. They’re a rebuilding team that was supposed to be better this year, but probably not good enough to actually make a run at the playoffs. That’s what they’ve been. Plenty of fans in places like Buffalo or Ottawa would love to be enjoying a rebuild that’s right on schedule.
That said, just because the results have been boring doesn’t mean the team has been. They’ve got two of the best rookies in the league in 19-year-old Lucas Raymond and 20-year-old Moritz Seider, plus Alex Nedeljkovic who still technically qualifies even though he was a Calder finalist last year. I’m not completely sure, but I feel like having three Calder frontrunners on the same rebuilding team might be good. Wings fans can also get excited about Dylan Larkin on his way to a career year, Tyler Bertuzzi being effective when he can play, and the possibility of a Jakub Vrana return at some point. Mix in lots of a cap room and some deadline-friendly trade pieces, and this is a fun team to root for as long as you’re OK looking ahead to the future. And I’m guessing most Wings fans are.
It’s not all great news. Even with Nedeljkovic playing well, they’re in the bottom 10 in goals against. The penalty kill has been rough, and the underlying numbers suggest they’re getting better results than they deserve. There’s also the question of how you find a path to the playoffs in the Atlantic, but that’s next year’s worry. For now, Wings fans can just enjoy the young talent, a few more wins than expected, and the knowledge that there’s a plan in place and it seems to be working.