With the NHL preseason underway, PHR continues to look at every team prior to the regular season. Today, we look at the Detroit Red Wings.
Last season: 41-30-11 (93 points); Finished 3rd in the Atlantic; Lost 4-1 to Tampa Bay in the first round.
Cap Space Remaining: -$4.24MM via CapFriendly.
Key Newcomers: F Thomas Vanek (signed as free agent); F Frans Nielsen (signed as free agent from New York Islanders); F Steve Ott (signed as free agent from St. Louis), F Dylan Sadowy (acquired from San Jose).
Key Departures: D Kyle Quincey (signed with New Jersey).
Player to Watch: Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar: Both saw their numbers fall last season, but a lot of that, after looking at advanced stats and ice time, show a difference in terms of how the two were utilized. Not having two players on the ice who have a knack to score goals is detrimental to their development, confidence, and ultimately, the team’s success. Both Tatar and Nyquist were supposed to have the baton handed to them as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk slowed. But head coach Jeff Blashill, who admitted his own culpability in their regression, has to be better in deploying the two goal scorers. Nyquist and Tatar, should they see the ice time they were afforded in the past, should return to their true form. Blashill has promised more minutes and a greater insistence on them.
Key Storylines: Will the Red Wings entrust this team to younger, faster, and hungrier players? Looking at teams who have seen success by allowing their younger players to play, the Red Wings are at a critical juncture in the salary cap era. Ken Holland is being scrutinized by fans and analysts for his summer of “the same” where he brought back familiar faces at much higher prices–Darren Helm immediately comes to mind. This makes some fans leery as Holland promised big changes–though he did add Vanek, and Nielsen, players who should improve the scoring woes. Reports from Darren Dreger cite that Holland balked at the asking price for Jacob Trouba and while it can be speculated that either Anthony Mantha or Dylan Larkin were asked for, Holland felt comfortable enough with his defense, though others aren’t as sure. Much was written about the Wings’ need for defense, but Holland apparently is happy with what already sits in the pipeline.
The mindset for the Wings brass seems to be one that is fine limping into the playoffs only to be bounced early. It’s a team that has for too long, relied on veterans in a league that favors the younger, speedier player. Training camp will reveal clues early should Andreas Athanasiou and Mantha both be sent down, or be healthy scratches while Drew Miller, Luke Glendening and Steve Ott play on the fourth line. Will this team learn from the sins of season’s past? Or will the organization still continue its “just do enough” strategy to make the playoffs instead of looking ahead to what could be a very painful future?