Wings search for Eastern Promise in new division, conference
Daniel Alfredsson, Stephen Weiss.
Damien Brunner, Dan Cleary, Carlo Colaiacovo, Valtteri Filppula
Last year: There was a familiar feel when the Red Wings came within one victory of advancing to the Western Conference Final before losing to Chicago.
What was unfamiliar was that Detroit had to fight tooth-and-nail over the last weeks of the regular season just to make the playoffs in the first place. The Wings had to win their final four games to edge out the Columbus Blue Jackets for a playoff spot and once they got in they had to survive two elimination games to oust the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.
There were signs of Detroit’s former greatness – the team is now four years removed from its last trip to the Stanley Cup Final – but clearly some pieces were missing. And it’s no surprise that Red Wings general manager Ken Holland made it a priority to promptly fill those holes.
This Year: Detroit’s offence, despite having Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg both healthy, sputtered to just 2.58 goals per game last year. At 22nd-best in the league in goals for, general manager Ken Holland wasted no time in acquiring some help up front.
When Free Agent Frenzy opened on July 5, the Red Wings snapped up both Daniel Alfredsson from Ottawa (one year, $5 million) and Stephen Weiss from Florida (five years, $24.5 million).
Weiss was limited to 17 games last season because of wrist surgery, but is one season removed from posting his fourth 20-goal campaign. Alfredsson can still contribute at the age of 40 after posting 26 points in 47 games for the Senators and an additional four goals and six assists in 10 playoff games.
Alfredsson joins Detroit’s strong Swedish presence – Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Mikael Samuelsson, Niklas Kronwall, and Jonathan Ericsson on a veteran team with plenty of playoff experience. The team made sure its core was solid by signing both Datsyuk and goalie Jimmy Howard to contract extensions over the summer.
Departures from Detroit start with Valtteri Filppula, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning and will be replaced on the second line by Weiss. Damien Brunner and Dan Cleary are in the rearview mirror and the team bought out of the contract of blueliner Carlo Colaiacovo.
The Long and the Short – How will a full 82-game slate affect the Red Wings' performance after a shortened season?
The Red Wings found themselves having to scratch to make the post-season after 48 games so they will need some younger legs in the lineup to stretch out to the 82-game mark.
Look for some of that Grand Rapids talent to make the jump to fill some ice time for 35-and-overs like Alfredsson, Datsyuk, Samuelsson, and Todd Bertuzzi.
On the Books – What off-season moves did the Wings make to get themselves back in cap shape?
According to Capgeek.com, the Red Wings are already at the salary cap of $64.3 million, which is why players like Brunner and Cleary became the odd men out in Detroit.
Headliners Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Alfredsson and Weiss all check in at cap hits of about $5 million or more. If the Red Wings want to bring in any more talent they are going to have to ship out an equal amount of salary to make it happen.
Long Division – A look at the intriguing possibilities ahead for the Wings after realignment.
After years of lobbying, realignment has allowed the Red Wings to finally return eastward for the first time since 1981.
Gone are Detroit’s frequent trips to the West Coast and the club should benefit from limited trips outside their time zone. The Red Wings lose long-standing division rivalries with Chicago and St. Louis but will settle easily for Original Six rivals Toronto and Montreal.
Detroit was frequently a challenger for the Western Conference crown alongside strong teams like the Blackhawks and Canucks and should find themselves in a comparable spot in the East alongside elite clubs like the Bruins and Penguins.
Fantasy - Scott Cullen's Player to Watch
Gustav Nyquist, LW - A talented 24-year-old forward who has 13 points in 40 games with the Red Wings while he's been doing his apprenticeship (scoring 118 points in 114 games) in the AHL over the last couple years, Nyquist appears poised to start the season on the Red Wings' third line.
The opportunity to play a regular role, with room to move up the depth chart, makes Nyquist an intriguing player to watch and the best of a group of young, skilled Red Wings forwards that includes Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar.
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Pressing Question: How will Detroit fare as a member of the Eastern Conference?
With respect to fellow realignment teams Columbus and Winnipeg, it’s the movement of the Red Wings that most shakes up the league.
The Eastern Conference just became more difficult, and the Western Conference just became a slightly easier place in which to play.
Will the likes of Boston and Pittsburgh have a more difficult road to the Stanley Cup, not only having to play the Wings more often during the regular season but also facing the possibility of a playoff series in Motown?
Similarly, will the West open up and become an easier conference to win for its perennial contenders like Chicago, Vancouver and San Jose?
How will Detroit’s move to the East affect both conferences and how will the Red Wings themselves perform there?
- Detroit Red Wings Preview by Barry Riz, TSN.ca