You might be, but Steve Wasserman, managing director of Red Wings, isn’t. It’s common for teams to talk about unrealistic expectations often at the start of a campaign. With the opening of Red Wings training camp in Traverse City, Michigan on Thursday, Stevie Way isn’t talking about the playoffs.
“I’m not ready to say that,” Yzerman replied when asked if he thought the Red Wings would make a push for a playoff spot during the 2022-23 NHL season.
This past February, the Red Wings sat six points off the Eastern Conference Wildcard Center. But he proved to be a fool. Detroit faded badly after the All-Star break. The Red Wings finished with a 26-point finish from somewhere post-season.
Even Litherman was of the opinion that his club was more of a pretender than a competitor.
– Carley Johnston (@carleykjohnston) September 21, 2022
“Look at our season last year,” said Yeserman. “You look at your schedule. Obviously our goals against us were a concern. We were hitting teams. I felt it was progress, because I felt the teams we expected to compete against most of the time.
“Then we had to play a lot of the top league teams on the road in the second half of our table. Until the first part of the table, when we went to the road against real good teams, we weren’t all that competitive.”
Detroit was 14-24-4 on the road in 2021-22. That was 25 in the NHL.
“For me, all of our indicators were I don’t think we were ready to compete last year. In the second half, it kind of brought us back to Earth.”
Change of season for red wings
Offseason moves have brought coach Derek Lalonde, goalkeeper Phil Hosu, defenders Ben Chiarot and Robert Haag, and forwards Andrew Cobb, Dominic Kopalek and David Peron to Detroit. Excitement is in the air. Hope turns towards dreams that come to fruition.
Yzerman is at least willing to go the Lloyd Christmas road and admits that if a lot of things are put into place, there could be a chance in the playoffs.
“This season, we’ll see how we progress,” Litherman warned. “If we can be more competitive on the road then match a little bit better against the top teams when we go to their building. If we can win on back-to-back nights. That would give me some optimism that maybe we can move on.
Steve Yzerman said he expects the Red Wings to be the best hockey team this year. #LGRW
– Daniela Bruce (@daniellabruce_) September 21, 2022
“But for me to talk about the playoffs now, it’s a long way off. While we’ve been talking about our division, today, without knowing what’s going to happen, you’d probably say Toronto, Tampa and Florida, there are the three teams in our league we expect to go into the playoffs. Pick whichever three is in the metro. Then the rest of us compete for two Wild Card spots. This is a real challenge. I hope we’ll be there, but time will tell.
Red Wings must keep the imp out of its net
Strengthening defense and refining Special Teams are other areas in which Yzerman will need to see a significant improvement before he can utter a P-word with any level of conviction. The Red Wings were 31st in the NHL in both goals against (310) and goals again per game (3.78). Detroit ranked 26th in the strength game (16.3%) and the last dead-on-32 NHL team on death penalty (73.8%).
“We can talk about all the new advanced stats and all of that,” Yeserman explained. “Do they ultimately improve your goals against? The best teams in the league reduce their goals against them. They reduce their chances against. Their own teams are good.”
“So take a look at those areas. If we can reduce chances in return, reduce shots in the opposite direction. If we can generate more chances, then generate more shots. Those stats produce more wins. If our team can play against Tougher team. Be more competitive in the games, it’s an improvement for us. This is progressing for us.
“Hopefully it translates into points in the standings. We’ll all be looking at 32 wins this year (Detroit 2021-22 win total). Any number over 32, that’s progress. More importantly, as a hockey team, it’s tough to play against and that’s kind of going on and on. Playing it, he’s stronger defensively. That’s the most important.”
Yzerman sees a bright future for his club. He is not sure that the brightness will be on at the moment.
“Just look at those clear stats. If we can reduce our goals against, our shots against, our chances against, improve our own teams, that should translate into wins. But even if it doesn’t happen this year, we’re on the right track.”
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