By any objective measure, the Detroit Red Wings aren't having a great start to the 2021-22 NHL season. Through 15 games, they hold a 7-8-2 record, which ranks 23rd leaguewide in points percentage.
The underlying numbers are more or less in line with that record. The Red Wings rank 22nd by expected goals percentage (48.4 percent), per Evolving Hockey.
For most NHL franchises, that kind of a stretch to open the season would raise the question of why so much is going wrong. But consider where the Red Wings came from.
The Red Wings have failed to make the playoffs ever since their 25-season run of playing in the postseason ended in 2016. It isn't just that they were losing; their entire outlook was as bleak as possible.
The roster was a decaying visage with a number of bloated contracts from their prior contention window, plus whatever leftover journeymen they could find. General manager Steve Yzerman, whom the Red Wings hired in 2019, inherited an unmitigated disaster with few redeemable parts.
Anything above the abyss is progress for Detroit, and flirting with a position outside the bottom 10 teams is certainly that.
There's a noticeable buzz inside Little Caesars Arena that wasn't present in previous seasons. The current group of players is, if not good, then at least intriguing.
Rookies Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are at the center of the Red Wings' upward trend. The two top prospects made the team out of training camp, which was fully expected. It was less certain that they'd be positive contributors so soon.
Yet not only are they proving they belong at hockey's top level, but they are also two of the biggest drivers of Detroit's relative progress through 15 games.
Seider, whom the Red Wings drafted sixth overall in 2019, was named the Swedish Hockey League's top defenseman last season, producing seven goals and 21 assists in 41 regular-season games while dominating analytically. Now in Detroit, he is playing one of the most difficult roles in the league.