Five ways Red Wings might improve in 2021-22 Five approaches to improving the club in 2020
The Detroit Red Wings were better defensively last season, going from a.275 point percentage in 2019-20 to ,429.
In 2021-22, they hope improved health, bounce-back seasons from a couple of key players, some offseason acquisitions, and dynamism from younger players will allow them to take another step.
However, losing Jakub Vrana for at least four months due to shoulder surgery was a huge blow. He scored eight goals and 11 points in 11 games after being acquired from Washington and is expected to be at or near the top of their scoring list.
However, there are other ways for this team to take the next step in this rebuild. Here are five of them:
Bounce-back seasons from Larkin, Bertuzzi, and Berturzzi
Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, the team's top players, must return to form. They work well together, and a full season or close to it - on the same line should benefit both. Larkin had just nine goals and 23 points in 44 games, his season being shortened by a neck injury. Bertuzzi started well with five goals and seven assists in nine games before being put off by a back injury that required surgery. Can he quickly return to playing his abrasive game? Due to his refusal to be vaccinated for COVID-19, he will miss nine games in Canada.
Second scoring line is a good option.
Pius Suter may cement the difficult second-line center spot. As a 24-year-old rookie with Chicago last season, he scored 14 goals and had 27 points in 55 games. He will be paired with his former junior teammate Robby Fabbri, at least initially. Fabbri is another player who missed time last season due to illness (COVID-19) and injury (concussion), but who performed well (10 goals, 18 points in 30 games). He has 24 goals and 49 points in 82 games over the course of two seasons in Detroit, where he has resurrected a career plagued by knee injuries.
Potent power play.
The Red Wings 11.8 percent conversion rate on the power play last season was their lowest in recent memory, with a conversion of 11.8 percent. The Devils have ranked 30th, 29th and 19th in the league on the man-advantage in five seasons. But they didnt have a former high-level player in charge of this crucial aspect of the game before. New assistant coach Alex Tanguay has stressed quicker puck movement and encouraged players to trust their intuition more than follow the book. In the preseason, entries, one of the biggest problems of last season, have been much smoother. Suter in the net-front/slot area, Lucas Raymond with his seam passing, and Nick Leddy and Moritz Seider at the point provide additional depth on the units.
A boost from their youth.
The Red Wings begin the season with four of their past five top draft picks on the roster, including two making their NHL debut defenseman Moritz Seider and right wing Lucas Raymond. The 6-4 Seider, who was selected sixth overall in 2019, will be paired with Leddy and will assist a deep blue line with his puck-moving and strong defensive game. At the age of 19, he was the Swedish Hockey Leagues defenseman of the year and the league s defensiveman for the season. Raymond, the No. 4 pick in 2020, has impressed enough with his passing, shooting, and hockey ability to share a spot with Larkin and Bertuzzi as he approaches his 19th birthday. The Red Wings also need third-line center Michael Rasmussen, who was selected ninth overall in 2017, and winger Filip Zadina, the sixth pick in 2018, to move up from last season. Zadina, in particular, must score more goals and shoot more points than he did last season (six goals, 19 points in 49 games).
More of the same from Nedeljkovic
Jonathan Bernier was particularly strong early on and Thomas Greiss was solid down the stretch, and goaltending was a strength last season. The Red Wings must be as good in goal as Berniers replacement, and Nedeljkovic, who is expected to return in the first year, must show that hell be a one-year wonder. Many were surprised that the Hurricanes offered him and for such a low price (the negotiations rights to Bernier, who signed with New Jersey, and he was drafted in the third round - No. 94). Greiss and Nedeljkovic are expected to rotate at the start of the season, with Gress getting the majority of starts the rest of his way.
More: How the Red Wings' season-opening 23-man roster develops will determine how the team's new 23 man roster plays out.