The Detroit Red Wings announced this week, to no surprise, that they would not be bringing back forward Robert Lang for next season. Lang came to Detroit in 2003-04 from the Washington Capitals during a career-high season, in which he had 74 points in 63 games for the Caps. Lang, during the 2004 playoffs, was agreeably the team’s best player and performed well up until this season.
During the 2006-07 campaign, however, Lang’s play was uninspiring and he racked up just 52 points, his lowest total since he had 50 points during the 2001-02 campaign (he only played 62 games that season). He also played poorly and minimally in the playoffs this past season, mustering only eight points in 18 playoff games. The money they were paying him will help make room for Pavel Datsyuk’s contract.
For just the second time in recent memory, the Red Wings actually had a first round pick. They opted for defenseman Brendan Smith of St. Michael’s in the Ontario Provincial Junior “A” Hockey League. Smith put up 36 points in 39 games during the regular season and added nine points in seven games during the playoffs. Smith will play for the University of Wisconsin in the fall.
The Red Wings next pick was a third rounder (88th overall) and they took Swedish center Joakim Andersson. Andersson had 46 points in 41 games for Frölunda in the Swedish junior leagues this season. Both NHL Central Scouting and ISS said he is two-way forward, fitting the mold typical of a member of the Red Wings. Andersson is now added to the stockpiled Swedish talent the Red Wings have.
Detroit did not draft a goaltender in the draft as the last three players they selected were Randy Cameron (fifth round, 148th overall), Zack Torquato (sixth round, 178th overall) and Bryan Rufenach (seventh round, 208th overall). The team hinted that they were looking for a goaltender in some of the articles published in the local newspapers, but with no netminders projected to go in the first round, it would have been foolish to pick one with the 27th overall spot. By the time the 88th pick rolled around, top goaltenders Joel Gistedt (36th), Antoine Lafleur (48th), Trevor Cann (49th), Jeremy Smith (54th), Timo Pielmeier (83rd) and Josh Unice (86th) were all taken.
The Red Wings did what they always do in this year‘s entry draft, choose players that need time to develop. While none of them will be ready for the NHL anytime soon, most assuredly, Assistant General Manager Jim Nill found a diamond in the rough once again.
Hasek Returns, So Howard Remains in AHL
With Hasek coming back for one more season (although no contract has been signed), goaltending prospect Jimmy Howard will play at least one more season in the AHL (remember Ryan Miller took three years in the AHL after leaving college to a become a top goaltender). Last season Howard was 21-21-3 with a 2.7 GAA and a .911 SV %, not bad, but the Red Wings will be looking for better numbers next season before they let him test the waters of the NHL.
In the playoffs, however, Howard showed his potential as he went 3-4 with a remarkable 1.93 GAA and a solid .927 SV %. Somewhat puzzling, though, is the fact that as much as the Red Wings talk about Howard being their future, they gave him only a little over half of the starts during the season, as he split time with the other goaltending prospect Stefan Liv (who later decided to return to Sweden, leaving Howard with the full reigns).