I was trying to get this done before the season officially opened and before any cuts were made, but as it turns out, having a real job really cuts into that. Shocker. I’m not going to write about Michigan football, I don’t want to jinx anything that is happening. Let me just say that I’m trying very hard not to get super excited about what Jim Harbaugh has done with this team so far. I was hoping for 8-4 or 9-3 and it seems like it could even get better than that at the moment. I also was not going to write about the Lions, but then Monday Night Football happened and I had to write-up a mini-rant.
The Red Wings will most definitely not be going by way of the Lions. Having people have high expectations and just absolutely dumping the bed is not an option for the Winged Wheel. Like clock work, I expect this team to make the playoffs, despite signing Dan Cleary.
Now the roster here has five too many players and $4.1 million over the cap. That’s because the Red Wings currently have five guys on IR and Datsyuk being on LTIR will keep the Red Wings under the cap. The problem is, once everyone is back healthy and active, the Red Wings will be back over the cap. So what do you do? You’re going to have to make a trade at some point. The Canadian Dollar tanking in value has been brutal for the NHL and I can tell you that Kyle Quincey or Jakub Kindl will be one of the two being moved. No one else can free up as much money as they can.
What will lines look like? Your guess is as good as mine. I just know that Jeff Blashill is a great coach and he will do a very good job utilizing talent. It’s good that there is a new voice in the locker room and I think he will do a good job of keeping things fresh, while utilizing the teams familiar play style and assets. It was time for a change and I think that this change will be better for Detroit in the long run. It will be important for Datsyuk to come back and be full-strength. He may be getting older, but the team will need him down the stretch and he’ll have to stay healthy. Even with injuries last year, he was still a point-a-game guy and you cannot just replace that. You can also just copy and paste what I just said and use it for Henrik Zetterberg. Z needs to stay healthy this year and thankfully he’s healthy right now. If Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar can build off their big time years last year then the offense should be humming along nicely.
Johan Franzen is going to end up being a bit of an x-factor here. I don’t expect much given his lengthy return from his major concussion, but if he can somehow stay healthy and pot 15 goals, that would be a huge boost given the contributions they should be getting from other players. I’m not sure if Darren Helm or Justin Abdelkader can take another step forward in terms of their production, but it would be nice to see if they can. Again, the Red Wings will need their depth to step up in order to compete in the playoffs. Their studs always show up, but it’s the depth players that they will need the added production from. Most teams are able to roll out 3 skilled lines now, if not 4, and the Red Wings will need to have the same kind of production from their so-called “bottom 6.”
I don’t have very high expectations for Brad Richards in terms of point production, but I think he will be able to contribute nicely with a pair of young wingers. He’s a reliable vet that will provide some much-needed depth down the middle while Pav is out. He’s looked good in the preseason so far, and I think that once Datsyuk is back, the depth at center will be a major asset. Let’s not forget about Luke Glendening or Drew Miller either. Glendening had a career year in terms of goal production and both are very valuable assets on the penalty kill. I don’t expect Glendening to score more this year, but if he could get close to what he did last year, that would be absolutely massive. This will also be an important year for Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen. Both of them have to take major strides in terms of their offensive production. I think Jurco will reach his potential under Blashill because Blashill will utilize him differently than Babcock did and Pulkkinen’s goal scoring ability in the AHL finally needs to translate to the NHL.
Now, for my money, I think Dylan Larkin has made the Opening Day roster for the Red Wings (I wrote this sentence before it became official and I’m keeping it). He showed in the preseason that he is clearly ready to play at the NHL level and I think that he will be an asset for the team compared to a guy like, you know, Dan Cleary. If I’m the one calling the shots, this is the lineup I’m rolling out with Datsyuk, Helm, Marchenko, Kindl and DeKeyser on the IR:
Could the line combinations be different? Absolutely. I do not love Jurco on the fourth line, but you have to get as much talent into the lineup as possible. I am certain that all of the line combinations will be different. But I don’t see how you go with any other group of 12 up front other than those 4 lines with who is on the IR. The Red Wings should focus on getting as much skill in the lineup as possible and I would love to see more NHL teams do this and get rid of the antiquated top 6-bottom 6 thinking. It’s a stigma that isn’t necessary anymore. There are enough skilled players that teams should be rolling out the best 12 guys, period. Especially the Red Wings. Go out and try to score as many goals as possible.
