What Went Wrong: Detroit Red Wings

2018-2019 was, unsurprisingly, another bad season for the Detroit Red Wings. The club finished seventh in the Atlantic Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference.

The Red Wings finished up with a 32-40-10 record. To their credit, they did manage seven wins in their last 10 games. That’s…something.

But by missing the playoffs for the third season in a row, Detroit is in unfamiliar waters. They’ve stumbled before, but there’s something about the intrinsic lack of identity and quality of this franchise that has to sting.

The Red Wings scored just 227 goals in 2018-2019, one more than the Buffalo Sabres and five more than the Devils. Four players had 20 or more goals, including Tyler Bertuzzi (21), Anthony Mantha (25), Andreas Athanasiou (30), and Dylan Larkin (32).

Gustav Nyquist put up 16 goals in 62 games, but he’s now with the Columbus Blue Jackets after a layover with the San Jose Sharks. The Red Wings traded Nyquist in February of 2019 for a pair of draft picks.

In terms of bright spots, there were some.

Bertuzzi had a good year. He became the first Red Wing to record four consecutive four-point games.

22-year-old Larkin posted a career-best year as well and he even improved on his plus-minus, which suggests things are trending in the right direction. He put together 287 shots on goal in 76 games, plus he had a 54.51 faceoff percentage.

With Larkin driving possession and creating plays and Bertuzzi generating offence, the Red Wings do have something to build on. But they’re still stuck with clumsy contracts and very little capacity to spend, plus they own one of the oldest rosters in the NHL.

35-year-old Frans Nielsen is symptomatic of this, as he missed the end of the season due to injury, produced 10 goals and 35 points in 72 contests and carries one of the biggest contracts on the roster. He’s signed for the next three seasons to the tune of $5.25 million a year. 32-year-old Justin Abdelkader is signed for the next four seasons at $4.25 million a year and 32-year-old Darren Helm is up for the next two.

Valtteri Filppula, coming off a year with the Islanders, is back with the team that drafted him in 2002. He’s got a two-year deal worth $6 million.

With an average age of 30.5, the defensive core isn’t any younger. Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley are all North of 33 and have a season to burn before becoming UFAs. That’s the good news, as Steve Yzerman should have some cash on hand soon-ish. Next summer could be a coming out party for the GM.

The bad news is that it looks like another year of pain is imminent. The young stars will get their ice time and that’s good, but don’t expect much else. This franchise is still too old and too locked into the old ways to move the needle, which is why so much of 2018-2019 went wrong and why it’s apparent we’ll be in the same position all over a year from now.

(Lead photo credit: NHL.com)

Published by Dr. Pucksworth

Doctor of Puckanomics.

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