The NHL season opens with new anticipation for fans of the Detroit Red Wings. After playing hockey in the Western Conference for the last 20 years the Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference and are in the Atlantic Division with Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. This creates a reunion of four of the original six teams, something Red Wing fans have impatiently waited for since 1993. The move to the Eastern Conference will be a blessing for the Red Wings and their fans due to reduced travel time for the Red Wings, and earlier game starting times for Red Wing fans.
It also means renewed rivals with original six teams who the Red Wings sometimes played at home once every other season. Also being next door to Windsor Ontario, Canadian fans will come to Detroit to watch games when Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto play at Joe Louis Arena. There will be spice added to the games when Ottawa plays at Detroit due to Daniel Alfredsson signing with the Red Wings after playing his whole career (17 years) as Ottawa’s Captain.
The question for Red Wings fans is how will they fare in the Eastern Conference after taking eventual Stanley Cup winner Chicago to 7 games in last year’s playoffs. Let’s start with who is no longer with the Red Wings and then looking at additions to the team.
- Ian White (D): An unrestricted free agent not resigned by the team. White became expendable with the emergence of the younger defensemen.
- Carlo Colaiacovo (D): Was bought out by the team. Colaiacovo became expendable for the same reason as White.
- Damien Brunner (C): Was offered a contract by the team, but signed with New Jersey. Brunner ironically signed for the same term and money the Red Wings offered him.
- Valtteri Filppula (C): Filppula wanted a multiyear contract, and the Red Wings did not like the price or term, Filppula eventually signed with Tampa Bay.
- Daniel Alfredsson (R): Alfredsson was signed as an unrestricted free agent from Ottawa. He joined the Red Wings with the idea he wanted to compete for the Stanley Cup. With the Red Wings having many Swedish players and Alfredsson also being Swedish factored in Alfredsson’s decision. He could be considered Damien Brunner’s replacement.
- Stephen Weiss (C): Weis signed a multi year contract with the Red Wings as a unrestricted free agent from Florida. Weiss is essentially a replacement for Valtteri Filppula. Weiss is not as a proficient skater as Filppula, but the Red Wings believe he will deliver a better complete game. Time will eventually answer that question.
Henrik Zetterberg – Pavel Datsyuk – Justin Abdelkader
Johan Franzen – Stephen Weiss – Daniel Alfredsson
Todd Bertuzzi – Joakim Andersson – Daniel Cleary
Drew Miller – Cory Emmerton – Mikael Samuelsson
Jonathan Ericsson – Niklas Kronwall
Brendan Smith – Kyle Quincey
Jakub Kindl – Danny DeKeyser
Darren Helm (long term)
Patrick Eaves (long term)
The addition of Cory Emmerton to the roster after being waived is due to the stipulation that a team must be at the top of the salary cap before adding players to the injured reserve list. Confusing, but that is how it works.
There are 4 players on Injured Reserve, 2 are short term and 2 long term.
Jordin Tootoo and Patrick Eaves are potential trade candidates once they are off Injured reserve. Both players bring good skills, but are caught in a numbers crunch (Salary & roster spot).
Jonas Gustavsson strained his groin during the pre season and is day to day. Darren Helm has back and groin problems and was placed on long term reserve.
To be compliant in salary and roster spots, the Red Wings put Cory Emmerton (C) on waivers and he was not claimed.
Gustov Nyquist was also sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins, as he is waiver exempt. If he plays 2 more NHL games he will no longer be exempt, so this move was a temporary numbers game.
Some Detroit Red Wing fans have asked why the team did not send Mikael Samuelsson and/or Todd Bertuzzi through waivers. Since both players are over 35 years old and if they were sent to Grand Rapids there would only be $100,000 cap relief for each player, plus the Red Wings do value experienced players. They also have no trade clauses.
The outlook for the team based on the pre season and the overall changes since last season.
The team still features Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterburg. Even though older they are two of the premier forwards in the NHL. Mike Babcock wants to keep them on the same line with Justin Abdelkader, if possible.
The second line features Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss, and Daniel Alfredsson. Again Mike Babcock is figuring on this to be a potent second line.
The third and fourth lines will more than likely feature shuffling due to production and injuries.
The young defense did quite well last season, but now face the grind of the 82 game schedule. This will be Brendan Smith’s first full season, but he struggled during last season and this year’s pre season. Danny DeKeyser performed admirably during last year and the pre season, but has not played many games yet in the NHL. The other young defensemen are also a work in progress, and will gain valuable experience this season. The Red Wings will continue to look for an experienced NHL defenseman during the season.
Jimmy Howard was a work horse for the team last season, and had to be due to injuries and inconsistent play from backup Jonas Gustavsson. Gustavsson pulled his groin during the pre season and is currently on short-term injured reserve. Mike Babcock is expecting better results from Gustavsson, but his patience is wearing thin. Goaltender Peter Mrazek was
Also sent to Grand Rapids and Jared Coreau replaced him. Whether the Red Wings play Mrazek or Coreau if Gustavason falters, or tries to trade for an experienced goaltender during the season remains to be determined.
With the Red Wings moving to a new conference and having a young defense core, the Red Wings will go as far as their performance. As for the Eastern Conference being more physical that will be determined. The Red Wings plan to force their opponents to play their style of game rather than the other way around. The Red Wings may actually be in an easier division than when they were in the Western Conference. Of course again that will be determined when the season begins. The Red Wings will make the playoffs for the 23rd season in a row, and finish second to the Boston Bruins.