After all these years, we finally get to see what Mike Green can do wearing the Winged Wheel and I could not be more excited. He will be a major asset on the power play and will provide a much-needed boost on the point in terms of point production. Nik Kronwall and Danny DeKeyser were the only two defenseman with more than 20 points and Green will be able to quarterback the top powerplay unit. Losing DeKeyser for 3-4 weeks will hurt the depth and will cause some problems with some of the pairings. But Jeff Blashill has already said that Kyle Quincey will play with Mike Green and we already know that the Kronwall-Ericsson pair is not going anywhere.
Ericsson took a big step back last year and he has to show that he was worth that fat contract that Kenny Holland gave him. If Alexey Marchenko was not on the IR, I would think he would be the guy and that he would be in the lineup over Kindl, but he’s not healthy at the moment and neither is Kindl. So this leaves Xavier Ouellet as the 6th man to be paired with Brendan Smith until Kindl is back from his eye infection. Obviously, Smith and Kindl as a pair is not ideal (neither is Smith and Ouellet for that matter), but it’s going to have to work for the short-term. It will be interesting to see which defenseman gets moved out once guys start coming off the IR and the Salary Cap starts to rise again.
If I’m Jeff Blashill, I would alternate Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek at the start of the season until someone gets hot. Then you ride the hot goalie until he gets cold and then you make the switch. Personally, I think Petr Mrazek will end up taking the job in the long-term, but there is no reason not to give both of them a shot for the month of October and see who takes the reigns. Mrazek is going to be a stud. I’ve been saying it for years now and I truly believe it. He’s the type of guy that is built to steal games and will step up come playoff time. That all being said, there is no reason not to give Jimmy Howard a crack at the job during the regular season. He was playing fantastic last year until he got hurt and he’s always been a very rock solid regular season tendy.
And even though there are games where Mrazek will get shelled…he does stuff like this:
He’s extremely aggressive, which is how he can give up some bad ones, but he’s got a short-term memory and I think both are major assets for goalies.
If the Red Wings can stay healthy, I think they will finish in the top 2 of their division without any sort of problems. They have enough guys that can score goals that they will be able to make a nice little run. If one of the goalies can take the reins and get hot, this team could make it to the Eastern Conference Finals and I truly think that they can do it. It’s coming down to crunch time for the Red Wings in terms of winning another Stanley Cup and it’s time to go and get one this year.
NHL Season Predictions
Central (asterisk denotes playoff team):
*3. St. Louis
*2. Los Angeles
4. San Jose
Western Conference Finals: Anaheim Ducks over Dallas Stars 4-2
*2. New York Rangers
*3. New York Islanders
* 4. Washington
8. New Jersey
*1. Tampa Bay
Eastern Conference Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins over Detroit Red Wings 4-2
Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins over Anaheim Ducks 4-3
Phil Kessel is going to be a gamebreaker for the Penguins this year. If everyone on the Pens stays healthy, I don’t see anyway they don’t win the Stanley Cup this year.
Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby
Art Ross Trophy: Sidney Crosby
Maurice Richard Trophy: Steven Stamkos
Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty
Vezina Trophy: Carey Price
Selke Trophy: Jonathan Toews
Calder Trophy: Connor McDavid
Jack Adams Award: Jeff Blashill
By the way, if you’re looking for a great tool since Cap Geek went away and you don’t love Hockey’s Cap or General Fanager because you’re only a Red Wings fan. Check out this Google Doc.