The NHL is less than 31 days away from the beginning of the 2017/18 season. Over this period we’re diving into the 31 NHL teams in alphabetical order, take a look at their previous standings and upcoming season predictions, as well as their key additions and subtractions. Yesterday we looked at the Dallas Stars, today we’re looking at our 11th team, which is coincidentally how many Stanley Cups the team has won. It’s the Detroit Red Wings.
2016/17 record: 33/36/13
Key losses: Tomas Nosek.
2017/18 prediction: There’ll be no playoff hockey in Detroit this season.
The 2016/17 season was the end of an era for Detroit. Not only did the team play its final game at the mighty Joe Louis Arena, but the team’s 25 consecutive playoffs streak was broken. Fingers were pointed in many directions to try and find out why this was, but most of the blame landed on the shoulders of GM Ken Holland. The strategy of picking up older free agents on short contracts wasn’t paying off and the blueline was in disarray. The Stanley Cup glory days have faded into a vague, distant memory.
The offseason didn’t bring much hope for Red Wings fans. The team looks to have done reasonably well out of what was a mediocre draft class. You can read about all of the Wings’ draft picks here. This is a long term move though and it’s unlikely the team will benefit this season. The biggest moves were on the beleagured blueline. The experienced Trevor Daley, fresh from winning two Cups was signed from the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Luke Witkowski from the Syracuse Crunch (and occasionally the Tampa Bay Lightning) was also signed. Current Red Wing Xavier Ouellet agreed a new two year deal. While it may take time for the new defensive pairs to gel, Detroit is starting to look like it has a semi-respectable defense.
The goalie situation got weird when the team decided to expose Petr Mrazek to the expansion draft, but ultimately Tomas Nosek was taken. This hurt the team a little, but the goalie tandem of Mrazek and Jimmy Howard still leaves two highly paid number one goalies. A situation that can’t end well.
Offensively; the biggest talking point is Andreas Athanasiou, who at the time of writing is still yet to sign a new contract. Last season Athanasiou scored 18 goals and had 11 assists. The Wings desperately need to find the money to resign the 23 year old.
It’s not all doom and gloom at the front end; the Wings signed Tomas Tatar to a four year contract, and Martin Frk to a one year deal, although Frk will likely see some of his ice-time in Grand Rapids.
Whether or not Athanasiou signs, he won’t be the deciding factor in the team’s performance this coming season. While the front office have done some things right (Daley, Ouellet), there’s still a lot of work to be done. The excitement of playing in a new house will give the team a boost but there’s no guarantee this will convert into points. The Atlantic division is a strange division. There are teams capable of keeping the Wings out of the playoff places, but as we’ve seen over the last few seasons, sometimes a trip to the playoffs can come down to the last day of the season. The heart says the Wings will progress, but the head says it’s another season focusing on the rebuild and late spring will be spent on the golf course.