Red Wings

2013-14 Detroit Red Wings Preview: Motoring THROUGH the Eastern Conference

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Is it just me or did the NHL offseason just fly by?

It seriously feels like we just got finished talking about a heartbreaking Game 7 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals and now we find ourselves on the eve of making our Eastern Conference debut against the Buffalo Sabres.

Hey though, I’m not complaining… Like any other Red Wings season I’m always looking forward to it but this year more so than others.

So let’s just jump into it…

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Biggest Offseason Additions

Daniel Alfredsson (UFA signing via the Ottawa Seators): Perhaps the biggest surprise this offseason came when longtime Ottawa Senator Daniel Alfredsson spurned his former team to sign a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. Sure he’s old (40 to be exact) but he can still play and it’s not like he’ll be asked to do everything on this current Red Wings team. With his booming right handed shot Alfie will be a huge weapon on the power play as well as regular strength.

Stephen Weiss (UFA signing via the Florida Panthers): After losing Valtteri Filppula to free agency the Wings inked Weiss to a five year deal worth $4.9 million per giving a nice paycheck to a guy that could certainly be a top six forward on the team. Weiss however was limited by injury last season so it’s going to be interesting to see how he bounces back but prior to that Weiss was a pretty consistent 20+ goal scorer. With that said there’s really no good reason why he can’t continue that pace this season and going forward.

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Biggest Offseason Departures

Valtteri Filppula (UFA to the Tampa Bay Lightning): For some reason this move reminds me of Fedorov bolting Detroit for the money and the larger role with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The problem here is Filppula is no Fedorov… not even close. Sure he’ll be missed on the second line but Weiss should be a viable replacement plus there would’ve been no justification in giving Filppula five years and $25 million.

Damien Brunner (UFA to the New Jersey Devils): Much like Filppula, I like Brunner. I thought he served a role on the team however he again like Filppula tremendously over valued himself and I applaud Ken Holland for not biting. Brunner has the potential to be a good goal scorer in the NHL but at 27 it’s not like he’s some young hotshot with a high ceiling. Brunner was pretty disappointing down the stretch finding himself as a healthy scratch in some games and simply not worth what he was initially asking.

Ian White (UFA): Ian White seemed to of quickly fall into the Mike Babcock doghouse and never really get himself out of it. The Wings simply chose to go with a younger defensive core that obviously didn’t include White which is fine with me.

Carlo Colaiacovo (Buyout): Initially I like the Colaiacovo signing but he proved to be an injury liability and a guy you really couldn’t count on. Again much like White the Wings chose to go younger.

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Projected Depth Chart

Forwards

First Line Henrik Zetterberg Pavel Datsyuk Justin Abdelkader
Second Line Johan Franzen Stephen Weiss Daniel Alfredsson
Third Line Todd Bertuzzi Joakim Andersson Tomas Tatar
Fourth Line Drew Miller Dan Cleary Mikael Samuelsson
Extra Roster Players Darren Helm (LTIR) Patrick Eaves (IR) Jordin Tootoo

Today the Red Wings sent forward Gustav Nyquist and goaltender Petr Mrazek back to Grand Rapids. Mrazek is a guy that is probably a future starting goaltender for the Wings but he needs more starts to mold himself into that which isn’t happening right now with the big club. Nyquist on the other hand after what he was able to do last season in the playoffs is ready for the NHL. However he still can be sent down without having to go through waivers which was more than likely the reason with this move. I’m okay with it and there’s nothing wrong with having more depth at the forward position.

Overall though I like what the Wings have to offer when it comes to their forwards, especially the top six. Datsyuk is in a class all by himself while Abdelkader should continue to benefit from playing on a line with two world class players. Meanwhile the second line of Weiss, Alfredsson and Franzen have really looked good so far in the preseason.

The bigger questions come on the third and fourth lines. With Darren Helm being on the long-term IR can Dan Cleary and Joakim Andersson hold down the fort for the foreseeable future? I have all the confidence in the world that Cleary can but what will Andersson become with playing a full season at this level? He’s shown ability and can be a vital piece in the face off circle. We simply need a bigger sample size though. Aside from that you have to wonder if Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson can hold up health wise for an entire season.

