The expansion draft is done, the entry draft is over and the Detroit Red Wings made a couple of depth free agent signings to fill out the roster. With training camp a couple of months away, there’s plenty of time to speculate what the 2017-18 opening night roster will look like.
Our own Brock Seguin wrote an article about a week ago projecting the forward lines for next season, but I’m going to take it one step further and use Dominic Galamini’s lineup creator to see how many points the Red Wings are expected to get.
Galamini’s program uses data from the past 1 1/2 seasons of regular season games to determine what the team’s shot attempts percentage, goals for percentage and expected points would be, assuming perfect health during the span of an 82-game season.
Galamini last updated the lineup creator in March, so it’s missing the last month of the 2016-17 season, but it still gives us a good glimpse of what to expect next season.
Here’s my projected opening night lineup:
While the 90 points might seem appetizing to Red Wings fans who had to endure a 79-point season last year, this model is assuming every player remains healthy throughout the course of the season. Of course, that won’t happen. Injuries will happen, call-ups will occur and the lineup will be shuffled around.
Luke Witkowski did not record at least 400 minutes over the past 1 1/2 seasons, so I couldn’t include him in the forward or defensive units. Instead, I used “a depth forward” to signify Witkowski or possibly Tyler Bertuzzi if he receives an invite after training camp.
Unfortunately for the Red Wings, Vegas selected Tomas Nosek in the expansion draft, otherwise I would have slotted Nosek on the fourth line and opted to use Luke Glendening as a healthy scratch.
Replacing Niklas Kronwall with Witkowski slightly decreased the point total, so I opted to keep him on a forward unit.
As you can see, the 2017-18 version of the Red Wings will struggle. The team is projected to have a five on five shot attempt percentage and goals for percentage below 50. For reference, the Red Wings had a 47.67 shot attempt percentage and a 47.05 goals for percentage last season, via Natural Stat Trick. Again, while the model suggests a slightly better version of last year’s team, this is assuming the team stays healthy all season.
For argument’s sake, I’m assuming Tomas Tatar and Andreas Athanasiou will be re-signed. Although Tatar’s fate after the 2017-18 season is an entirely new discussion.
Interestingly enough, replacing Kronwall with Jonathan Ericsson improves the team’s expected point total by one. While Ericsson might be a slight improvement over Kronwall, it’s pretty much a coin flip in my eyes. Kronwall is more or less playing on one leg, and Ericsson hasn’t played well during the past few seasons, opting to forgo hip impingement surgery.
The Red Wings have a lot of issues on the blue line, but that’s not new information. The signing of Trevor Daley is a band-aid until the prospects — Joe Hicketts, Vili Saarijarvi, Filip Hronek, Dennis Cholowski — are ready to take the next step. This team often will get hemmed in its own zone, just as it did last season.
What I’m interested in seeing is if Dylan Larkin has a bounce-back season after scoring just 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) in 80 games last season and if Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou can continue to improve offensively (and defensively) and receive more playing time than last year.
It’ll be another down year for the Red Wings, but it’s a perfect opportunity for Bertuzzi, Evgeny Svechnikov or possibly a young defenseman to get some NHL minutes.