Detroit Red Wings Season Preview
2013 Record: 24-16-8, 57 points. 3rd Place Central Division, 7th Place Western Conference.
Defeated Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in Conference Quarterfinals.
Lost in Conference Semi Finals 4-3 to Chicago Blackhawks.
Valtteri Filppula (signed 5 year/ $25 million deal with Tampa Bay Lightning)
Damien Brunner (Agreed to a Pro Tryout with New Jersey Devils)
Daniel Alfredsson (Signed 1 year/ $3.5 million deal)
Stephen Weiss (Signed 5 year/ $24.5 million deal)
2013 Projection: 2nd Place Atlantic Division
The Detroit Red Wings come into the 2013-2014 season with a sour taste in their mouth with how their 2013 season ended in an overtime game seven loss to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. This season brings hope that the move to a new division and conference, along with the additions of a couple key forwards, will be what the Red Wings need to return to the Stanley Cup Finals and capture their 12th Stanley Cup in franchise history.
The additions of Daniel Alfredsson and Steven Weiss add much needed depth to the Red Wings after losing Valtteri Filppula to division rival Tampa Bay and Damien Brunner to the New Jersey Devils. Alfredsson will bring another veteran leader to complement Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. The Red Wings are hoping that Stephen Weiss will be the consistent second line center that they have been looking for after Filppula struggled to be a consistent scorer in his tenure with the Red Wings. Those two additions have made the Red Wings one of the favorites coming into their first season in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
Most Important Player:
This is easily Jimmy Howard after his play last season practically willed the Red Wings into the postseason and into the Conference Semi Finals. Howard posted a 21-13-2 record with a 2.13 GAA and a .923 save percentage. Playing behind a very young and inexperienced defense, Howard seemed to come up with big plays especially as the Red Wings made a run at the end of the regular season to lock up their 22nd consecutive playoff berth. The defense should be better this season which will help Howard by taking stress off of him throughout the longer schedule.
Biggest Question Mark:
The defense gets the nod here based off of the youth. The defense performed much better than anyone could have anticipated last year after the massive loss of Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement. The group will be led once again by Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson as well as second year player Danny DeKeyser who had his playoffs cut short due to injury. Jakub Kindl showed very nice development last year while finally getting consistent playing time and could be a key cog in the defense while players such as Brenden Smith and Kyle Quincey will look to bounce back from fairly disappointing seasons. This team could once again sink or swim based off of the defense as the offense should have no trouble posting good numbers.
Look for Johan Franzen to have a strong season this year as he will most likely be playing with newcomers Weiss and Alfredsson. Weiss is a good playmaker and Franzen’s knack for getting goals close to the net could help him post big goal totals. He has shown in the past he can score with the best of them but has had a problem with health and the ability to stay consistent. When Franzen finds himself on a cold streak, he can go weeks without a goal but if he is on a hot streak, there is almost no player out there who can stop him from finding the back of the net. He finished last season with 14 goals and 17 assists in 41 games and certainly has the ability to score 30+ goals. If he can stay healthy this season I see him finishing right around the 30 goal mark.
Most Exciting Young Player To Watch:
Gustav Nyquist takes the honors here after a very good post season run which saw him net nearly as many goals and assists (2 goals, 3 assists) in 14 games as he did in 22 regular season games (3 goals, 3 assists). His speed makes him dangerous breaking out of the zone and is very good on the penalty kill. He should be on the roster for the entire season this year barring a significant injury or lack of any production and will probably be seeing a majority of his playing time on the third line. His game brings much needed speed to the Red Wings especially if speedster Darren Helm misses anymore significant time due to injury. Could be a possible breakout candidate for the Red Wings this year.
X-Factor For Success:
Special teams by far. The Red Wings struggled mightily on the powerplay at the beginning of last season and were the last team in the NHL to score a powerplay goal. They were able to finish middle of the pack at 15th overall on powerplay success but that is still a far cry from the dominance they showed on the powerplay in the past decade. The penalty killing was also middle of the pack at 12th overall and the Red Wings will need to be better in that department when they are playing teams such as Pittsburgh on a more consistent basis. If they are able to improve both the powerplay and the penalty killing by a couple of percentage points, that could translate into many more wins for the team.
The Red Wings are sending a team out on the ice this year that is surely capable of winning the Stanley Cup but will need its veterans to contribute steadily offensively and the young defense to stay strong throughout the longer season. The Red Wings have arguably the best coach in the NHL and a front office who are great at developing younger players and who know how to manage the game. Once again, the Red Wings are close to being a lock for the playoffs and have a team who is deep at the forward position and should not have trouble scoring goals. Will this be the year the Red Wings capture their first Stanley Cup since 2008? It will not be a cakewalk, but will once again be an exciting season that this time we will be able to enjoy all 82 games of instead of a half season.