The Detroit Red Wings are an original six franchise with a storied hockey history. We have seen greats such as Howe, Delvecchio, Yzerman, and Lidstrom. They have won 11 Stanley Cups, including an eleven year stretch where they won four, and a 25 year streak of making the playoffs. But we have also seen the period where they were known as the “Dead Wings”, which was from 1967-1982. It has now been five years since they have made the playoffs or even made a push for the playoffs. The Wings finally got their man who is going to bring them back to legitimacy in Steve Yzerman. It is time for the Wings to take that next step forward and start competing for the Cup. There are five reasons that the wings will compete for a playoff spot this year for the first time in five years.
Reason #5: Tyler Bertuzzi
Tyler Bertuzzi is BACK!!! Bertuzzi is coming off a successful back surgery that took place on April 30, 2020. Bertuzzi played only nine games last season notching five goals and two assists. Coming into the 20-21 season, there was a lot of excitement behind Bertuzzi. He was expected to be one of the “veterans” that would help make the Wings competitive last season. He finished the previous two seasons with 47 and 48 points respectively. Losing him so early last season was a blow to their competitiveness but was a huge aid in their rebuild efforts. Betuzzi is not on the same level as guys like Matthews or McDavid but he is in that tier below them and getting him back is a huge boost for the Wings. Bertuzzi is a high energy player who has a good forecheck, backs down from no one, and had no issues living in front of the crease (hence his infamous missing tooth). The Wings signed him to a two-year contract extension worth $4.75 million per season. This will give Yzerman time to determine if this back injury will have any lasting effects on Bertuzzi and if he is a piece to build around for the future.
Reason #4: Jakub Vrana
Jakub Vrana is here to stay! Vrana was a masterful trade deadline acquisition last year by Yzerman. Yzerman traded Mantha to the Capitals in exchange for Vrana, Panik, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick. Vrana came in rejuvenated and ready to make his mark on what was left of the Wings season. Prior to coming to the Wings, Vrana had 25 points in 39 games for Washington. After Vrana came to the wings he had 11 points in 11 games, including a four-goal game against the Stars. Vrana signed a three-year contract extension in the off-season worth $5.25 million per season. Having Vrana for an entire season is going to be huge for the Wings. Look for him to center that second line and be on the first powerplay.
Reason #3: Influx of young talent
The Wings are in year five of their rebuild and we have already started to see some influx of young talent as well as letting some of the older veteran players go either through free agency or via trade. Yzerman has let guys like Abdelkader, Helm, and Nielsen go in recent years, and brought in guys like Fabbri, Rasmussen, Vrana, and Zadina. Look for the wings to see more of an influx of young talent this year as well. Yzerman got younger in net trading for Nedeljkovic, which we will get to soon, who will be our start this season. I expect guys like Raymond, Veleno, and Berggren to play in Detroit this year. I also expect Seider to get a real shot at making the big club’s roster as well. Every Wings fan is excited to see Seider in the pros. The best part of this influx of young talent is that Yzerman has set it up so that it will not end this year thanks to drafting guys like Cossa and Edvinsson.
Reason #2: Steve Yzerman
What other reason do you need to hear outside of Steve Yzerman! The Tampa Bay Lightning are coming off back-to-back Stanley Cups in large part due to Yzerman. Sure, BriseBois has made some key moves but the majority of that team’s build is due to the eight years that Yzerman was in control. Even BriseBois was Yzerman’s protégé. Yzerman came into the Wings organization and instilled trust immediately, something that long time GM Ken Holland had lost due to several years of bad free agent signings and trades. Since he has been here, he has seemed to make all the right moves, from letting go of long time Wings players to acquiring young talent that other teams had discarded. He has focused on building draft capital and using the extra resources to make timely moves up to acquire the right guys. Case in point was this last year when he traded Mantha. Mantha was clearly not a piece of the future for the Wings. He was able to off-load Mantha to the Capitals for the 23rd pick in the ’21 draft as well as Jakub Vrana. Vrana is 25 and was being wasted in Washington. He came to Detroit and made an immediate impact and now appears to be a piece of the Wings future. Yzerman then took the 23rd overall pick and traded that along with a few other extra resources he had acquired and traded up to the 15th pick to draft Cossa, the goalie of the Wings future. This was a huge need for the Wings in this off-season. All Wings fans should be excited for the future of this franchise thanks to Steve Yzerman!
Reason #1: Alex Nedeljkovic
The Red Wings were in desperate need of getting younger and better at the goalie position after the 20-21 season. Last season the wings ran out Greiss (35) and Bernier (33) in net. Considering the Wings did not have a good roster, they both had stretches where they played well. The Wings also did not have any goalie prospect of note in their farm system for the future. As was already mentioned, Yzerman addressed the need in the farm system by drafting Cossa. Yzerman also addressed the immediate need of a younger and better goalie by trading for Nedeljkovic. Yzerman stole Nedeljkovic from Carolina with a 3rd round pick and Bernier’s expiring contract. He then signed him to a two-year contract extension worth $3 million per season. Nedeljkovic was my vote for the Calder Trophy last year. He played 23 games last year during the regular season. He posted a 1.90 goals against average and a 93.2 save percentage. He also played very well in the playoffs, starting nine games and posted a 2.17 goals against average and a 92.0 save percentage. Although he benefitted from playing behind a very good defensive team, he is also a very good goalie. I expect to see his numbers dip a little this season playing for he Wings but he will give them a real chance to win every game he plays. He will be the biggest single reason that the Wings will compete for the playoffs this year after their five-year drought.