from John Niyo of the Detroit News,
Clearly, this team has improved defensively, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it watching the first period Tuesday against the Predators. Seider, a rookie who plays with beyond-his-years poise, has exceeded all expectations in his debut. (He’s on pace for a 56-point season, which would be Nicklas Lidstrom-type production if he managed to sustain it.) Nick Leddy is proving to be a savvy free-agent signing by general manager Steve Yzerman as well. Throw in the goaltending they’re getting from Alex Nedeljkovic (.918 save percentage) and the floor for this team looks much more solid than it did in recent years.
Up front, rookie Lucas Raymond’s arrival appears to have raised the ceiling, too. The young Swede is shooting, he’s scoring and he’s showing he has a knack for doing both when his team needs it most. And coupled with another key free-agent pickup in second-line center Pius Suter, it means the Wings finally have a top six that can compete with the better teams in the league.
Few would’ve predicted that back in September when Blashill announced winger Jakub Vrana — a potential 30-goal scorer — needed shoulder surgery and would miss at least four months. But thus far, it seems to be true, at least when Bertuzzi is in the lineup.
The question is whether we’ll still be saying that in January and February. Can the Wings avoid any more significant injuries? Because they simply don’t have the depth to keep winning if they can’t. Can Blashill and his staff find a way to get more out of Filip Zadina? They'll need to at some point. Will the rookies hit a wall after 40 or 50 games? Time will tell on that front, I suppose. (The Olympics could play a factor, too.)
But as Blashill says, with a young team like this, every game is a measuring stick. And every loss can be an inflection point.