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30 Teams in 30 Days: Red Wings remain model NHL franchise

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TSN.ca Staff
9/28/2009 1:13:51 PM
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DETROIT RED WINGS 

2008-09: 51-21-10 (2nd in the West - Eliminated in Stanley Cup Finals by Penguins)
TSN Pre-Season Power Ranking: 3rd
General Manager: Ken Holland (12th Season)
Head Coach: Mike Babcock (4th Season)

What They Did In The Off-Season:

The Red Wings took the off-season approach of if it ain't broke, why fix it? The team chose to tinker with their roster rather make wholesale changes to a team that was one game away from repeating as Stanley Cup Champions.

Johan Franzen was rewarded for a career season with a new eleven-year deal while promising rookie Ville Leino re-upped for two more years in Motown.  Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelsson, Ty Conklin, Tomas Kopecky and Aaron Downey were all allowed to seek greener pastures elsewhere while it appears as though both Darren McCarty and Chris Chelios have played their final NHL games.

After not receiving the offer he was looking for, Jiri Hudler signed with Dynamo Moscow of the KHL, setting off an international transfer incident that saw the Winged Wheel lose the promising youngster for nothing.  Undaunted the Wings added Jeremy and Jason Williams, Todd Bertuzzi and Patrick Eaves in free agency while offering defenceman Andy Delmore and goaltender Dan Cloutier another shot at NHL glory.

Biggest Issue Facing The Team:

Despite losing several key pieces this summer, the Wings enter the season in their traditional position, legitimate Stanley Cup threat.  Detroit remain the model NHL franchise thanks to rock solid ownership, astute management and perhaps the best scouting staff in the business.  Additionally, the Wings are amongst the deepest teams in the NHL, featuring a scoring punch from all four lines as well as one of the top defensive corps in all of hockey.

The only question is: how long can the Wings stay at the top.  While they have done a phenomenal job at integrating a younger generation of superstars into the mix, a good portion of the core of the roster are all on the wrong side of 30.  While Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are as dynamic a duo as you will find in hockey, the team remains incredibly dependent on players such as Tomas Holmstrom, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Nicklas Lidstrom,Brian Rafalski and Chris Osgood, the youngest of which is 35.  One way of looking at this is to say that the Wings are experienced; the other way is saying that they are old.

The NHL is a young man's game, and father time may finally be catching up with Detroit.  That being said there are about 29 other general managers who would love to have the Wings problem.  The Red Wings are as intelligent and well coached as any team in the league.  Even if they take a step backwards they are far too talented to fall much further than second in the Central Division.

Fortunately for management, the Wings are not the type of team that will rest on its laurels.  While most would consider back-to-back Finals appearances a success, Detroit looks at it as a partial failure as they were only able to come home with a solitary Cup.  Last year's loss likely weighs heavily on the team's shoulders.  A chance to exorcise those demons by making another run at the Stanley Cup should be motivation enough for another big season.

Player To Watch:

Considering his credentials there may be no more maligned player than Chris Osgood.  At some point ‘Ozzie' must wonder what he has to do to prove that he is an elite talent.  He has three Stanley Cup rings to go along with two Jennings trophies and a pair of All-Star game appearances.  While he struggled through a mediocre regular season, he more than redeemed himself by helping lead the Wings back to the Finals.  Still every year there are those that point to the Wings goaltending as the team's biggest area of concern.

While Osgood may not be the perfect goaltender, he does appear to be perfect for the Wings as he is low maintenance and beloved by his teammates.  On the negative side of the ledger is the fact that he is 36-years old heading to training camp, and with the Wings seemingly bringing Jimmy Howard along at a snail's pace, he has no real competition for the number one spot.  Considering how sub-par a regular season he had, this is not necessarily a good thing.  Osgood is motivated by his detractors, and over the past few seasons has played his best hockey when he is facing the pressure of losing his job.  With no usurper on the immediate horizon, it would be very easy for Osgood to become complacent while continuing to believe that he will be able to turn it on come playoff time.  If that should happen and Osgood was unable to repeat his heroics from last season, then it would appear that his detractors would be right, only ten years and three Stanley Cups too late.

Scott Cullen's Fantasy Take:

Perennial powers, the Detroit Red Wings have gone through some roster turnover this summer, yet there seems little doubt that they will once again be among the teams challenging for the Stanley Cup. The additional bonus, for fantasy owners, is that the Red Wings' best players provide not only points, but a consistently strong plus-minus rating.

Read more of Scott Cullen's fantasy analysis of the Red Wings, including a look at their projected depth chart for this season.

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