Monday, April 15, 2019

Pool Outlook for Detroit

The Detroit Red Wings are another one of those teams in the midst of a rebuild or a retool of sorts and they've had to muddle their way through some salary cap issues of their own, but there may finally be some light at the end of the tunnel, as the Long Term Injured Reserve and free agency is starting to lend their hands and help.

Of course, that has had very little help on the on-ice product, as all of that muddling has been hindering management's ability to put a competitive product in front of their fans at their shiny new arena and it's all taking somewhat of a toll.  Again, there does appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel and the team might start to make some strides forward again here really soon.

A 32-40-10 record saw the Wings land in 28th spot in the overall standings at the end of the year, well down and away from the playoffs, but that was to be expected and it was over here on this end of the blog.  In that poor result of a season, they were able to shop in the NCAA market to help ease their way forward, signing a number of young players coming out of college as free agents, likely offering a chance at some immediate offense and that could actually be the start of good things for this club, as their drafting has still been rather suspect.

If the Red Wings can somehow start infusing their lineup with more and more youth, the rebuild will really start to gain some traction, although youth will lack some experience early on, but it should all add up, if the team is put together well.

The future of the Detroit Red Wings is already being led by 22-year old forward Dylan Larkin, who has been leading by example and does give the fan base a large flash of hope moving forward, as he was almost a point-per-game player in 2019, finishing with 32 goals and 73 points in 76 games this year, finishing 51st overall in pool scoring, 42nd among all forwards.  If we were picking in the draft, according to the final rankings, he would have been the top pick in the 3rd round and you probably wouldn't fault anyone, if they took him in the 2nd round.

In a fine fashion among those teams that didn't make the playoffs, the Wings only had a total of 10 players make the pool worthy rankings this season and that includes Larkin.  Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Thomas Vanek and Frans Nielsen were among the forwards that finished in the top 200, while Niklas Kronwall, Mike Green and rookie Filip Hronek were among the defensemen in the top 100 and Jimmy Howard was the only goalie in the top 50, finishing 25th with 47 points, thanks to a steady diet of minutes.  At the forward and defense positions, the Wings did have a decent mix of veterans and youth, but they certainly lacked the depth to compete with the big teams.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

With the limitations at the salary cap level, it doesn't appear that the Red Wings are going to make too many strides in the right direction in the coming year, barring a miracle move (or two) that increases cap flexibility, without giving up much in the future. The RFA deals need to get done, hoping to be longer-term and less dollars, perhaps, but the purse strings are going to be tight and that might just mean preparing for another lottery pick next year, maybe something higher than 6th overall like this year. There's a slight breeze of change in the air, but I don't think it's going to blow anyone's hair back.

The Red Wings certainly didn't blow anyone's hair back in the 2019 season, but they did show some flashes that this side could be going in the right direction.  Contributions from Michael Rasmussen, Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek were certainly noted from this end and the team may have already bottomed out and have started that slow climb back up to the playoff picture.  The salary cap picture is starting to improve for the Red Wings and now, despite no lottery help, they'll be picking 6th in this year's draft, but things are starting to look up.

How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?

Well, it's a damn shame that Evgeny Svechnikov wasn't able to even play a single game in the 2019 season, the kid certainly has some upside.  I had him as the one to watch in Detroit this season, but a knee injury and surgery to repair a torn ACL pretty much did it for his year and he wasn't able to see any action at any level this season.  I don't think my breakout player selections can carry over from one year to the other or maybe they can.  I'm the boss, I can say what goes, right?

2020 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Dylan Larkin 6.100 Mike Green 5.375 Jimmy Howard 4.000
Henrik Zetterberg 6.083 Danny DeKeyser 5.000 Jonathan Bernier 3.000
Frans Nielsen 5.250 Jonathan Ericsson 4.250
Justin Abdelkader 4.250 Trevor Daley 3.178
Johan Franzen 3.955 Madison Bowey 1.000
Darren Helm 3.850 Dennis Cholowski 0.925
Anthony Mantha 3.300 Brian Lashoff 0.700
Andreas Athanasiou 3.000
Luke Glendening 1.800
Tyler Bertuzzi 1.400
Michael Rasmussen 0.925
Filip Zadina 0.925
Taro Hirose 0.925
Ryan Kuffner 0.925
Jacob de la Rose 0.900
Evgeny Svechnikov 0.863

Most of the key pool worthy forwards are already locked in for the Red Wings and I'm sure they will be expecting more from guys like Justin Abdelkader, Michael Rasmussen and Filip Zadina next season, so things are starting to look up.  The Wings' defense has been a bit of a sore spot, having quite a bit of cap space tied up in some veterans that were not able to put up points and/or help to keep the puck out of their own net.  The youth is certainly coming around there as well, so the outlook is somewhat positive, albeit not 100% confident quite yet.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

Trading away Gustav Nyquist to San Jose and Niklas Kronwall's $4.75 million deal coming off the books this summer, does begin to open up that cap space, not to mention Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen in pre-retirement earning on LTIR helps as well.  Now this team can start looking at the future with their eyes wide open, instead of covering them in fear of a long summer without any movement.  Even with all 25 players above on the roster on the books, the Wings now have $11.1 million in cap space and they can still open up $10 million from the LTIR, one of the more promising summers in Detroit in a long time.

None of the potential RFAs on the club were considered pool worthy in 2019, Thomas Vanek will probably head to the market again, if he doesn't call it quits, so the need to be building from within isn't a huge priority for Detroit this summer, but there is some work to be done.

The Detroit Red Wings have been doing their best to restock the prospect cabinet with exciting young scoring talent and it looked like they hit a home run with Filip Zadina in last summer's draft.  Unfortunately for the young Czech, he didn't quite make it to the team's roster out of camp, but thanks to the loopholes in the system, he was able to spend the 2019 season down in the AHL, where he has been able to start putting up some numbers and get some confidence at the pro level.  He'll most certainly be the one to watch this summer and in all likelihood, be the breakout player in my preseason post.

Needs at the 2019 Entry Draft

The need for the Detroit Red Wings is that key playmaker, as they have already been loading up on trigger men in the draft to this point.  Whether it's a centre or that good first pass out of their zone or quarterback on the power play, that will be the intention.  Combing through the list with their 6th overall selection, I'm looking at Bowen Byram of the Vancouver Giants of the WHL being the best fit.  The top-ranked defenseman in this year's draft is very well touted among all of the scouting services out there, saying that he is calm and cool with the puck and plays in all situations.  Building from the blueline has done a number of franchises well, so adding Byram to a stable of already emerging defensemen is a great option at this point.

The way that Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi finished the 2019 season was such an eye-opener for the rest of the league, even if they were already in garbage time in the regular season.  Those three showed that they could put the puck in the net and they likely offered up a lot of hope to this franchise moving forward.  If this Red Wings team can sort their blueline out and give a little more support to their goaltending, they could be really starting to turn that corner again.  There's nothing easy about trying to make those changes or finding those players that are going to have an immediate impact, but at least they have some real direction and if they can stay on this course through the off-season, I think we'll see some real improvements for next season.  The playoffs may be a bit of a pipe dream in 2020, but they might hang around the race a little bit longer.

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