Detroit Red Wings: A rebuild that relies on the fountain of youth

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

When the NHL finally reaches the offseason, Detroit Red Wings General Manager (GM) Steve Yzerman will have plenty of decisions to make in regards to overhauling this roster.

The Detroit Red Wings successfully locked up the worst record in the NHL this season skating to an atrocious 17-49-5 record through 71 games as the league came to an abrupt halt. Take a second and revisit that record, that’s good for 39 points on the season.  The Ottawa Senators are in second-last place with 62 points.  A mere 23 point difference.

Are the Wings really that bad? Yikes.

Steve Yzerman continues to mention that this rebuild in Detroit will be a process; it will take multiple successful drafts compiled to build a young foundation to build upon.  Take Andreas Athanasiou; for example, a year ago, he recorded his first 30 goal season, and now he’s gone.

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Athanasiou was entering an offseason where he’d be negotiating as a restricted free agent for the final time.  You’d think he’d be a building block, right?  Well, that’s not the case, he’d struggled mightily at times this season, and his inconsistent play shouldn’t warrant the raise he will be expecting this offseason.

So, Yzerman flips Athanasiou at the trade deadline to his old buddy Ken Holland with the Edmonton Oilers for draft capital.

As this lengthy rebuild treks on, we just need something to be excited about.  Is it Filip Zadina or Moritz Seider?  If the NHL draft goes in Detroit’s favor, maybe it will be phenom Alexis Lafreniere.  At this point, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi are the three forwards that fuel the motor, but look what they’ve guided the Detroit Red Wings to this season, 17 wins.  That’s not good enough.

The finger shouldn’t be pointed at the three best forwards on the team; they need a better supporting cast.  In a perfect world, Zadina emerges as a 20-goal scorer in his third professional season, Robby Fabbri, who is deserving of a contract extension after a 15 goal season continues to develop into more of a top-six forward.

Will the stockpiled youth develop into NHLers?  The Detroit Red Wings spent first-round picks on Michael Rasmussen, Joe Veleno, along with the Seider, as mentioned earlier and Zadina.  The Wings need that group to develop into impactful players.  If they all progress similar to the likes of Filip Hronek, this will be a very excited fan base once again.

I feel a coaching change is to be expected.  I believe Jeff Blashill is on borrowed time, a year after being extended by Ken Holland.  Sure Holland made the deal last spring, but don’t think Yzerman didn’t give the go-ahead on the extension as he was waiting for his duties with the Tampa Bay Lightning to be fulfilled.

The goaltending situation in Detroit is terrifying.  Jonathan Bernier played exceptionally well this season, but there is no one else in the organization even close to being NHL ready.  Yzerman will need to add a running mate for Bernier next season and possibly add a year to Bernier’s current deal as it’s entering the final year.  The goaltender of the future, the man who was expected to take the torch from Howard, was Petr Mrazek.  That didn’t go to plan.

I’d expect the Red Wings to add a few free agents this offseason, but don’t expect a huge splash.  Yzerman will wait until his young players emerge still on restricted free agent type deals before he spends on a big-money free agent as they gear up for a playoff run.  That could be five years from now.  The leading player I’d expect Detroit to target this offseason is a local product in Torey Krug.

Next. Three restricted free agents to avoid re-signing. dark

The Wings will have money to spend after contracts with Jonathan Ericsson, Johan Franzen, and Jimmy Howard are all set to expire.