Detroit Red Wings 1 at Toronto Maple Leafs 4 – 2023-01-07 recap

Hey, finally a win to dissect! The Leafs tore up a Red Wings team that might not be what their fans envisioned.

It’s been interesting the last week or so to read Red Wings fans start to question just how good their management group. Steve Yzerman has been in charge of the Wings for three-and-a-half seasons now, and while he started from a rough spot, it’s not clear whether this core he’s put together is going to be the one that makes up the next great Red Wings team.

Sure, there are a handful of good pieces, like Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond and Filip Hronek, but a lot of the best players on this team have aged out and I don’t know how amenable guys like Dylan Larkin or Tyler Bertuzzi will be to return to the Wings after so much losing. The team has a lot of cap space, but also tied up quite a bit of it last season on Ben Chiarot and Andrew Copp and Ville Husso, in a surefire signal that the plan was to start winning this year.

As I type this, the Wings have fallen below the Sabres in points percentage and are pretty much out of the playoffs, but also probably a little too high up the standings to guarantee a real difference maker in the first round of the draft.

My philosophy around a rebuild is you start by shedding longer contracts and laundering short-term deals to acquire prospects and picks. Draft well and make short-term UFA bets. If they hit, acquire more prospects and picks, until you’ve identified the 3 or so players you think you can build around. Hopefully you have the flexibility, and enough support from the previous iteration of the team, to push in your chips and acquire some more support players and a difference-maker in the trade market.

I don’t REALLY believe in “tanking” as a general concept. It seems like a lot of fans see getting a top pick in the draft as being the end. Losing is the easy part, and surrounding your high pick with good players is more important. It’s also a lot harder.

We’ll see if Yzerman can pull this off, but my early read on this Wings team is it just isn’t good enough. Not enough firepower up front, not enough defencemen that can move the puck. The good news is that other than Seider, none of these players should be particularly expensive in a couple of years, so they’ll be able to try again. A false start rebuild makes a lot of hockey fans believe that rebuilds take 5-6 years when a good one is usually a lot quicker than that. You can tell pretty early on if a core is good enough or not.

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