A new 56 game NHL Season began on January 13, 2021, and tonight the Detroit Red Wings will play their opening game. The COVID virus has created havoc over the last several months, cancelling many events including pro sports. To limit travel, divisions have been realigned for this season. The Red Wings will play in the Central Division with seven teams. The new division includes the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lighting, and of course the Red Wings. Some rivalries will be rekindled when the Red Wings play the Blackhawks and Predators, they had many intense, entertaining battles when the Wings were in the Western Conference.
Before assessing the Red Wings current roster players no longer with the team will be listed just to show the change since the 2019-20 season. The only buyout was Justin Abdekader, while the rest were either traded, or left due to expiring contracts. The players are: Trevor Daley, Madison Bowey, Jonathan Ericcson, Mike Green, Andreas Athanasiou, Christoffer Ehn, Brendan Perlini, Jacob delaRose, Dmytro Timashov, Cody Goloubef, and Jimmy Howard. There may be other players, but either way this is a big turnover.
The current roster will be covered by position, and for the most part by player instead of line combinations, as they will be constantly shuffled during the season for chemistry and/or injuries. In saying that there may be one line, which may stay intact if possible. It will be last season’s line of Dylan Larkin, Antony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi. They were the team’s number one forward line, and should be this season. The problem during last season is they were the only scoring line, so all the opposing team had to do was to shut them down to win.
Dylan Larkin (C) Larkin may the Red Wing Player who may be the closest to being a “Superstar”, but would need to improve to even come close to that status. His motor is always running and he has been named the team Captain.
Anthony Mantha (RW, LW) Mantha is a good skater with a deadly shot. He has the ability to score over 30 goals during a regular 82 game season, so he should score around 20 goals in the abbreviated season, if he stays healthy. He has an injury problem due to fights. He needs for someone else to do the fighting. He must stay healthy and in the lineup all season.
Tyler Bertuzzi (LW,RW) Bertuzzi is a hard worker and knows where to go (the front of the net) to score goals. His gritty play pays off, and irritates the opposition while doing it. He needs to continue it.
Frans Nielsen (C) Nielson is in the second to last year of his contract, and his skills have eroded since then. He is a good defensive player and plays hard, but his offense has dried up. He can be used on the penalty kill, and still has shoot out skills.
Darren Helm (C, LW, RW) Helm was the fastest skater on the team at one time. He still has good speed, but injuries have been a problem the past few years. He is a good penalty killer due to his speed, and contributes a goal once in awhile.
Valtteri Filppula (C, LW) Filppula had a disappointing 2019-20 season, showing some decline of his skills. He needs to show last season was an aberration.
Robby Fabbri (LW, C) Fabbri had a good season as he showed he could score goals playing the wing. His defensive game was lacking. He is trying out as a center where responsibility requires both defense and offense. It will still be determined if he plays center or returns to the wing.
Namestnikov Vladislav (C LW, RW) Signed as a free agent Vladislav scored 17 goals while playing for two teams last season. The Red Wings are counting on him to add scoring to the lineup.
Luke Glendening (C,LW,RW) Glendening is a gritty agitating type of player any team would love to have, who chips in with a goal now and then.
Bobby Ryan (RW, LW) Ryan had some personal problems, but can score goals. He is determined to have a good season, and be a mentor to the younger players.
Adam Erne (LW,RW) Erne is a grinder type of player with a big body. He had a disappointing season last year, and needs to show improvement.
Filip Zadina (LW,RW) Zadina was a prolific goal scorer when he was drafted by the Red Wings, but discovered he didn’t have the same time and space in the NHL. He has worked on finding seams and releasing his shot faster. The Red Wings are counting on it.
Sam Gagner (C, RW) Gagner was obtained in a trade last season and impressed Steve Yzerman with his crafty moves. As a result Gagner was signed to a one year contract. He should contribute and also serve as a mentor to the younger players.
Mathias Brome (LW) Brome came over from Sweden as a free agent and made the opening night roster after having a good training camp.
Marc Staal (LD) Staal was obtained in a trade, and is in the last year of his contract. While his best years may be behind him, he is big and should stabilize the defensive corps.
Danny DeKeyser (LD) DeKeyser missed most of last season due to back surgery. The team really missed the stability he brought to the team defense, especially with his reach. He will be a welcome addition if he can stay healthy.
Patrik Nemeth (LD) Nemeth added a tough defensive game last season, but the team is hoping for more.
Troy Stecher (RD) Stecher was signed to a two year contract with the hope of stabilizing the defense. Looks like a depth signing.
Jon Merrill (LD) Merrill is a defenseman the team is counting on for playing a sound positional game. Not expecting much scoring.
Christian Djoos (LD) Just picked off waivers recently. Looks to be a depth move to cover for injuries.
Alex Biega (RD) Resigned to a one-year contract. Biega was a pleasant surprise last season. Not an offensive contributor but plays tough in his own end while moving the puck out of the defensive zone.
Filip Hronek (RD) Easily the best defenseman on the team last season who plays tough while adding some goal scoring. The team expects him to do more this season.
Dennis Cholowski (LD) When Dennis first joined the team he exhibited scoring abilities, but while good offensively he was sorely lacking on the defensive side of play. The coaching staff has been pushing him to improve on defense and to display some toughness, but time is running out for him. (He is currently on the Taxi Squad).
The defense was the Red Wings weakest link last season. Steve Yzerman made many changes to help bolster this area. It should be an improvement.
Thomas Greiss (G) Greiss was signed to a two year contract and has been a stable goal tender. He will alternate with Jonathan Bernier.
Jonathan Bernier (G) Bernier played well on a team with the worst defense in the NHL. He seemed to thrive on a heavy workload. It will be interesting to see how he and Thomas Greiss share duties.
Due to the COVID virus NHL teams are allowed to carry 4 to 6 extra players throughout the season. The players currently on the taxi squad are Michael Rasmussen (F), Givani Smith (F), Dennis Cholowski, (D), Gustav Lindstrom (D), Kevin Boyle (G), and Calvin Pickard (G).
Trade Deadline Moves
Steve Yzerman is still in a rebuild, so expect him to flip as many players as he can at the trade deadline with expiring contracts for draft picks.
Where Will The Red Wings Finish?
The team is still rebuilding, but there is hope for a better performance in the abbreviated season. Facing reality the team is not very good. Compared to last season they have to be better. Right? They will finish at or near the bottom of the Central Division.