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    We are currently midway through the season for the Detroit Red Wings, so checking in on preseason predictions is a fun exercise. How many predictions look to pan out now that we are at midseason?  Not as many as I had hoped. How wrong was I exactly? That is for you to decide.

    Preseason Prediction 1: Anthony Mantha Sets A Career High In Goals

    Preseason Thoughts

    Mantha looked dominant in the scrimmages, not only ripping pucks into the net but in his new role killing penalties. Extra ice time, will mean more shots and scoring chances for the skilled winger. He has a theory that for every five shots he takes, one will be a goal. Look for an increased number of pucks getting to the net. His quick release in combination with more shots will inevitably result in more goals. I am betting on 2021 being the season that Mantha stays healthy, and improves on his high of 25 goals in a season. Alas, bold prediction.

    Midseason Thoughts

    Mantha would have to go on a superstar-type tear in order to hit the 25 goal mark this year. He currently sits at just eight goals, with 28 games played. He has looked uninvolved at times, has endured benching at others. Mantha is an interesting player because he has somehow become the most polarizing Red Wing on the current team. Fans are frustrated due to him not taking the next step in his development and many have written him off. I still believe in the raw talent Mantha possesses. I do not believe that Mantha gets to 25 goals this year. Furthermore, I also do not believe he finishes the year in a Red Wings jersey.

    Preseason Prediction 2: Both Filips Take A Big Step Forward

    Preseason Thoughts: Filip Zadina

    When Filip Zadina was drafted in 2018, he vowed to make the teams that passed on him sorry by “filling their nets with pucks”. He has scored some goals, but not quite at the rate of filling nets. Zadina showed a newfound swagger both on the ice and off during training camp, and for good reason. He has added bulk to his frame this offseason that made it noticeably harder to knock him off of the puck. It looks as if Zadina will play on a line with Robby Fabbri and Vladislav Namestnikov to start, which will be an improvement over last year. Fabbri and Namestnikov will increase the number of chances Zadina receives in the scoring areas of the ice, allowing him to unleash his deadly shot. Zadina will headline what will be a huge improvement in secondary scoring this season.

    Mid-Season Thoughts: Filip Zadina

    There is a lot to dissect in my preseason thoughts, so let’s start here. Just via the eye-test, Zadina has taken a huge step forward in that most nights, it was a race between him and Dylan Larkin as to who was more impactful in the game. He has gotten noticeably stronger on the puck. This being said, these things in addition to the off-the-charts compete level are not traits that directly correlate to the score sheet. Zadina has shown glimpses of dominating games, such as the matchup against Carolina on March 4th when he had two goals. Although he only has 12 points through the 2020-2021 campaign, his ability to drive play, and dogged determination have me excited for the prospects of his game in the future.

    Preseason Thoughts: Filip Hronek

    Filip Hronek was playing close to half of every game toward the end of last season. The pain and fatigue he was playing through were obvious. This makes sense, as he saw almost a 4-minute jump in ice time from 2018-2019 to 2019-2020, and played an extra 20 games.  When Hronek is right, he has top pairing upside. For that reason, it makes sense that Yzerman went out and rebuilt the depth on the backend. My bold prediction is that this depth will eat some of the tough minutes and allow Hronek to get back to first pairing form.

    Midseason Thoughts: Filip Hronek

    Looking at the game-log, and seeing Hronek with the team-lead in points, it would seem like a punch-button “nailed it” moment. I do not think that is the case. He is playing the top-pairing minutes that I had called for in the preseason. But unlike Zadina, even with all of the scoring, Hronek is not quite passing the eye-test as the top-pairing guy as this team moves forward. He is averaging close to 24 minutes on the ice every night and quarterbacking the first powerplay. But even with these things, many of his decisions can be pointed to for the lack of powerplay success. Many people remember Christian Djoos sidestepping opposing penalty-killers on the way to roofing a shot over the opposing goalie. You are not seeing Hronek pinch in and make those heady decisions that impact the game. There is a half of a season left, but this prediction is a little tougher to rule on.

    Preseason Prediction 3: Goal Differential Improves Drastically

    Preseason Thoughts

    Last season, the Red Wings had a goal differential of -1.73. I am predicting that number to reduce by 1/3.  A change that drastic would take improvements in multiple areas, which due to the added depth, can be the case. Improved secondary scoring due to the additions of Bobby Ryan and Namestnikov will help the goals for. The depth added to the defense will help the goals against number as well. When you consider that the players in both of these areas will impact special teams; suddenly there is a path to this bold prediction.

    Midseason Thoughts

    Once again, this can be sliced and diced a little. This prediction definitely came true, even when considering special teams. The goal differential this season is -1.06 goals in the favor of the opposition. As indicated by that number, the Red Wings have lost the most one-goal contests in the league. But much of this is due to being bottom three on both the penalty kill and the powerplay. The special teams have been a boon to this team the entire year. When looking at just five versus five (5v5) numbers, the goal differential shrinks to -0.45 goals/game. The 5v5 defensive play is the reason for this, as they have catapulted from a bottom 5 defense to an above-average defense. To be succinct, instead of losing in historically bad fashion, as we did last year. We have found a way to be more competitive, while still lose.

    Preseason Prediction 4: The Red Wings Will Not Finish Last In The Division

    Preseason Thoughts

    Hey, we said bold predictions, right? The Red Wings finished a full 23 points below the second-worst team in the standings last season. They were historically inept last season, rarely looking competitive. The optics will be a little better this year as they improve just enough to finish ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks. For this to happen, Thomas Greiss will have to be the complement to Jonathan Bernier he was signed to be. Bernier actually played above his weight class last season considering the state of the team. It will be a tall task to ask him to repeat that performance, which is why Greiss will have to pull his weight. Bernier’s play last season cannot be understated, as it was juxtaposed by Jimmy Howard hitting a sharp decline; winning just 2 games all of last year. The improvement at this position, as well as many of the above bold predictions, must playout for the Red Wings to take the needed step forward.

    Midseason Thoughts

    As I am going through this, I have realized a major typo in my prediction.  I misspelled “league” in the above. In all seriousness though, this was a stretch goal, that counted on Patrick Kane regressing. Good call there. But even larger than that, this counted on Thomas Greiss being an upgrade over Jimmy Howard. As of late, Greiss has looked better, but his league-worst -17.5 goals saved above average (GSAA) is on par with Howard. There is still a half of a season for Greiss to bounce back, but the early returns leave a lot to be desired.  As a result, this team still seems to be destined to finish in the bottom three.

    The predictions did not all hit, but that was to be expected, but my sentiment remains that this team is more on track than off in their rebuild. With some hope and an injection of young talent over the next few years, that should be evident as we watch the games as well.

     

    Brandon Gunn
    I am a husband, and a father of two that along with my family has rescued two dogs. I am an avid, lifelong Detroit sports fan for better or for worse, Red Wings season ticket holder, and live in a house divided (I root for UM, she roots for OSU). I have played hockey my entire life, and help coach my son’s hockey team. If you aren't laughing, you arent living. Beware of sarcasm.

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