Coming off a first round playoff exit, Detroit were thought to be major players in the Steven Stamkos Sweepstakes, especially after unloading Pavel Datsyuk's cap hit to the Coyotes. Unfortunately for the team, they never got a chance to pitch Stamkos before he decided to stay in Tampa Bay. The Wings acquired Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek through free agency to provide some offense, as well as Steve Ott for reasons passing understanding.

The team's playoff streak, which hit 25 years last year, is in jeopardy. The team has many second or third pair defensemen, but no true, proven top pairing player. The loss of Datsyuk will hurt more than most people likely realize, although the addition of Nielsen gives the team a solid defensive center who can play against top competition, while contributing offensively. The team has some talented prospects like Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha who look NHL ready, but the packed roster of veteran forwards makes it hard to see where they will fit in the opening night lineup. Last year's All-Star representative Dylan Larkin is entering his second year, hoping to expand upon a solid rookie season, which led to his inclusion on Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.

THREE QUESTIONS

  1. Can "the kids" take the next step forward?
  2. Is Petr Mrazek the real deal?
  3. What can we expect from the coaching staff?

BEST CASE SCENARIO

Mrazek solidifies his hold on the starting goalie position after having claimed the title only to lose it last year. Larkin continues his development into a franchise center, Tatar and Nyquist both score 25-30 goals again. Somehow the Red Wings find space for Mantha and Athanasiou to play the full season in Detroit and they both excel. The defense isn’t nearly as bad as it’s been the past few years, which allows Jeff Blashill to finally implement his system and the Red Wings start playing like a dangerous team again.

At least two of Jurco, Pulkkinen, Jensen, Ouellet and Sproul stick with the big club to take the burden off the older veterans. Helm and Abdelkader live up to their sizable contract extensions and contribute in roles appropriate for their individual skillsets, i.e., not in the top-six. Because the rest of the team improves, Zetterberg’s workload is significantly reduced and he’s able to excel in a smaller role. The Red Wings end up in one of the top two spots in the Atlantic Division and win a playoff series to show that the Red Wings are back to their winning ways in the playoffs.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

The team relies too much on veterans who, due to injury or age, cannot contribute at the level they once did, like Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall. Players like Athanasiou and Mantha spend another season in the AHL. Dylan Larkin goes through a sophomore slump and has trouble adapting to playing No. 1 center.

The power play continues to struggle. Mrazek repeats last year's stretch of subpar play, and a goalie controversy emerges. The team puts the playoff streak ahead of the long-term health of the franchise, and they barely make the playoffs, only to lose in the first round again. Alternatively, they miss the playoffs, but just barely, keeping them from earning a high draft pick.