With the Lions season wrapping up in the next week or two (oh boy have they looked terrible) and the Tigers having been eliminated from the MLB Playoffs for weeks, let’s try to find some professional sports in Detroit to get excited about: The Red Wings.
Twenty four straight years in the playoffs, a lot of faces have come and gone over the years and with the change behind the bench in this coming season, 25 is no guarantee.
Here are some of the most important players the Red Wings need to count on this upcoming season (and some hope for the future) so Jeff Blashill doesn’t start his career behind the bench by not extending that streak:
- Henrik Zetterberg – The Captian lead the Wings in scoring in 2014-15 but still only had 66 points in 74 games. Zetterberg needs to find the fountain of youth and stay healthy along with putting up quality offensive numbers in 2015-16. He has seen a dip in his advanced numbers in recent years & that trend needs to stop. Expect new Head Coach Jeff Blashill to manage Zetterberg’s minutes more closely this year & put less responsibility on him by playing him with other playmakers.
- Mike Green – The big, splashy offseason signing has a lot of expectations to live up to in his first year in a Red Wings uniform. Green will be expected to contribute more goals from the blue line than any Red Wing since Nick Lidstrom hung up the skates.
- Petr Mrazek – Mrazek may not go into the season as the clear cut starter in the net, but after the season Jimmy Howard had in 2014-15, expect the two netminders to split time in the crease at an almost 50/50 rate to start the season & with some strong play, Mrazek could take over and end up with 55+ starts.
- Brad Richards – The two time cup winner & 15 year veteran joins the Red Wings on a 1 year deal & will be expected to fill in as the second line center this year in Detroit. Richards had a strong rebound year in Chicago when he wasn’t tasked with taking on the opponents top line & wasn’t expected to be the top scoring threat that he was in New York. Expect Richards to play strong in Detroit & provide much needed depth that doesn’t always show up in points in the box score, but he will be a valuable member of this team.
- Gustav Nyquist – “Gus” ended up in Babcock’s doghouse more than most players during his time in Detroit. The flashy Swede loves to handle the puck & force the play to make things happen & that didn’t always gel with his former Coach’s strategy. Expect Nyquist to flourish under Blashill & challenge for the team lead in points and it will be needed, as he will be expected to contribute heavily offensively if this team is going back to the playoffs.
- Thomas Tatar – Tatar has shown a knack for finding the net & should be the Red Wings leading goals scorer & could push to be the first 40 goal scoring Red Wing since Marian Hossa’s 1 year in Detroit.
- Dylan Larkin – Will Larkin make the Red Wings roster this year? At some point, probably, to start the year? probably not. The local boy showed in one season at U of M that he can play with older & bigger players & in the World Juniors tournament, showed he is a very matured player with strong ability on both ends of the ice. If Larkin plays in Detroit it will be limited regular season action but, Rookies making a flash during the playoffs can happen & Larkin could be in store for a playoff call up.
- Anthony Mantha – Mantha had high expectations last season, breaking his leg before the season then stuggeling in his first full pro season in Grand Rapids. Mantha will return to Grand Rapids to start the season but will most likely get a shot with the big club at some point during the year. If Mantha works on his defense & positioning to survive in the NHL, he could become a great goal scorer with this team in the future.
The 2015-16 Red Wings won’t be setting the world on fire, especially with Pavel Datsyuk out for the first 2 months, but perhaps staying in the playoff race early while waiting for Datsyuk is what this team needs. The Red Wings could have a full strength & more energized Datsyuk in March & April this year to pair with more experienced Nyquist, Tatar, Luke Glendenning & Riley Sheahan that could vault them further into the playoffs than last year’s first round exit.
The regular season starts up on Friday October 9th at home against the Mike Babcock coached Toronto Maple Leafs. And the chase for a 25th straight year in the playoffs starts immediately.