1. Forward depth.
We’ve been hearing for years that Detroit had a logjam of solid forward prospects, and they’ve basically arrived now. This set of speedy and skilled young forwards is a far cry from the dreary group two seasons ago that featured Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary in the top six. Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, and Riley Sheahan have all established themselves as solid NHL contributors at this point, while Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm have completed their transition from lower-line centers to forechecking wingers with offensive ability and speed.
The arrival of coach Jeff Blashill also bodes well for a possible breakout year for Tomas Jurco, who put up a point-per-game in the AHL under Blashill, but has since struggled with low usage and a total lack of puck luck in the NHL. Pavel Datsyuk looked a few years younger last year playing with the speedy Tatar and Helm, and it’s a sign that the youth is helping to offset the decline of the older forwards. Detroit has the ability to roll three quality scoring lines, and that’s a real advantage over a lot of teams.
2. More youth incoming.
Despite all I’ve said above, there’s another wave of nearly-ready prospects knocking on the door, particularly on defense where Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, and Nick Jensen all seem to be pretty ready to go. At forward, there’s a lot of uncertainty over whether Dylan Larkin will make the roster or not, but it sure does help you sleep better at night knowing he’s a valid center option should a rash of injuries happen. Detroit has several aging veterans with injury struggles over the past few years, but given the amount of nearly NHL-ready youth the team has coming, they should be better prepared than most teams to weather a hypothetical injury storm.
3. Power play.
Detroit’s power play last year was second only to the consistently untouchable Alex Ovechkin machine in Washington, and they’ve gone and added an excellent power play QB in Mike Green. Detroit’s power play seemed like it might be primed for a regression this year, but the addition of Green may very well prevent that from happening. Having a strong power play lets you win games you maybe shouldn’t, and it seems like that Detroit still has that.
Detroit addressed this a bit in the offseason by adding Green, but any team that features Jonathan Ericsson on the top pairing has a serious lack of high-end defensemen. Detroit’s blueline has especially struggled to make any type of offensive contribution, although it may owe some of that to former coach Mike Babcock’s penchant to play extremely low-event hockey over the past few years. It remains to be seen whether Blashill will change that or not, or if that would even be a good idea to begin with.
2. Veteran aging concerns.
Datsyuk occasionally looked rejuvenated last year until an ankle slowed him down toward the end. He can absolutely still play at a high level as evidenced by his 59.6 percent Corsi For last season, but he’s at a stage where nagging injuries are just part of the deal. Henrik Zetterberg has quietly declined the past couple of years, and Johan Franzén is one more headshot away from being done. Niklas Kronwall has stayed healthy, but he’s older than you think -- he turns 35 this year. This issue is an irritating cliche to Wings fans, but this team still needs to get contributions from these veterans (particularly Datsyuk) to hit their potential.
3. Goaltending consistency.
I struggled with how to classify this issue, as goaltending is a high-ceiling, low-floor position for Detroit this year. Last year was a roller coaster in goaltending. It was unquestionably bad, until suddenly it wasn’t right at playoff time. Jimmy Howard had a bad season after returning from an early season injury, but Petr Mrázek wasn’t able to overtake him for the starting job until the very end of the season after weeks of Detroit dropping 5-4 games to bad teams.
Detroit was a strong possession team with above-average special teams that was held back by goaltending last year. The potential is there for this to be a strength, but for now it’s a weakness until proven otherwise.
1. Does the Red Wings’ success depend more on the veterans or the youth?
2. How different does the blue line look from opening night to the playoffs?
3. What can we expect from having Jeff Blashill at the helm?
Get the answers at Winging It In Motown.
by Christian Neubacher
They win the Stanley Cup.
Every team has the same goal every year and the Red Wings are no different. They have a well-rounded team that has numerous players who can surprise and have breakout seasons that propel the Wings to the top of the league. They have a pair of talented goaltenders, one of which is still developing, and a defensive core that is looking better than it ever has in the post-Nicklas Lidström era.
The Wings should be able to not only make the playoffs this season, but they should be competing for one of the top spots in the Eastern Conference. Anything less than a second-round playoff appearance would be viewed as a disappointment, given the Wings’ offseason moves and overall team quality.
And if they can make it to the second round of the playoffs, then they might just be able to go the whole way.
by Christian Neubacher
They miss the playoffs for the first time in 25 seasons.
This year’s edition of the Detroit Red Wings is looking pretty good. The franchise has players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Tomas Jurco, all of whom should only continue to improve, and thanks to the offseason acquisition of Mike Green, the defense is not looking too shabby. On paper, this team is a playoff team, but ...
There is one major thing that could derail the Wings’ season: Injuries. Whether it be groin problems, concussions, or ligament tears, injuries can -- and almost certainly will -- affect the Wings, as it will most other teams. But an unusually high amount of injuries, which the Wings have experienced in the past, could push Detroit outside of the wild card race.
If these injuries were to hit players like Niklas Kronwall, the Eurotwins, or one of our goaltenders, things could get really ugly.