Jakub Vrana‘s return has been everything Detroit Red Wings fans could have hoped for. Recovering for the first 56 games from a shoulder injury, Vrana registered three goals in his first two games and once again has the fanbase swooning about would could have been with 58 games instead of two.
Vrana leads off this edition of Red Wings 2 Truths and a Lie.
Truth: Vrana Absolutely Provides a Scoring Bump
Beyond three goals in three games, reviewing his work from last season (11 points in 11 games; 8 goals) shows the dynamic he brings. With Dylan Larkin, Lucas Raymond, and Tyler Bertuzzi leading the scoring charge, Vrana gives head coach Jeff Blashill more flexibility when tinkering with his lines. A healthy Vrana also mitigates the loss of Robby Fabbri, who had been dynamite for Detroit this season.
Though Vrana couldn’t get on the board during Detroit’s 3-0 loss to Calgary, no other Red Wing did, either. It doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm as he’s three games in with two goals on the board.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) March 11, 2022
Truth: Steve Yzerman’s Right in Drafting Defensemen
After the Red Wings 9-2 drubbing at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes, few Red Wings fans would have batted an eye had Steve Yzerman dismissed his bench boss. Red Wings nation was a cacophony of angry Detroit fans rattling their sabres for change. It wasn’t unwarranted.
- The Red Wings had given up 15 goals in consecutive games (6-1 against Florida; 9-2 against Arizona)
- Bookended by the losses to Minnesota, Detroit gave up 51 goals in a course of nine games.
- Of those nine games, Detroit surrendered five or more goals in six games.
It’s been putrid, there is no way around it. But Blashill isn’t totally at fault here. The defense, outside of Moritz Seider, has struggled mightily. And instead of playing the tight system Blashill did last year, he’s allowed to things to open up more which to no one’s surprise, has led to a deluge of goals from the wrong team.
It’s been a problem for over a decade and this year, in spite of some movement forward, has revealed some massive warts. Seider is a budding star and the early returns on Simon Edvinsson prove promising. But that’s only two potential solutions in what has been a thorny year for Detroit defenseman.
Danny DeKeyser is most likely finished with the Red Wings. Marc Staal and Nick Leddy are potentially traded. Filip Hronek hasn’t looked as sharp this season while even Gustav Lindstrom has been shaky since returning to the lineup.
Blashill can only work with what he’s given. Of course there will be disagreements, and decisions that are not popular. The Red Wings have slightly improved from last season, but it’s still very much a work in progress.
With that said…
Lie: The Red Wings are a Much Improved Team This Season
The Red Wings have been far more fun to watch this season. There have certainly been jumps on the offensive side of the puck as seen in the chart below. But the team has cratered defensively, something already covered in the second truth.
Another interesting note: regulation wins. Detroit has been more competitive against teams, but with the toughest schedule in the league coupled with a very talented division, there should be no surprise that the Wings have struggled. With only 13 regulation wins out of 24, it’s a chasm that shows there’s some ways to go.
Though it may seem like hand wringing, those points are critical down the stretch when Detroit is competing for a playoff spot. They’re a staggering 20 points behind Boston–and just eight points in front of Ottawa.
Then there’s this. Of the five teams with the fewest regulation wins, the Red Wings are tied with Arizona for the second fewest regulation wins. Only Montreal (11) is worse.
Seider and Raymond have pivoted the rebuild from brutal to rising. Production from Bertuzzi and Larkin firms up the stance. But Yzerman’s pleading for patience and refusal to commit to a timeline seems prudent as always.
As I tweeted out, signs of encouragement are there. But it’s certainly a dose of reality.