Another hockey season begins in the NHL with all 30 teams competing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a chance at winning the Stanley Cup. 16 teams will qualify, with only one team left standing with the Trophy. The Detroit Red Wings barely qualified for the postseason last year, and were quickly eliminated by the Boston Bruins in 5 games. The reason? It was simple. The influx of young players like Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and other younger players disappeared when the playoffs started. They were the reason the Red Wings qualified for the playoffs, but were also the same reason the Red Wings were ousted in the first round. It seems to be common for younger players to be like a deer in the headlights when it’s playoff time. The benefit is the younger players experienced the intensity of the playoffs,which should help them during the upcoming campaign.
Mentioning young players, it would be a good idea to mention them by name starting with the players on the roster as of opening night. They are, Tomas Jurco, Andrej Nestrasil, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Tatar. Players who played well during the pre season and were sent down to the Red Wings Grand Rapids Michigan affiliate are Defense men Xavier Ouellet, and Nick Jensen. Forward Anthony Mantha broke his leg before the season began, but the Red Wings are very optimistic he can become a 35goal scorer eventually. Goaltender Petr Mrazek has an excellent chance of being on the Red Wings roster next season as Jimmy Howard’s backup. It would not be a surprise to see these players in the lineup as the season progresses due to injuries.
The rest of the Red Wings roster not mentioned previously beginning with the forwards are: Justin Abdelkader, Joakim Andersson, Daniel Cleary, Johan Franzen, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Drew Miller, Stephen Weiss, Henrik Zetterberg, and Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk is currently on short term IR due to a shoulder separation during the pre season. That is one reason why Andrej Nestrasil is on the roster, as he is out of options if sent to Grand Rapids, and there is a chance he would be claimed by another team. The defense men are: Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindle, Nicklas Kronwall, Brian Lashoff, Kyle Quincy, and Brendan Smith. There are no rookies in this group. The Goaltenders are Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson.
A notable omission is Daniel Alfredsson, who is testing has back before deciding if he wants to play this season. Alfredsson has stated he will play for the Red Wings only, which means he can sign with the team before the trade deadline if necessary, or retire.
There are some question marks concerning the defense. Ken Holland tried to sign a right handed shooting defense man during free agent period with no success. So all of the current defense men are left-handed. It is possible one of the defense men may be traded to obtain or make room for a right handed shooting defense man. One name frequently mentioned is Jakub Kindle. After playing well and signing a three-year contract, Kindle’s play regressed last season.
Other question marks on the team are Daniel Cleary, Stephen Weiss, Johan Franzen, Brian Lashoff, and Jimmy Howard.The Cleary signing was a surprise, as he seemed to slow down last season due to knee problems. He was faster during the pre season, but didn’t contribute. Stephen Weiss was in effect out of action the last 2 seasons due to injuries and just seems to be trying to get back into game shape. Franzen seems to play hot and cold-scoring goals in bunches then disappearing for long stretches. He needs to be more consistent. Brian Lashoff is the seventh defense man, and plays a stay at home style, but like some of the defense men he declined during last season. Jimmy Howard was inconsistent last season, and he admits to it. He did have injuries, but was left out to dry by his defense men many times.
The Red Wings need to be more consistent, and to maintain a healthy roster if they intend to qualify for the playoffs. It is very important veterans’ Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericcson, and Niklas Kronwall, and others maintain their health for the Red Wings to maintain their playoff streak. Mike Babcock confidently predicts the Red Wings will be in the playoffs this season, but there are many obstacles besides team health. The month of October will be a difficult one for the Red Wings, as they will be competing against many top teams. Ken Holland has stated there are 5 top teams,and 15 teams after them, with the Red Wings among the 15.
The Red Wings can finish anywhere from second in the Atlantic Division (behind Boson), or they will miss the playoffs. So the question is can the Red Wings qualify for the twenty fourth year in a row?
The answer is: Maybe.