The first part of the 21 Detroit Red Wings questions heading into the New Year focused on individual player questions. Part two was a hodge-podge looking at the team, player accolades, and how 20-goal predictions fared.
Part Three will focus on the hypotheticals as the season heads into the 2023 portion.
Red Wings Contract Questions
#1: What should fans make of Dylan Larkin contract negotiations going beyond the season?
General manager Steve Yzerman signed Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos at the 11th hour back in 2016. This is hardly going to faze him.
Anyone watching this season has seen Larkin’s importance to the team and Yzerman obviously knows that, too. Hockey is a complicated sport monetarily, where contracts can make or break the direction of a team’s future. Yzerman has worked to put the Red Wings in a very good position as their younger talent is owed extensions in just over a year.
So he’s not going to just hand out money and term, but work to negotiate a deal that not only makes sense for the Red Wings, but is also a fair offer to Larkin. This could come to fruition next week, next month, or maybe right up to the final hours leading up to free agency.
#2: What about Tyler Bertuzzi?
This is far more interesting. Bertuzzi’s injuries have limited what could have been a productive season for both him and the Red Wings. Coming off a 30-goal campaign, Bertuzzi has played just nine games this season to the tune of four points (1-3). Obviously, his numbers will look different, which alter expectations. But it’s anyone’s guess as to what Yzerman’s plans will be.
Bertuzzi’s production speaks for itself. Two consecutive 20+ goal seasons in 2018-19 and 2019-20 before injuries hampered his 2020-21 campaign. Bertuzzi roared back with a 30-goal season in 2021-22. But now, it’s about price. Larkin’s deal will take up a chunk of the cap. In this case, it seems likelier that if Yzerman doesn’t have a signed deal with Bertuzzi’s camp by the trade deadline, it’s likely that Bertuzzi is traded. Don’t forget, though, that Yzerman was faced with this before and hammered it out. But it’s two years later, and if the window is opening for Detroit to compete, will Bertuzzi still factor in?
A Trade Deadline Question
#3: What is a reasonable expectation: Buyer or Seller?
All depends on how the season progresses, but it’s also something Yzerman has addressed by not only giving assets away, but grabbing more for the present. The Anthony Mantha deal in 2021 and Nick Leddy in 2022 both speak to that, as the Red Wings netted draft picks and Jakub Vrana, Jake Walman, and Oskar Sundqvist respectively.
As mentioned above, Bertuzzi holds the highest value of any player on the roster, and could generate something similar to the Leddy trade–a middle-round pick with a player or two who could play now for them. On the right offer, maybe even a first. Though it seems likelier that Yzerman would want to add someone that can contribute immediately.
Detroit does have a roster glut headed its way, which could potentially lead to more deals. But any deal at the deadline seemingly will follow Yzerman’s strategy the last two seasons–especially since the Red Wings are closer to playoff contention now than they have been in previous seasons.
Derek Lalonde, Big IPA Guy. Here's our entire beer discussion🤣 Check out the full media availability from today too. Lalonde provides updates on Hellberg's start, Bertuzzi & Zadina's timeline, & more. ⬇️
— Daniella Bruce (@daniellabruce_) December 31, 2022
The Red Wings Upcoming Schedule
#4: How does the 2023 schedule break down for Detroit?
The NHL is built on parity but there are certainly stretches of schedules that are more favorable than others. January certainly won’t be doing Detroit any early favors. Right out of the box, the Red Wings face New Jersey, Florida, Toronto, Winnipeg and then Toronto at home. Out of the five games, only Florida is under .500. Happy New Year indeed.
From there, Detroit has a split of contenders and rebuilders, and then over a week off before they begin their slate of February games. The second month of the year brings a five game road trip out to western Canada, followed by two games at home. The Red Wings close the month with two road games in Ottawa.
March has a smattering of Western Conference opponents but also sees back-to-back games against division rival Boston. Outside of Dallas, April measures up against East teams, including the season finale in Tampa Bay.
On Yzerman’s Timeline
#5: Through three months and heading now into 2023, where are the Red Wings on the timeline?
Closer to playoff participation. This will be answered more during question seven, and Yzerman is always coy when asked about a timeline.
But the Red Wings’ performance this year seems more sustainable with the depth Yzerman has put into place as well as the new staff he hired.
Perhaps that’s the strongest sign that the Red Wings are moving further from rebuild status is their resiliency through injury. A healthier team likely signals more victories. It pushes them closer to being mentioned with regularity in the playoff conversation.
On Lalonde’s Work So Far
#6: What’s one word that best describes Derek Lalonde’s first three months in Detroit?
Straightforward. This isn’t to say that former head coach Jeff Blashill didn’t answer questions, but he was very good at sometimes, to paraphrase Yzerman, saying something without saying anything at all. Lalonde will talk anything from beer to his team’s struggles. When Magnus Hellberg was claimed on waivers, he was very direct in stating he didn’t even have a discussion about it with Yzerman. If he’s direct with the media, he’s certainly going to carry himself that way with the players, too.
Bringing in the Tampa Bay philosophy has seen a shift as to how the Red Wings have approached games, and this season, they remain resilient when a year prior, the roof would have certainly caved in on them. Some of that, too, has to do with an improvement in the roster.
But Lalonde’s direct approach has Detroit at 16-12-7, and a chance at their first winning season since 2015-16.
One More For the Road
#7: What’s the gut feeling for the rest of the season?
If the team is able to remain healthier, there is an absolute shot at the playoffs. I even think they’ll be fighting for one of the wild card spots to the very end of the season. Lalonde and his staff have done a great job with the roster when several key members were unavailable for long stretches of the season. If those players are available for longer stretches, that only serves to benefit the Red Wings more. It sets up a trade deadline, should Detroit still be in the hunt, where the club is trying to improve its chances at one of the two wild card spots.
A lottery pick for the draft won’t likely be the focus of Red Wings fans for much longer. If anything, their sights will be similar to those of what Detroit Lions fans are currently experiencing: meaningful games at the end of the season while also having hope that they will finally make that playoff appearance.