Thursday, September 13, 2007
Next up we go to the Detroit Rock City.
Christy from [ Behind The Jersey ] is the blogger that will take us on the guide of the defending Central Division Champs.
Christy has been around longer than pretty much everyone in terms of NHL Blogging.
Last Season: (50-19-13) 113 points
Playoffs: 1st seed.
Owned by Ducks in conference finals.
Goodbye to you...
Over the past summer, the Wings bid farewell to four former players. Kyle Calder and Robert Lang were told to look elsewhere and they signed with the LA Kings and Chicago Blackhawks respectively.
The other two players turned down Wings offers to go for the bigger money in Anaheim. Todd Bertuzzi signed a two year deal worth $8 million that paved the way for the Edmonton Oilers to snatch restricted free agent Dustin Penner. The bigger loss for the Wings was that of veteran defenseman Mathieu Schneider. The Wings certainly felt his loss during the playoffs when he suffered a broken wrist. He signed a two year deal with the Ducks and will be making a total of $11.25 million.
Let me introduce you...
The Red Wings have a few new faces on the roster for the upcoming 2007-2008 season. The biggest signing came on July 1st when the Wings picked up offensive defenseman Brian Rafalski. While he doesn't have the offensive numbers Schneider earned over the last couple of years with the Wings, Rafalski should see a jump in his numbers while playing for a team that will encourage him to play as an offensive defenseman. Rafalski will be wearing #28, which was previously worn by rookie Tomas Kopecky (he'll wear #82).
The Wings then added veteran forward Dallas Drake, who should play on the fourth line. If you recall, Drake played for Detroit back in 1992-1994 before being traded to Winnipeg. While some fans may not approve of Drake getting a spot that a younger up and coming forward could've taken, I like that we added a physical veteran for only $550,000. Not too shabby. Drake will be wearing #17, formerly worn by Kyle Calder and Brett Hull.
Look for rookie Igor Grigorenko to earn a roster spot during training camp. He doesn't have the speed he once had before a life-threatening car accident, but he's a physical player who will be welcomed by many fans on the roster. He has spent the past six years since the accident in Russia trying to regain his form after suffering broken bones in both legs and a fat embolism in his lung while at the hospital.
How will the Wings do this season?
Last season, the success of the team heavily depended on the health of veteran goaltender Dominik Hasek. The Wings are going with the Hasek-Osgood goaltender duo this season so the same question remains. Can he stay healthy for another season? If he doesn't, will we be able to get another goalie at the trade deadline? If it's after the deadline, can Chris Osgood rise up to the challenge? If Hasek stays healthy and plays like the crazy Czech that he is, the Wings will be all set in the net. I would expect goaltending prospect Jimmy Howard to see some play, but Osgood should be the backup goalie this season.
Do I think the Wings have drastically improved from last season? No, but they did lose deadweights Lang and Calder. Admittedly, Lang had an incredibly critical goal against San Jose in the playoffs, but the rest of the time he spent on the ice gave Wings fans ulcers and a reason to yell at the TV.
While the Wings have only picked up a veteran forward who will spend most of his time on the fourth line, he is another physical body to make the Wings an even more physical team. We all had our doubts on how the team would play in the playoffs and they proved to be physically and mentally tougher than all their opponents (until they met Anaheim and I still blame the series loss on Andreas Lilja's boneheaded play).
Certain players like Johan Franzen and Valterri Filppula will have to step up their play to fill the offensive void left by Lang, but there is no reason the Wings can't win the Central Division and be one of the top Western Conference teams once again.
Unless the Wings are able to re-sign defenseman Danny Markov (which is unlikely and TSF predicts he'll be playing in Pittsburgh), the team will give a defensive roster spot to a fresh face. While there are quite a few players who could earn the spot, it'll probably go to Derek Meech. Why? Meech has to pass waivers if he's to be sent down to Grand Rapids and another team would pick him off and the Wings would get nothing in return.
Another possibility is Kyle Quincey, who played solidly in the postseason when defenseman Niklas Kronwall and later Schneider were injured. The biggest defensive prospect is Jakub Kindl, who will play for the Griffins in the AHL this year. However, I believe he will have to wait another year or two before jumping to the big league.
Their expected demise after reworking contracts, retirements, and relatively low activity in the free-agent market hasn't happened.
They lost Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider, Kyle Calder, and Todd Bertuzzi.
Bertuzzi is mud anyway.
Their smothering defense makes up for having only one productive scoring line.
How good will that defense be now with the Devil-minded Brian Rafalski joining the blue-line corps via free agency?
Hasek's still there, stopping all 11 shots he sees every game.
Chelios is somehow still there.
And Detroit will still be there, somehow, at the top of the Central,
waiting for another team to knock them off in the second round of the playoffs.
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