Another NHL season is upon us, and Detroit Red Wings fans are hopeful that the team will improve from last year. Steve Yzerman has come back home and is the new General Manager, while Ken Holland has departed to Edmonton for a similar position. While Red Wings fans are happy to see Yzerman as the G.M., he has preached patience from day one. The team has been rebuilding or restructuring over the past three seasons, and has a few contracts that are currently hindering the teams development. Many fans place the blame on Ken Holland for some of these albatross contracts, and rightfully so. Ken Holland himself would agree. When the Red Wings had the string of 25 straight playoff appearances intact, it is believed management pressured Mr. Holland to keep it going with a plug here and there. After the obvious failure of plan working, Mr. Holland began trading players for multiple draft picks over the past few years. As a result the Red Wings have stockpiled many draft picks, and seem on the right track in their rebuilding efforts.
Before previewing the team, here is a listing of contracts that may be hampering the team:
1) Justin Abdelkader (LW) Signed through the 2020-23 Season at $4,250,000 per season. Abdelkader had a horrible 2018-19 season scoring only 6 goals, and 13 assists. He was also -14. Justin claims he worked out during the summer to improve his game. It would be beneficial to him and the team for him to regain his physical play.
2) Frans Nielsen (C) Signed through the 2021-22 Season at $5,250.000 per season. Ken Holland signed Nielson as an attempt to somewhat replace the retired Pavel Datsyuk. Nielsen scored 10 goals, and 25 assists. He was also -7. Nielsen’s production has been declining, but is still an asset defensively, and is one of the top shooters in the NHL at Shoot Outs.
3) Danny DeKeyser (LD) Signed through the 2021-22 Season at $5,000,000 per season. Ken Holland extended DeKeyser as he played well at the time. He was also on the second defensive pairing. Former coach Mile Babcock called DeKeyser , “The Eraser”, as he routinely covered his defensive partner’s mistakes. When DeKeyser was promoted to the top defensive pairing the top forwards on opposing teams exposed his weaknesses.
4) There are three defenseman (UFA’s) signed for one year for the upcoming season. They are Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson, and Trevor Daley. There is a possibility all three will be traded by the trade deadline. The only one of the three who may be resigned later even if traded is Mike Green. Right now Green may be the best defenseman on the team.
The defensemen stats were not published, as their primary job is to defend, not score.
The rest of this article is reviewing the remaining players on the team, and will not be evaluated by line up match ups, as they will be changed during the season. In some cases they may be changed several times during a game.
Dylan Larkin (C) Larkin is the closest player on the team to being classified as a super star. He made great strides last season, and fans are hoping for more. He scored 32 goals, 41 Assists, and was -6. He should be the teams next Captain
Andreas Athanasiou (C) Known as AA or “Doubles” to his teammates and fans, he has blazing speed and scores goals. AA scored 30 goals, 24 Assists, and was -9.
Anthony Mantha (RW) Mantha really took off last season scoring 25 goals, 23 assists, and was -8. He only played in 67 games. If he stays healthy, he should easily score over 30 goals.
Tyler Bertuzzi (LW) Bertuzzi is a grinder who knows where to go around the net to score the so-called ”Garbage Goals”. He is not afraid to mix it up and agitate opponents. He scored 21 goals, 26 assists, and was +11.
These four forwards are considered part of the team’s young core for the future.
Luke Glendening (C) Glendening is a grinder, agitator who is excellent on face offs and the PK. Not known as a goal scorer he scored 10 goals, 13 assists, and was +2.
Darren Helm (LW) Helm is primarily a defensive player who still has good speed. He is not a goal scorer, but is a good PK. Helm scored 7 goals, 17 assists, and was -11.
Jacob De LA Rose (C) De La Rose was picked off waivers from Montreal last season and contributes on the defensive end. He had 3 goals, 6 assists, and was-13. A heart condition cut his season short, but appears to be healthy now. The team is expecting more offense from him.
Christoffer Ehn (C) Made the team out of training camp last season, and he was pleasantly surprised he did. He is another defensive center used to play a grinding style to wear down opponents. Ehn scored 3 goals, 6 Assists, and was -5. The team is also expecting more offense from him.
Taro Hirose (LW) Hirose was signed as a free agent from College during the end of
Last season. While not big or a fast skater, he is very smart and creative. That skill may earn him a spot on the second forward line. He played in 10 games scoring 1 goal, 6 assists, and was even.
Adam Erne (LW) Steve Yzerman obtained Adam Erne in a trade with Tampa Bay. Yzerman knows what Erne brings while he was the G.M. at Tampa Bay. Erne is a big body that isn’t afraid to mix it up, something the team really needs. Erne scored 7 goals, 13 Assists, and was +10 while at Tampa.
Valtteri Filppula (C) Filppula played for the Red Wings and Tampa Bay. He last played for the New York Islanders, and Steve Yzerman signed him this summer as an UFA. Filppula usually defers to pass rather than shoot, even though coaches tell him to shoot more. In spite of that he scored 17 goals, 14 Assists, with a +19 last season.
Came up later last season and established himself on the team. During his partial season (46 games) and he played well. He is part of the rebuild going forward.
Played 52 games last season, but had problems on the defensive end. He started off last season very well offensively, but lost confidence when his defensive game eroded. With Jonathon Ericsson’ s availability questionable for the start of the season Cholowski probably will be playing. He did well during the Pre Season earning him a spot.
Was obtained in a trade last season from the Washington Capitals. Like Cholowski he performed well during the Pre Season. This is a show me season for Bowey as he will be a RFA in 2020.
Was obtained as an UFA. He is big 6’ 3” and has a mean streak.. Again something the Red Wings can use. He is adept at blocking shots, which he will face many of them.
Played in 55 games last season and had a .909 save percentage. Howard started the season off strong, but seemed to tire as the season progressed. Look for him to share duties with Jonathan Bernier.
Played in 35 games last season and had .904 save percentage. Bernier had a poor start last season, which probably led to Howard playing more games, but seemed to settle down later in the season. The team is expecting more from him this season.
Prospects in Grand Rapids, Michigan
There are some players in the Red Wings AAA affiliate Grand Rapids who may/should be called up to the Red Wings due to injuries and/or trades during the season. The following players (5) are number one draft picks sent to Grand Rapids for more training/exposure.
They are: Michael Rasmussen, Joseph Veleno, Filip Zadina, Evgeny Svechnikov, and Moritz Seider.
There are others in Grand Rapids who may be called up also. Anyway Grand Rapids should have a very good team with all of these number one picks starting the season with them.
The Red Wings are entering the fourth year of their rebuild. The defense is still a work in progress. Some rank their defense as the worst in the NHL. Until the Red Wings shore up their defense, they will spend most of the time defending. This will tire out the defensemen and the forwards attempting to move the puck out of their zone, which leads to penalties and/or goals against. The goaltenders will face a lot of shots, and will have to play exceptionally well to keep the puck out of their net.
The Red Wings had 73 points at the end of the 2017-18 season, and 74 points last season. Many predict the same point range for the 2019-20 season. It could be more depending on performance and staying healthy, but either way, the non-playoff streak continues for a fourth season.