Detroit Red Wings 2011-12 Season Preview

A new hockey season is upon us, and all the NHL teams have additions and subtractions for the upcoming season. The Detroit Red Wings are no exception. This article will feature the changes to the team, and their possible outcome(s). First the subtractions to the team were the following: forwards Mike Modano and Kris Draper, defensemen Ruslan Salei and Brian Rafalski, and goaltender Chris Osgood.

Mike Modano had a sub par season, but part of it was due to missing half of the season with a severe laceration on his wrist. Chris Osgood had hernia surgery and was never the same. Ruslan Salei was killed in a tragic plane accident in Russia; he hadn’t been re-signed. Brian Rafalski was an excellent seam passer, but had lost a couple of steps, and who was turnover prone, retired. Kris Draper retired after a successful career.

The additions to the Red wings are: defensemen Ian White and Mike Commodore; forwards Jan Murzak, Cory Emmerton, Fabian Brunnstrom; and goaltender Ty Conklin.The Red Wings also added Jakub Kindl, who played parts of the 2010-11 with the Wings.

Ian White has played on various teams, but is a good puck-moving defenseman who was brought in as a Brian Rafalski replacement. While White may not have the same passing abilities as Rafalski, he does bring an element of toughness, and has a good shot. He is also a right handed shot, something the Red Wings wanted in Rafalski’s absence. Mike Commodore was signed as a six or seventh defenseman to add depth and toughness, something the Red Wings seemed to lack on defense last year. When he plays, he should help clear the crease area.

Jan Murzak was promoted to the Red Wings as a fourth-line depth player who unfortunately broke his ankle during the preseason and is out until later December. Cory Emmerton was also promoted and more than likely see time on the fourth line. Fabain Brunnstrom was a training camp invitee and impressed Mike Babcock, was offered a two way contract. The injury to Jan Murzak gives Brunnstrom an opportunity to show how he can help the team. Ty Conklin played for the Red Wings two season ago, and had an impressive record when in Detroit. He is willing to be Jimmy Howard’s backup and should be a valuable addition. Jakub Kindle was promoted last season and was the teams seventh defenseman. He has progressed to being the fifth or sixth defenseman or third defensive pairing with Jonathan Ericsson.

The rest of the team has a strong core which includes forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan Franzen and the ageless defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom. Players such as forwards Dan Cleary, Jiri Hudler, and Darren Helm need to escalate their games. Johan Franzen and especially Jiri Hudler had sub par seasons last year and need to step up this season for the Red Wings to be a top tier team. The Red Wings have over 5 million dollars under the salary cap, and Ken Holland may tweak the lineup before the trade deadline by adding a scoring forward and/or defenseman. This depends on injuries and the teams standing.

The Red Wings should win the Central Division again this season even though teams within their division made off season changes. The final Central Standings will be as follows:

1) Detroit
2) Nashville
3) Chicago
4) St. Louis
5) Columbus

Nashville always has a top defense and goaltending, and Barry Trotz  has his team play an energized game. Chicago lost their number two puck moving defenseman (Brian Campbell), and added two journeymen in Dan Carcillo and Jamal Mayers. With these two additions Chicago may be on the penalty kill a lot this season, plus the goaltending is questionable. St. Louis is rebuilding and will have their ups and downs. Columbus is still trying to discover the right mix of players in order to be a contender. Based on this assumption (the Red Wings winning the Central Division), the lowest they could be is the number three seed going into the playoffs. For the Red Wings to finish higher in the Western Conference will depend on injuries and trade deadline activities as the season plays out.

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