Most NHL franchises would call a season in which they put up 102 points and won a playoff series a success, but most NHL franchises aren’t the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings finished second in the Central Division to Chicago, which was the first time since 1999-2000 that the Wings didn’t win the division.
And, sure, they went and won a Game 7 in Phoenix to advance to the Western Conference semifinals. But they were dominated in five games by San Jose. It was the earliest Detroit—a Cup finalist the previous two years—had been KO’d since 2006. The Coyotes series was the first time in 17 consecutive postseasons that Detroit didn’t have home-ice advantage in the first playoff round.
There was a stretch there that it looked like Detroit might actually miss the playoffs as injuries decimated the team before it surged at the end; after the Olympic break, Detroit was an NHL-best 16-3-2.
Top contributors like Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Valtteri Filppula, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen and Daniel Cleary all missed time. Overall, the Wings lost 312 man games to injury. So by simply staying healthier the team should improve this year.
The Detroit Red Wings schedule opens at home against Anaheim, with a great early clash at Chicago on a night the Hawks will raise their new Stanley Cup banner in the faces of their bitter rivals.
Detroit Red Wings Offseason Moves
The Wings were fairly quiet this offseason, with the big-name acquisition behind the addition of former Star Mike Modano. But this isn’t the Modano you remember as the 40-year-old, who had never played outside the Stars’ organization in his career, who is coming off his lowest-scoring season since 1995.
The Detroit native had 14 goals and 30 points in 59 games, fading to being a fourth-line center in Dallas. He will probably center the third line in Detroit with Jiri Hudler and Cleary. Hudler is back from one year spent in the Russian KHL. He had 36 goals and 99 points in two Wings seasons before spending the year in Russia.
Detroit also added veteran defenseman Ruslan Salei through free agency. But the big news on that defense was the Wings convincing future Hall-of-Famer Nicklas Lidstrom to come back for one more season at age 40.
The only loss of note in the offseason was that the Wings let Jason Williams walk. He was injury-prone anyways and had 15 points in 44 games last year.
Detroit Red Wings Predictions: Outlook
The Wings still have as much talent as anyone, but this is an aging roster whose championship window may have closed. Valtteri Filppula was the only Red Wing under 29 last season who scored more than 30 points. This year the Red Wings could open with a roster of 13 players who are 30 or older. That number includes two 40-year-olds in Modano and Lidstrom.
Detroit’s top line of Pavel Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Holmstrom is one of the best in the league. Datsyuk, however, is coming off a down year by his standards. He tied with Zetterberg for the team-lead in points last season, but his 70 were 27 fewer than he had in 2008-09, when he was a Hart Trophy finalist.
Filppula, Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi will be the second line. Franzen missed 55 games with a torn knee ligament last season. He was a 34-goal scorer in 2008-09 and followed with 12 goals in the postseason and expects to be back at full speed.
The addition of Hudler and Modano should make the third line that much better, and Hudler is very good on the power play as he had six goals and 22 assists with the man advantage two seasons ago.
Perhaps the biggest question outside of health is goalie Jimmy Howard. Is he a one-year wonder? At one point the rookie started 25 consecutive games last season. He finished tied for fourth in the league with a .924 save percentage and fifth with a 2.26 goals-against average. Chris Osgood is back as Howard’s backup and might be the best No. 2 in the league even at his advanced age. Detroit was seventh in the NHL in goals-against last season and ninth in shots-against.
Detroit Red Wings NHL Odds
The Wings are 11/1 to win the Stanley Cup, 6/1 to win the West and +175 to win the Central Division (second to Chicago). Their “over/under” point total is 102.5.
NHL Predictions for Detroit Red Wings
It’s a sure thing that Detroit makes the playoffs for the 20th-straight season, a mark that’s far and away the best in the NHL. And they might have enough to battle the weakened Blackhawks’ right to the end for the Central title. This team almost has to be healthier than last year, so I would expect a trip to the conference finals but no further.
Doc Moseman is one of the pioneers of the NHL handicapping industry. Check out his Web site for up-to-the-minute NHL Odds and his famous winning hockey picks.