Detroit Red Wings Season Preview and NHL Season Predictions

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After countless emails with WordPress and GoDaddy.com and with some help from Bryan Thomas, the site is finally back up and running at the proper URL. This obviously cut into my posting ability a bit and this season preview is coming a little later than I wanted, but here it is anyways.

The Detroit Red Wings had an issue with not only cap, but amount of players that they had on the roster leading up to the season.  They had until 5 PM on September 30th to get under the cap and down to the player limit of 23 and it wasn’t easy.  The Red Wings did what I didn’t want them to do and put Gustav Nyquist down in the AHL, along with Cory Emmerton.  Though it appears that Emmerton was brought back up after clearing waivers and they must have found a way to keep him on the roster for now.  I was surprised Emmerton cleared waivers, but the fact the Red Wings put him on waivers means they couldn’t find a trading partner for him.  Nyquist should be starting the season on the roster and Tomas Tatar should be in the lineup but it appears he will be a healthy scratch to start the year.  Because they kept Mikael Samuelsson and re-signed Daniel Cleary unnecessarily, Nyquist and Tatar aren’t able to get into the lineup yet.  Personally, I think it’s time for Ken Holland/Mike Babcock to stop hanging onto veterans that are past their prime and let the team get younger.  I know that their hands were tied with Samuelsson’s awful contract that has a no-trade clause and they couldn’t buy him out because he was hurt during the buy out period, but he shouldn’t have been signed in the first place.

To start the year, Patrick Eaves, Jordin Tootoo and Darren Helm will all be on the injured reserve and once they are ready to come back, the Red Wings will have to make some roster moves to stay under the cap and the player limit.  I see a situation where Emmerton, Eaves and Tootoo end up getting traded or sent down at some point this year.  Unfortunately this is what happens when you have too many bottom 6 forwards.  It’s going to be an interesting first year in the Eastern Conference, that’s for sure.

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Forwards

The Detroit Red Wings are looking at a pretty solid group of forwards, but they clearly have too many.  Expected lines for the season opener against the Buffalo Sabres are:

Zetterberg/Datsyuk/Abdelkader

Franzen/Weiss/Alfredsson

Cleary/Andersson/Bertuzzi

Miller/Emmerton/Samuelsson

Out: Tatar/Helm/Eaves/Tootoo

The top six forwards for this year are going to be vastly improved.  The Red Wings had a goals scored per game average of 2.54 last year, which was their lowest since 1976-77 according to MLive’s Ansar Khan.  This is where Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss will come in.  Weiss is a better two-way forward than Valtteri Filppula and has a higher offensive ceiling.  If Weiss stays healthy, I expect a minimum of 50 points out of him this season.  Putting Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen on a line with Weiss makes me believe that there will be a lot of offensive output.  Franzen will have two solid playmakers to work with and Alfredsson is no slouch at putting the puck in the net.  Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader are all poised to have career years (Abdelkader mostly because he is playing with Pav and Z).  Datsyuk will have the most open ice he has seen in his career and won’t have to deal with the close-checking Western Conference teams, this should scare teams.

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Most importantly, rather than having four or five solid forwards and lacking depth, this top six could be one of the best top sixes in the NHL.  Then when you add in the fact that they have young goal scorers like Tatar and Nyquist, who should be in the lineup for most of the season, this team will have depth like Red Wings fans haven’t seen in a while.  Hell, even having Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary on the third or fourth line isn’t a bad thing.  Both of them will be solid forwards, even if I’m not exactly thrilled that they are taking spots for younger guys.

I’m pretty excited to see what the power play will look like this year, which wasn’t great and only converted on 18.4% of their chances last year.  My guess is Babcock will send out Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen or Abdelkader, with Niklas Kronwall and Alfredsson on the point for the first unit.  Having a skilled right handed shot at the point is going to be helpful, and they haven’t had that since Brian Rafalski.

As I said before, Tomas Tatar is a healthy scratch, Darren Helm, Jordin Tootoo, and Patrick Eaves are on the IR, and Gustav Nyquist in the AHL.  Tatar and Nyquist simply have too much still not to be in the top 12.  Here’s what Babcock had to say about Tatar being a healthy scratch:

“I like him,” Babcock said of Tatar. “I think he’s a good player. He’s a very usable player, has a knack for the net. But early going in the season, tie goes to the veteran not to the kid. That’s just life.”

Personally, I think the fact that Mikael Samuelsson is still on the team is a complete joke.  The fact that he is making $3 Million a year and is playing on the 4th line is an embarrassment.  This team has a lot of potential and my hope is that they are somehow able to move Samuelsson or they just make him a healthy scratch.  I think that eventually the younger guys will end up playing a lot, it just appears that the Red Wings are starting the year off with veterans until they can make some roster moves to help the team.  The best thing to do would be to make the moves as soon as possible to get Nyquist and Tatar back in the lineup.  Lucky for the Red Wings, they’re in the Eastern Conference now so the season will be less of a grind for the older guys and the players will dominate more offensively.

