It wasn’t always easy to find the gusto to write about the Detroit Red Wings during much of the 2017-18 NHL season, honestly, it was about as painful as watching them play most nights. It’s not that my passion and fire for the team wasn’t there, it’s just that flames had dwindled down to a smoldering pile of embers.
Bashing/questioning/criticizing general manager Ken Holland had grown tiresome and tedious, expecting to lose night in and night out had become the norm, and even the most die-hard fans in Hockeytown had come to embrace tanking/tumbling in the standings - and rightfully so.
As we all know, the team did not finish well once again, some fan-favorite players were moved to other teams, and both the organization and fan base were left with more questions than answers. The silver lining to another dismal season in Detroit was the Wings’ bevy of picks they had accumulated in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Now that the draft has come and gone, and Holland and company have received glowing reviews for the fortuitous haul, it’s fair to say that hope and excitement is on the rise in Hockeytown.
Gregg Krupa of The Detroit News summed it up perfectly in his post-draft piece:
The surprising results of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft invigorated many of the faithful. Again, the Red Wings outperformed most of the league.
Having the electrifying Filip Zadina being basically handed to Detroit on a silver platter at sixth-overall has more or less been the most exhilarating thing to happen to the Red Wings in several seasons, perhaps even longer, depending on you who ask. Had Ken Holland passed on Zadina in favor of a young blue-liner, which in all fairness, the team does need, I imagine that torch and pitchfork sales would’ve skyrocketed in the metro Detroit area.
However, the powers that be did not draft to fill a positional need as Montreal, Ottawa, and Arizona did before them, instead they took the best player available, something always preached during drafts in every professional sport. This is not to say that the aforementioned teams did not select players who aren’t going to make them a better club down the road, their choices simply allowed for the Red Wings to accelerate their current rebuild to become a much better club than expected.
Detroit’s previous two first-round picks, Dennis Cholowski and Michael Rasmussen, greatly divided popular opinion when they were selected in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Cholowski was a defensive gamble after Holland was able to unload Pavel Datsyuk’s contract in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes and the drafting of Rasmussen was met with much heated debate given that more proven and attractive names such as Owen Tippett, Gabriel Vilardi, and Nick Suzuki were still on the board.
The draft is always a crapshoot. Outside of your generational-phenoms like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, nothing is guaranteed. Rasmussen silenced a lot of his detractors with an impressive preseason performance in 2017 and may very well push for a roster spot in 2018, while Cholowski may prove to be a defensive diamond in the rough, or perhaps not. As for now, Red Wings fans are genuinely united in their optimism.
Just take a look at our most recent poll on the Zadina pick:
Early poll results are promising. pic.twitter.com/AUm4m36lqu— Winging It In Motown (@wingingitmotown) June 23, 2018
Detroit finished out their impressive first-round by selecting the speedy centerman Joe Veleno, another highly-ranked prospect who many thought would never be available at pick No. 30.
Appropriate strategy for Holland and the Wings. Sticking to the plan and not reaching for need. Took C Veleno late in first round instead of reaching for D-man. That is how you rebuild, with talent, not need. “We just felt we couldn’t pass these forwards up,” Holland said.— Bob Wojnowski (@bobwojnowski) June 23, 2018
The additions of Zadina and Veleno give the Red Wings’ rebuild an unexpected and exciting shot in the arm. I don’t believe anyone, expert or not, would’ve thought that Detroit would walk out of the first-round with both, if not either, of these players. Drafts are about getting the most value out of your pick, and the Wing’s front-office executed as if it was their plan all along.
The Wings 2018 draftees wont thrust the the team immediately back into playoff contention, but they certainly add enough skill and excitement to put the organization several steps ahead of where they hoped they would be at this point. Zadina could potentially push for a roster spot sooner rather than later, and Holland has already commented on that possibility:
“He’s going to get a chance to make our team this season,” general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press.
There’s a lot to be excited about for Red Wings fans, much more than we thought possible just a short time ago. There’s still plenty of work to be done in the rebuild, but we just acquired some new tools to help streamline the process.