Defense

First Pairing Niklas Kronwall Jonathan Ericsson
Second Pairing Dan DeKeyser Jakub Kindl
Third Pairing Kyle Quincey Brendan Smith
Extra Brian Lashoff

Despite getting some valuable experience last season this defensive core is still young. I would’ve liked for them to go out and sign someone in the offseason but that simply wasn’t the case. With that said though Brendan Smith should be better and it’s going to be fun to see what DeKeyser brings in a full season. As a whole the defense was better than expected last year, hopefully that carries over to this season.

Goaltending

Jimmy Howard is the starter no question. In fact I don’t care what some of the detractors say he’s a top ten goaltender in the league that the Wings are getting tremendous value on. He without a doubt CAN lead this team to the Stanley Cup.

My question goes beyond Howard and to Jonas Gustavsson who’s been plagued by injuries in his time with the Wings.

I think Petr Mrazek is a valuable piece to the future of this team but he needs playing time which he won’t get backing up Howard if Gustavsson’s hurt.

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What to keep an eye on

Alfredsson’s role: Alfredsson filled a hole for the Wings when it came to that right handed shot. Keep an eye on the role he’ll have going forward this season especially when it comes to the power play.

The Defense: Are they starting to mature and become a collective unit? I’m fine with not fine tuning it in the offseason and moving forward with the kids, hopefully though it doesn’t come back to bite them in the end.

Scoring: The Wings didn’t go out and get that prototypical goal scorer this offseason but they did fill some voids with the addition of Weiss and Alfredsson. Is that enough or will the Wings find themselves in some very real goal droughts going forward?

Special Teams: The special teams for the Wings last year was very underwhelming. On the penalty kill they were 12th in the NHL while on the power play they were 15th. Darren Helm’s absence will certainly continue to hurt on the penalty kill but Alfredsson once again should kelp on the power play. Bottom line both need to be better, especially in the Eastern Conference that saw eight teams ahead of Detroit on the power play in 2013.

Why the Red Wings will succeed in 2013-14

When this team is clicking on all cylinders they are very hard to stop and we got a taste of that in last year’s playoffs. This is especially the case when it comes to the top six up front and what they potentially could do on the power play. Plus Jimmy Howard is a guy that’s certainly going to prove his worth as the season progresses.

Why the Red Wings will fail in 2013-14

This team still isn’t the same crazy deep team that we’ve seen before so if the injury bug hits expect some very real lows throughout 2013-14. You also have to look at defense and some of the youth there. Jimmy Howard is good but he can’t do it all by himself beyond the blue line.

Finally if the Wings can’t consistent scoring past the second line Detroit could find themselves on the lower end of Eastern Conference playoff teams.

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Final Predictions

Heading into this season all I heard were the general cliches regarding this conference. It’s bigger, it’s more talented and so on and so on and so on. Red Wings fans seemed excited but very scared at the same time.

Now I’m only going to say this once… don’t be scared of the East.

What I see when it comes to the Eastern Conference prior to this season are two teams at the top that can go out an win a Stanley Cup and a everyone else. Boston and Pittsburgh are two very good teams but they aren’t perfect. The Bruins had some turnover on their roster while the Penguins still have huge questions in net. I also understand the Wings have their own question marks but my point is the top two teams are beatable.

When you move on from them though I see a bunch of mediocrity.

Washington has proven time and time again they can’t win with Ovechkin. The New York Rangers have proven time and time again that Lundqvist can’t do it by himself and please don’t get me started on the Canadian teams in this conference. Toronto is stuck in neutral, Montreal is stuck with a horrible Carey Price contract and the Senators (who should be better with the addition of Bobby Ryan) don’t have the overall talent to really overcome the top teams in the East.

Regular Season Prediction: Second in the Atlantic and third overall in the East

Playoff Prediction: A loss to the Boston Bruins (7 games) in the Conference Finals

 

 

 

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