Defense

Kronwall/Ericsson

DeKeyser/Kindl

Quincey/Smith

Out: Lashoff

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Despite my hope, the Red Wings did not get rid of Kyle Quincey in the offseason.  Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson will return as the number one defensive pair and I’m excited to see how Jakub Kindl and Danny DeKeyser have progressed in the offseason.  Overall, I am pretty content with the Red Wings top 4, even though I would like someone else in there instead of Kindl.  The 3rd pairing is where things get interesting.  Kyle Quincey is complete garbage and is drastically overpaid.  When he sucks, he makes Brendan Smith look bad and people need to get off of Smith’s case.  Everyone always complains about his play and the fact he isn’t better yet, but he is only 24 years old and has only played 48 career NHL regular season games and 14 NHL playoff games.  The best idea for everyone hating on Smith would be to wait until he gets a full season under his belt before rushing to judgement on his play.  The reason he has been unable to get fully developed as a player is the fact he was stuck in the AHL for far too long.  I expect the defense to be improved this season, but it will be more difficult with the offensive power in the Eastern Conference.

Goalie

Howard

Gustavsson/Coreau/Mrazek

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Obviously Jimmy Howard took a massive leap forward as the Red Wings starting goalie and showed that he can handle the load as the franchise goalie.  I don’t see any reason to be concerned with Howard and I fully expect him to have a fantastic year and to make the Olympic team as Jonathan Quick’s backup.  The issue is that they need to find a backup goalie that can play 20-25 games of the season to give Howard some rest.  Jonas Gustavsson was supposed to be that guy, but unfortunately for the Red Wings, he can’t seem to stay healthy.  Jared Coreau played for Northern Michigan last year and might see some time in the NHL this year, but he will be in the AHL for most of the year.  The real candidate to play some significant game time if Gustavsson is hurt is Petr Mrazek.  Mrazek is a future #1 stud and he is going to be a force in the NHL one day.  The only reason he isn’t on the team right now is he can play more games in the AHL and get more experience since he’s still so young.

Season Outlook

Personally I don’t see the Red Wings winning the Atlantic Division over the Boston Bruins this season.  The Bruins are far too deep, at least on paper, and they will cause some problems for the Red Wings.  They are one of the few teams that has a perfect combination of physicality and skill and their big forwards could cause problems.  I really hate that the first two rounds of the playoffs take place within the division, because that is going to hurt the Red Wings chances getting to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Right now, I think the Red Wings will make it to the 2nd round of the playoffs at the absolute worst and the only way they don’t make it to the Stanley Cup Finals is if they lose to the Bruins in the 2nd round.  If the playoff format was set up the same way it used to be, as opposed to this new way that is copying the AHL, the Red Wings would probably be facing the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals.  There isn’t another team other than the Bruins in the Eastern Conference that is complete enough to stay with the Red Wings; who will be more rested than ever at the end of the season because of the reduction in travel.  I have a good feeling about this coming season, the Eastern Conference is going to be a cake walk compared to the Western Conference

NHL Season/Playoff Predictions

Normally I don’t do this type of stuff, but I’m especially bored in class today, so I’m listing the teams I think will make the playoffs, who plays in the Conference Finals, the Stanley Cup winner and the individual award winners.

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Western Conference

Central (asterisk denotes playoff team):

*1. Chicago
*2. St. Louis
*3. Minnesota
*4. Dallas
5. Nashville
6. Colorado
7. Winnipeg

Pacific:

*1. Los Angeles
*2. San Jose
*3. Anaheim
*4. Vancouver
5. Edmonton
6. Phoenix
7. Calgary

Western Conference Finals: Los Angeles Kings over Chicago Blackhawks, 4-2

Eastern Conference

Metropolitan:

*1. Pittsburgh
*2. New York Rangers
*3. Philadelphia
*
4. Washington
5. New York Islanders
6. Columbus
7. Carolina
8. New Jersey

Atlantic:

*1. Boston
*2. Detroit
*3. Toronto
*4. Ottawa
5. Montreal
6. Tampa Bay
7. Florida
8. Buffalo

Eastern Conference Finals: Boston Bruins over New York Rangers, 4-3

Stanley Cup Finals: Los Angeles Kings over Boston Bruins, 4-2

Award Winners:

Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby

Art Ross Trophy: Evgeni Malkin

Maurice Richard Trophy: Steven Stamkos

Norris Trophy: Shea Weber

Vezina Trophy: Jimmy Howard

Selke Trophy: Pavel Datsyuk

Calder Trophy: Seth Jones

Jack Adams Award: Mike Babcock

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