2014/15 Season Preview – Detroit Red Wings
2013/14 Season Record – 8th in Eastern Conference, 4th in Atlantic Division
2013/14 Season Recap
It was a season of struggle for Detroit, having to cope with key losses to the roster, but there were some bright lights with the emergence of Nyquist, Jurco, Tatar and Sheahan as genuine talents. We’d seen flashes of them in previous seasons or with the Griffins, but they were thrust into the limelight because of the injuries to key players.
In the case of Nyquist, being forced to play meant he could no longer be dropped back down to the AHL without going through waivers and thus forcing the hand of Kenny Holland and hopefully a new era for the Red Wings.
It was a tough season, but Detroit made it 23 straight playoff appearances. However they left in the first round with a whimper and so onto the next season and not exactly with hope…
|D.Cleary / D. Alfredsson|
|J.Andersson / B.Lashoff|
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I’m sorry? What are key additions? Do Kevin Porter and Andy Miele really count? It has been a torrid off-season for Detroit as they have lost out on almost every key player they have targeted. The reason? Well it is either the rumour that no player wants Mike Babcock as their head coach… You know, the Mike Babcock who has won everything there is to win. Or, the pressure of playing for Detroit now, is just too much, maybe players are scared of being part of history for all the wrong reasons and being that first Detroit roster for over 20 years to fail to make the playoffs.
Whatever the real reason it has led to a very dry Summer in Detroit.
Todd Bertuzzi, David Legwand, Corey Emmerton, none of these have been huge losses. We loved Bertuzzi at The Joe, but his time has come to an end and with his off ice troubles taking center stage in his life, it just isn’t worth taking the risk to resign him. Even taking that out of the equation, it is time for him to step aside and allow some prospects to take their place.
David Legwand was brought in to help the push to the playoffs and whilst they made it, his impact was minimal at best and won’t be missed. It is a shame as he is a solid player who could have offered something a few years back, but again his time has passed now.
I am unsure where to put this, as at the time of writing, Daniel Alfredsson hasn’t made a decision as to what his future holds. If he stays then the above projected lines are changed and it does affect the balance of the team somewhat, if he goes Detroit will lose a lot of points from a Triple A player. His decision is a big one that really does have a big impact on 2014/15
Oh and Danny “***king” Cleary! Yes, he isn’t technically a Key Subtraction, but with him re-signing he takes a roster spot from someone else who could offer a whole lot more to the team. I don’t like hating on Danny Cleary as he has always been a solid player over the years, but his time has gone and he should have been gone last season, yet he is back again when we as a team need to look to the future and not hold on to the past. I’d love to know what dirt he has on Kenny Holland!
Initially I had huge worries about the roster going into the season, however in writing this preview I am a little more optimistic. The players that Detroit have now could allow more structure across the season, as long as the injuries don’t play a big role.
The ideal top line of Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Franzen should be able to put the fear of god into opposing teams, but a lot of that relies on Franzen finding his form again, finding the confidence in his abilities that deserted him all of last season. Hopefully a long stint with the Euro Twins will help him here and with Zetterberg claiming his back feels better than ever, he should hopefully have a full season in him. And Datsyuk? Well he is the Magic Man and if he stays free of injury that line can beat teams on their own.
The second line is the one that intrigues more than any other. It is also the one that will be mixed up more often than not as Babcock needs to find a best combination of Nyquist, Tatar, Sheahan, Jurco. These are the players who drove Detroit to the playoffs, who stood up and carried the team on their backs when others fell through injury or lack of form. This is a big season for those kids, as the pressure is now on them for real, they won’t get away with anything because they have shown what they are capable of and expectations (rightly or wrongly) will be huge.
The Third line will likely consist of Helm, the returning Weiss and one of the kids mentioned above. This is going to be Detroit’s work line, the one that will go out, grind, and try and turn the momentum in the game. You know exactly what you will get from Darren Helm and his work rate for me is one of the best in the league. The only issue here, is this is also the line that could spend most time on IR but there have been a lot of backroom changes that fingers crossed, means injuries won’t ruin their season.
One of the things that Detroit lacked in recent years was a bit of a nasty side, but with Luke Glendenning that returned to a degree. Him partnered with Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller should be the line that can get under the skins of the opposition. This should be the line that can cause a few opposition players to take penalties and put Detroit on the front foot one way or another.
Defense is still Detroit’s weak point (it still feels odd to say that after 20-odd years with Nik Lidstrom) and what it needs is players to remember what they are good at. Nik Kronwall needs another leader with him, as he often found himself being too restrained and the days of a good Kronwalling seem to have passed. It is good to see the responsible side to his game, but he needs to be released a bit in the coming season.
How that works depends on one Jonathan Ericsson. A player once derided as the weak link in Detroit’s defensive lines, he has come on in leaps and bounds the last two seasons and has shown himself to be a big body and a huge asset. His brain is catching up with is physical potential…However as was the story with last season, injury stopped him getting any real momentum in his play.
The likes of Kyle Quincy, Brian Lashoff, Jakub Kindl and Brendon Smith will need to improve if Detroit are to have any success. Poor Jimmy Howard would perform heroics night after night (when fit) but often either be let down by forwards who were scared of scoring, of a defence that offered little to no protection.
Another player who has not officially been re-signed at the time of writing is Danny DeKeyser. Now he should be re-signed because we would be insane to let him go. He was one of the bright lights from a defensive view last season and now he has a full season under his belt he should take another step forward, hopefully partnering Nik Kronwall and allowing him the freedom to express himself in the way only Nik can.
Both Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson are back and on their day can be fantastic, but they need the guys in front of them to perform, because even though Howard at times made it seem like it. They cannot get Detroit into the post season on their own.
Johan Franzen. As mentioned earlier, if he has confidence he can be a team-destroying machine. He has shown in the past that he knows where the net is, that he can cause havoc for defences and with the right players can put up huge numbers.
Last season he was probably the biggest disappointment as he just failed to get going, even in April, which is usually his month, but last season there was nothing. If Detroit are to get to the post-season again, he needs to show what he is really capable of.
This is the first time since I can remember where I don’t believe we can make it to the post-season. Whereas the last two seasons the team have managed to get in very late, it just feels that this will be the season the wheels come off. Yet it won’t be a disastrous season where all of a sudden the once great Detroit Red Wings are at the bottom of the pile. They will battle and fight, but just finish the wrong side of those playoff positions.
This is a team in transition and whereas many teams can do so and rebuild without as much pressure, the Red Wings have to do so whilst still making the post-season and challenging, otherwise they become the laughing stock of the league.
I fear for this season and the streak, but I also believe the future is bright when I look at the kids coming through. We won’t be missing for long.