The Red Wings have made several changes in the 2022 Free Agency period to this point that would indicate a push to make the playoffs next spring. While the new additions have grabbed attention nationally, making the playoffs is not a foregone conclusion.
The defense should be considerably better with Chariot, Maatta and Pysyk added to the mix and it needs to be, if the Wings have any hope of making the postseason. My guess is that Chariot and Seider will be a first pair with Maatta and Hronek as the second pair and perhaps Oesterle and Pysyk as the 3rd pair. I personally don't expect Edvinsson to make the roster this coming year, but I would be thrilled if he does. If he does make the team I would expect him to play 3rd line minutes with perhaps Pysyk in order to bring him along slowly without undue pressure. Depending on his performance, he could move up when he is ready. I see Lindstrom and Walman as the 4th line regardless.
The group of forwards will certainly be better than the recent past. Copp and Perron will most certainly bring a higher level of play than we have had in the recent past and, hopefully, Kubalik can re-kindle his form from a couple of years ago. I get pretty excited contemplating a top six forward group of Larkin, Raymond, Bertuzzi, Copp, Perron and Vrana, and I know I am not alone in that regard.
So with all that, what do we still need to become serious playoff contenders?
First of all, I believe a lot will depend on whether this group achieves Yzerman's desire to be "difficult to play against". If the defense tightens up and develops grit, that's a big start. Next comes special teams. The Wings have to improve the Power Play and the Penalty Kill. They don't need to lead the league in those categories, but they need to be at least average in both. And finally, the goalies have to do their jobs. They both need to be consistently decent. I don't know about Husso, but Ned seems to be a bit streaky. Sometimes he's hot and other times he cold as hell.
I do believe the top six forwards will generate scoring. Those six players playing together will find the chemistry, and the back of the net, with no problem. My concern is the 3rd and 4th lines, but primarily the 3rd line since the 4th line is normally a primarily checking line. Right now, it would appear the 3rd line will consist of some combination of Suter, Kubalik, Sundqvist, Zadina and Fabbri (when he finally returns to action). It is possible that Berggren could be in that group if he makes the team as well. Who knows what the 3rd line will be, but the Wings will need to get some scoring from it if they want get to the postseason. Personally, I am not keen on Suter, Zadina or Sundqvist based on what I have seen from them so far. I hope they change my opinion for the better this coming season.
I presume the 4th Line will have Rasmussen, Erne and whomever doesn't quite make the 3rd Line. Or possibly Veleno or Smith. All I expect from this line is strong checking defense. Whatever scoring they contribute will be a bonus.
Can this group make the playoffs? If they stay healthy I believe they can, but they will have to work to get there.
But how can the Wings improve the roster? I think they need another good center and another solid Right hand Defenseman. If Erne, Zadina, Smith, Suter and Sundqvist don't show substantial improvement this year, I would move on from all of them next year. That should free up at least $10M (assuming Zadina gets a contract for at least $1.2M this season). If possible, trade them this year for another center and defenseman.