The Detroit Red Wings enter the season without their Captain Henrik Zetterberg who is now on LTIR due to his back problems. What it means, of course, is an opportunity for a younger player to make the team, as the team continues on a rebuilding path to become younger and faster. Zetterberg was second in team scoring to Dylan Larkin with 56 total points, and played in all 82 games which was quite an achievement considering his back condition. He will not only be missed for his contributions over the years, but also his leadership. The Red Wings announced the team will now have 4 alternate captions this season. They are Justin Abdelkader, Frans Nielsen, Niklas Kronwall, and Dylan Larkin. The current plan is to alternate Nielsen and Larkin, with Larkin being an alternate during home games, and Nielsen for road games.
Before going into an analysis of the roster, a synopsis of the 2017-18 will be summarized.
The Detroit Red Wings record for the 2017-18 season was 30-39-13 for a total of 73 points finishing 5th in the Atlantic Division. They finished 26th of 31 teams. Goals for were 217 (28th of 31). Goals against were 255 (21st of 31). They were 5-1 in Shootouts continuing their success from the previous season. Their record in one-goal games was 8-27, an obvious sore spot noted by the coaching staff. In fact they led the NHL with the 27 one-goal losses. In order to improve it’s obvious they need to come out ahead in one-goal games. Not sure if the talent is there this season to improve on that stat. One final statistic is the Power Play and Penalty kill. Scotty Bowman used to say if the 2 combined for 100% the team was in good shape. The PP was 17% which ranked 24th last season and averaged last over the past two seasons. The PK was ranked 23rd at a success rate of 77.5%. So combined they are at 94.5%. Not good. This summary explains why the Red Wings finished were they did, and shows what needs to be done for improvement during the 2018-19 Season.
The 2018-19 Roster will be analyzed by a player-by-player analysis since players may be moved back and forth between Detroit and Grand Rapids due to performance and injuries. Also with a lineup in constant flux, the forward and defensive pairings will always be changing. Starting with the forwards, here is a breakdown.
Dylan Larkin (71) C
Larkin had a bounce-back season in 2017-18. In 82 games he had 16 goals along with 47 assists for a total of 63 points. He improved his overall play and was more of a set up man. The team expects more in 2017-18 from their potential Captain.
Antony Mantha (39) LW
Mantha had 24 goals along with 24 assists for a total of 48 points in 80 games. He is a big player with good hands who can also crash the net. He has the potential to score over 30 goals, but he needs to stay engaged. It seems on some nights he takes off shifts and even some games.
Gustav Nyquist (14) RW
Nyquist had 21 goals along with 19 assists for a total of 40 points in 82 games. He is a versatile shifty player, but tends to avoid contact. The team is hoping for more this season. Nyquist is in a contract year, so he could be traded at the deadline. He does have a NTC, so he can dictate where he could possibly be traded.
Thomas Vanek (26) LW/RW
Vanek had 24 goals along with 32 assists for a total of 56 points while playing for Vancouver and Columbus last season. He is a smart player and a good mentor for the young players. Vanek also has an NTC.
Justin Abdelkader (8) LW
Abdelkader had 13 goals along with 22 assists for a total of 35 points in 75 games. Abdelkader is currently signed to a long-term contract, but his physical play along with his scoring has been declining. The team is expecting and hoping for more.
Andreas Athanasiou (72) LW
Athanasiou had 16 goals along with 17 assists for a total of 33 points in 75 games, which was a good accomplishment considering the minutes he played. He has great speed but tended to cheat hoping to get a pass to go on a breakaway. He is a player who should see more ice time with Zetterberg’s departure but needs to develop a total game.
Frans Nielsen (51) C
Nielsen had 16 goals along with 17 assists for a total of 33 points in 79 games. He was used mostly as a checker on the third line, hence his low totals. With Zetterberg gone Nielsen has been moved up to the second line and assuming he stays there his scoring should improve. Between him and Vanek, the Red Wings have two deadly snipers for shootouts.
Darren Helm (43) LW
Helm had 13 goals along with 18 assists for a total of 39 points in 75 games. Helm has great speed and is used on the PK, so he did well in the scoring department considering his positioning on bottom lines. He can do better if he finishes more of his chances this season.
Tyler Bertuzzi (59) LW
Bertuzzi had 7 goals along with 17 assists for a total of 24 points in 48 games. He joined the team later in the season and plays a hard game finishing his checks. He is starting the season on one of the top lines.
Martin Frk (42) RW
Frk had 11 goals along with 14 assists for a total of 25 points in 68 games. Frk has a cannon for a shot but has accuracy issues. He is used on the power play with his weapon.
