There were some good surprises for Red Wings in a very disappointing season

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – You look at the 17-49-5 record, and there couldn’t have been many positives derived from this Red Wings’ season.

It was one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

Jonathan Bernier

And, as could be expected, the list of players having bad seasons was long. Too many players performed below expectations, and the Wings’ record reflected that.

But here’s something to think about: There were some players who pulled off better-than-expected seasons.

To be sure, that list is short. But there were some surprises that gave the Wings some hope going forward.

With the NHL regular season paused because of the coronavirus pandemic, let’s review some of the surprises and disappointments of the Wings’ season.


Jonathan Bernier: The first six weeks or so were a little uneven, but from about December on, Bernier was arguably the Wings’ most valuable player. With Jimmy Howard never getting into any rhythm,  Bernier took over the No. 1 role and thrived with increased playing time. Depending on what’s done in the offseason, Bernier appears to be the No. 1 goalie going forward.

Tyler Bertuzzi

Tyler Bertuzzi: If Bernier wasn’t the Wings’ MVP, then it would have to be Bertuzzi. He was the Wings’ representative at the All-Star Game, and deservedly so. Bertuzzi led the team with 21 goals, and his 48 points only trailed Dylan Larkin (53). Bertuzzi can play in a variety of roles and his consistency has been admirable.

Alex Biega: He was a shrewd acquisition by general manager Steve Yzerman early in the season. Biega outperformed expectations, getting into 49 games, and becoming a dependable third-pairing defenseman. He got a one-year contract extension and he earned it.

Robby Fabbri: Another good Yzerman trade, as Fabbri scored 14 goals, with 31 points, and provided the Wings with a quality top-six forward. When Fabbri plays with an edge, he boosts his effectiveness to another level.

Darren Helm: Many detractors on social media aren’t going to buy it, but Helm was one of the Wings’ best players this season. For the bulk of the season he was a plus player (plus-minus rating) before dropping to his current minus-6, and on this team that is astonishing, as the Wings were a minus-122 in goal differential. He also remains an effective penalty killer.

Justin Abdelkader


Justin Abdelkader: Another subpar season for a veteran forward whose future in the organization is uncertain. Abdelkader had no goals while playing 49 games and was losing his spot in the lineup. At age 33, there’s been severe regression in performance the last two seasons.

Adam Erne: Acquired from Tampa last summer, the Wings hoped Erne would flourish with a bigger opportunity in Detroit. But it never happened. Erne only had two goals in 56 games – both in same game – and struggled to earn ice time.

Jimmy Howard: Simply put, the bottom fell out. It was just a miserable season all the way around, with Howard possessing a 2-23-2 record and a ghastly 4.20 goals-against average and .882 save percentage. An unrestricted free agent, Howard, 36, could be fighting to extend his career.

Frans Nielsen: You can’t underestimate Nielsen’s value in the locker room, and the professionalism he exhibits off the ice. But his on-ice production simply wasn’t good enough (four goals, nine points) for a player with a $5.25 million cap hit through the 2021-22 season.

Brendan Perlini: This Yzerman acquisition might come back to haunt him. Perlini had one goal in 39 games, and was invisible most nights, while prospect Alec Regula, who the Wings traded to Chicago for Perlini, led Ontario League defensemen with 27 goals. A restricted free agent, it's not a sure thing the Wings will bring Perlini back.

Twitter: @tkulfan