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Expert Analysis

At the Pause: Detroit Red Wings

by Corey Abbott
Updated On: April 1, 2020, 1:08 am ET

The NHL paused the 2019-20 season on March 12 because of coronavirus concerns.  The COVID-19 pandemic has created plenty of uncertainty.  It’s unclear when or if the NHL season will resume.  Going through with the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs remains a priority for the league, but this situation is very fluid. 

In the meantime, this marks the beginning of our profiles on all teams as well as some players of note from each squad based on where they stood prior to the hiatus.

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @CoreAbbott on Twitter.

It has been a nightmare season for the Detroit Red Wings. The club went into the pause with a league-worst record of 17-49-5. Detroit was officially knocked out of playoff contention on Feb. 21 and was the only team mathematically eliminated prior to the pause. The team has already locked up a last-place finish for the first time since the 1985-86 campaign. The Red Wings currently sit 23 points behind the 30th-ranked Ottawa Senators in the overall standings and their minus-122 goal differential completely dwarfs Ottawa’s minus-52. If the NHL doesn’t resume play or jumps right into the postseason then it could mercifully put an end to what has been a brutal campaign for the Red Wings.  

Detroit has gone through several extended losing skids this season. The club’s most successful stretch came from Nov. 8-Nov. 12 during a three-game win streak. However, that was immediately followed by a 12-game winless skid (0-10-2) from Nov. 14-Dec. 10. The Red Wings have only won two games in a row five times this year, which includes the aforementioned three-game win spree.

Detroit has scored a mere 142 goals in 2019-20. Los Angeles ranks 30th in the NHL in goals for and have 35 more markers in one fewer game than the Red Wings. Tyler Bertuzzi leads the way with 21 goals, while Dylan Larkin has 19 and Anthony Mantha has 16 markers despite being limited to 43 appearances. That trio has been responsible for the bulk of the offense. Robby Fabbri and Filip Hronek have chipped in offensively as well, while Filip Zadina provided a spark prior to getting injured.  The Red Wings have scored 2.00 goals for per game, while surrendering 3.73 goals against per contest.  

The team has struggled defensively and the goaltending has exacerbated the problem. Detroit ranks last in the league with a save percentage of .886 and sits 27th in shots against per match at 32.8.  Jimmy Howard was in the midst of the worst season of his career after deciding to stay with the organization for another year and not test the free-agent market.  Jonathan Bernier, who still has another two years remaining on his contract, was a much more serviceable option in the crease.  However, his numbers have not been very good either.  

It’s unclear if Jeff Blashill will be back behind the bench for the team in 2020-21, but General Manager Steve Yzerman hasn’t pointed the finger at the team’s head coach for the club’s struggles. Still, he could choose to make a change for a different voice as the team takes the next steps in its rebuild. The leading candidates to take over are believed to be Gerard Gallant and Lane Lambert if Blashill is not back. 

This will be Detroit’s fourth straight year in the Draft Lottery and the team has moved back in the order each time previously. The organization will hope that trend doesn’t continue, as the Red Wings will hold the best individual odds (18.5%) of landing the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. The Senators have the best combined odds thanks to owning their pick as well as San Jose's first-round selection. Highly-touted prospect Alexis Lafreniere is expected to be the top pick and that would go a long way to helping the team as well as the fanbase forget about a devastating year. He would be an immediate difference marker and a big piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Anthony Mantha - Mantha missed 20 games due to a punctured lung, but he has operated at a 70-plus point pace this season. He has registered a personal best 3.19 shots per game, while leading the team in multi-assist performances (five) and ranking third in even-strength points (29) despite playing in 21 fewer games than Larkin (39) and Bertuzzi (34). Aside from the injures, the 25-year-old forward has been trending in the right direction. Mantha is becoming a much more consistent producer and that’s making him a much more valuable fantasy forward.

Filip Hronek - Hronek has been a bright spot for the Red Wings during a dismal season. Mike Green, who was sent to Edmonton prior to the trade deadline, had been one of the team’s few sources of offense from the back end until Hronek’s emergence. The 22-year-old blueliner has nine goals and 31 points in 65 appearances. He has chipped in 10 power-play points, which ranks him third on the team. Detroit sits 29th in the league on the man advantage. Hronek has also supplied 125 shots, 105 shots, 74 blocks and 46 penalty minutes. His minus-38 rating could be a hinderance for some poolies, but he has plenty of all-around upside.

Filip Zadina - The play of Zadina has been another promising development for Detroit in 2019-20 even though he has been limited to 28 outings. He has produced eight goals, 15 points and 60 shots at the NHL level in 2019-20. That includes four goals and three assists on the power play.  Zadina displayed plenty of promise, while getting a chance to play as a top-six forward, prior to suffering a fractured ankle. He was nearing a return from that when he was sidetracked by a mid-body ailment. The sixth overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft should be a permanent member of the Red Wings once he’s healthy and a key member of the team during its rebuild.  

Jimmy Howard - It’s been a forgettable season for Howard. He has posted a 2-23-2 record with a 4.20 goals-against average and .882 save percentage in 27 appearances. Howard was in goal for Detroit’s season-opening 5-3 win over Nashville when he stopped 39 of 42 shots. He didn’t get another victory until Oct. 29 when he turned aside 31 shots in a 3-1 victory against Edmonton.  Howard has gone 0-18-2 since then, while allowing 74 goals on 573 shots. He has been surpassed by Jonathan Bernier on the depth chart and he is eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2019-20 campaign.  

Corey Abbott

Corey Abbott is an Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @CoreAbbott.