2015 Fantasy Hockey Team Preview: Detroit Red Wings
Welcome to thr NHL team previews, a series breaking down every NHL team this offseason. You can expect to see new posts all summer, from the 30th place team to the Stanley Cup champions. With so many changes coming in the offseason, some teams will be improving dramatically, while others will be forced to make some tough decisions for the future. It’s going to be a fun summer of hockey talk, so sit down, hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Year in Review
- Record: 43-25-14 (100 points)
- Goals per game: 2.82 (10th)
- Goals against per game: 2.57 (15th)
- Power play: 23.8% (2nd)
- Penalty kill: 80.9% (17th)
- Shots per game: 29.6 (18th)
- Shots against per game: 28.3 (8th)
The most consistent hockey team in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, had themselves another fantastic season. They made the playoffs for the 23rd season in a row before being ousted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. What makes their record so amazing is how they always find a way to get the job done, no matter how many injuries they suffer.
A lot of that credit goes to General Manager Ken Holland and Director of European Scouting Hakan Andersson.
Holland, who’s been GM of the team since 1997, was voted the second best GM/executive on Sports Illustrated’s Top GMs/Executives of the Decade in 2009 and has continued to be one of the most respected men in hockey. His leadership and commitment to making Detroit a competitive team is a model other team’s always try to replicate but never pull off.
Andersson, a former fishing guide in Sweden, was hired as a scout back in 1990. Since then, the 50-year-old has won four Stanley Cups (1997, 1998, 2002, 2008) and has been responsible for drafting players such as Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Gustav Nyquist and the ageless magician Pavel Datsyuk. His ability to find top talent all over Europe has not only made the Detroit Red Wings a great hockey team, but it’s helped them avoid the rebuilding process so many teams go through.
With Mike Babcock now the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Wings promoted Jeff Blashill from the American Hockey League. In three seasons with Grand Rapids, Blashill posted a 134-71-12-11 regular season record, winning a Calder Trophy in 2013. With the Red Wings being so successful at developing players through their minor league system, Blashill has had the chance to coach a lot of the team’s young talent and shouldn’t have a difficult time transitioning to the NHL.
Offseason Game Plan
Despite multiple injuries to many of their key players, the Red Wings finished in the top 10 in goals per game (2.82) and finished with the second best power play (23.8). Their offense remains one of the best in the league when Zetterberg and Datsyuk are healthy, but that wasn’t the case last season. Both Datsyuk and Zetterberg missed time due to injuries, but both were very effective when healthy, and they will be counted on to be the go-to guys when the team needs that crucial goal. Datsyuk underwent offseason surgery to repair a ruptured tendon but is on schedule in his recovery and could be ready for the start of the season.
The key to the Red Wings having another great season is how the rest of the team performs. The emergence of Tomas Tatar, Nyquist and Riley Sheahan as capable NHL players helps solidify a strong top-six that can play both in the offensive zone and defensive zone.
The Wings added to that top six by signing veteran centreman and two-time Stanley Cup champion Brad Richards to a one-year deal. Richards will fill the void left by Stephen Weiss and will look to help add some secondary scoring. He’s a proven winner and a leader in the dressing room that can help some of the younger players coming up from Grand Rapids.
Detroit also went out and signed former Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green to a three-year/$18M deal. Green had struggled over the last few seasons to stay healthy, but he’s now played two seasons of over 70 games and has totaled 83 points (19G, 64A) in those two seasons. He’s not going to score 31 goals like he did back in 2008-09, but he’s an offensive defenseman that can help improve the production from the blue line. He’s not exactly known for his defensive skills, but I expect the others around him to help balance that out.
As is sits right now, the Red wings are $1.5M over the salary cap, so Holland will need to find a way to shed some salary before the start of the season. It’s more than likely that it will come from the blue line and its more than likely that Jakub Kindl or Kyle Quincey find themselves on the outside looking in.
Kindl is coming off a disappointing season, registering 13 points (5G, 8A) in 35 games, while Quincey is in the final year of his deal at a cap hit of $4.25M. Whether it’s sending one down to the minors or finding a team to take on some salary, something will need to get done. The only question is who goes and who doesn’t.
The biggest question mark heading into next season is who will start in net for Detroit. Jimmy Howard started the season as the team’s number one goalie but suffered a knee injury during the season and struggled down the stretch once he returned. His numbers weren’t terrible—finishing 23-13-11 in 53 games—but his SV% (.910) and GAA (2.44) aren’t exactly elite, so Howard will need to improve on those numbers.
The player looking to take his spot is 23-year-old Petr Mrazek. The Ostrava, Czech Republic native finished last season with a 16-9-2 record in 29 games while posting a .918 SV% and a 2.38 GAA. He played all seven games in the playoffs, and despite being eliminated in the first round, he finished with a 2.11 GAA and a .925 SV%. The assumption is the Red Wings will go back to Howard to start the season, but should he falter early, Mrazek will get his chance to run with the job. Both goalies are quality NHL goalies, but if I had to pick which goalie will finish the year as the starter, I’m going with Mrazek.
The Red Wings haven’t won a Stanley Cup in over seven years now, advancing past the Conference Semifinals just once (2008-09). Making it to the playoffs is always the first goal of every NHL team, but the Red Wings and their fans expect more from this team. They’re a team that can take their game to the next level in the playoffs and have all the pieces in place to do it. Barring injuries, Detroit will compete in the Atlantic Division for the top spot and should make the playoffs for the 24th consecutive season come April. It’s impossible for teams to avoid injuries, but the Red Wings have had their depth tested in recent years and have always prevailed. It’s not boom-or-bust in “Hockey Town,” but fans are ready to see their team make a long playoff run this spring.