Luke Witkowski (28) RW/RD
Witkowski had 1 goal and 3 assists for a total of 4 points in 31games. Witkowski can play defense or forward and adds toughness when he is in the lineup.
Luke Glendening (41) C
Glendening had 11 goals and 8 assists for a total of 19 points. His value is on the penalty kill and agitating opponents.
Christoffer Ehn (70) C
Ehn made the team after a try out during the preseason. He is big 6-2 193 pounds and is a good defensive center.
Michael Rasmussen (27) C
Rasmussen was the Red Wings top draft pick in 2017. With his size 6-6, 221 pounds the team is counting on him to be strong on the puck while being a front net presence.
This summarizes forwards as of opening night. One possible addition could be Filip Zadina (11) who was the Detroit Red Wings first draft selection in 2018.
Mike Green (25) RD
Green had 8 goals and 25 assists for a total of 33 points in 66 games before his season ended with a neck injury. He had surgery during the off-season and signed a two-year contract with the Red Wings during the summer. Green can move the puck out of his defensive zone efficiently and can quarterback the power play. His weakness is playing defensively as he tends to turnover the puck.
Niklas Kronwall (55) RD
Kronwall had 4 goals and 23 assists for a total of 27 points in 79 games. Kronwall has been a warrior over the years, but knee problems have severely limited his mobility. He is in the last year of his contract.
Jonathan Ericsson (52) LD
Ericsson had 3 goals and 10 assists for a total of 13 points in 81 games. He has a long reach which makes him effective especially during a penalty kill. He turns the puck over due to panicking when a checker comes at him. He would be more efficient if he held on to the puck for another second before trying to pass it.
Danny DeKeyser (65) LD
DeKeyser had 6 goals and 6 assists for a total of 12 points in 65 games. He was injured during the start of the 2017-18 season, and it seemed to hinder him for most of the season. He played well when he was on the second defensive pairing, but had problems when on the top defensive unit. Since then he has struggled. The team is hoping for better this season and a healthy start by DeKeyser.
Trevor Daley (83) RD
Daley had 9 goals and 7 assists for a total of 16 points in 77 games. Daley joined the team during the 2017-18 season. He brings a steadying influence on a defense that sorely needs it. The team is hoping for more this season.
Nick Jensen (3) RD
Jensen had no goals and 15 assists for a total of 15 points. Jensen’s asset is speed, which helps him in moving the puck out of his defensive zone. His problem is his decisions, which lead to defensive turnovers. He needs to improve them.
Dennis Cholowski (21) LD
Cholowski made the team out of training camp. He was the Red Wings top draft pick at 20 in 2016. He has good speed and has shown good poise to date.
Luber Sulak (47) LD
Sulak also made the team out of training camp. He previously played in the Czech Republic. The word on Sulak is a big mobile defenseman who actively supports the forwards, something the team really needs. He was signed as a free agent in May 2017.
Filip Hronek (17) RD
Hronek is currently on the team due to injuries. He was the Red Wings second pick in the 2016 draft, 53rd overall.
Joe Hicketts (2) LD
Hicketts had no goals and 3 assists for a total of 3 points in 5 games. While small in stature Hicketts plays a fearless game and will not back down.
Jimmy Howard (35)
Howard played in 60 games last year and had a 2.85 goals against average, with a .910 Save Percentage.
Jonathan Bernier (45)
Bernier was signed by the Red Wings to a 3-year contract last summer. While with the Colorado Avalanche during the 2017-18 season. He played in 37 games and also had a 2.85 goals against average. His Save Percentage was .913.
Both goaltenders have similar statistics and will share net duties. Both desire to be the number one goaltender and their play will dictate it.
Jimmy Howard is in the last year of his contract, so he has a great incentive to play well.
Both goaltenders will need to be on top of their game considering the state of the defense for the team to be successful.
The Red Wings are now officially in a rebuild mode even though it’s been obvious the past few seasons. Obtaining several players in the past few entry drafts, the hope for Red Wing fans is progress from the young players. Some Red Wing fans are also hoping the Red Wings will have a chance to draft top defenseman from Michigan Jack Hughes in the 2019 entry draft. So the chant is “Lose for Hughes”. Knowing the strange circumstances the Red Wings have encountered with the NHL over the last few years, it doesn’t seem plausible seeing Hughes in a Red Wing jersey.
Many so-called experts expect the Red Wings to finish at the bottom by seasons end. With the parity in the NHL anything is possible, but making the playoffs does seem unlikely, so let the rebuild continue.