Sunday, September 18, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings have made the postseason for 20 straight seasons, and they always seem to take the hits in the offseason pretty well. They lost 3 big players to retirement this offseason, but they kept a major one in the fold. As always, they are a cup contender again. Will they be able to keep the momentum up?

Strengths: They still have the veteran core that is tried and tested for winning. They were able to keep Nicklas Lidstrom from retirement, even though they lost 3 other key veterans, and his presence alone keeps the blue line for the Red Wings stable. The major veteran pieces are still around, including Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, and others who should keep this team in transition stable. They did sign some new players to replace the ones that they lost, and the big one was D Ian White, who will try to replace Brian Rafalski. For what little youth there is on the big club's roster, the goalie, Jimmy Howard, is a very good young goaltender who continues to be one of the better younger goaltenders in the NHL. They also have something else this season that they have rarely had in the past, and that is cap space, to make a move or two at the trade deadline if they have to.

Weaknesses: The losses of Brian Rafalski, Chris Osgood, and Kris Draper are going to hurt this team, because the replacements the Wings have right now may not be totally adequate. Due to the veteran losses, there are some younger players that have to impress and perform very well to replace those that retired, and the major player that fits this is D Jakub Kindl. He has a lot of expectations around him, because of his performances last year due to the blue line injuries, and he'll need to continue to impress.

Any Help Coming? D Brendan Smith is a very good offensive defenseman with soft hands, and can become a great top pair offensive defenseman at some point. C Tomas Tatar is a promising offensive talent for the Wings, and his offensive instincts and talents are unquestioned. RW Tomas Jurco has some amazing talent, but he needs to round his skills together in order to become a very good NHL-er.

Outlook: Because Nicky Lidstrom decided against retirement, the Wings are still a cup contender, even though they play in possibly the toughest division in hockey. They have the veterans to win the close games and perform in the postseason, but one can wonder whether the losses they suffered this offseason will really come back to bite them in the postseason chase this season.

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