With the brouhaha of free agency mostly at a close for the 2014 off-season, we can ease some of the pain of striking out on big FA targets by creating a few hypothetical roster situations for the Detroit Red Wings. With up-and-coming stars ready to bounce back from a stagnant playoff showing, and stars like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg who are determined to win, this season can only be better than the last, right?
It depends on how head coach Mike Babcock and general manager play their cards with the roster, because with increased competition for roster spots this year, things can get messy.
Let’s talk about the forwards:
It’s safe to say, for the most part, that the players mentioned above will be on the roster in some way. This is the way I would like to see these players positioned on the roster. The two most shocking roster movements in this image (to the average fan) are Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader to the fourth line. Before an infamous slew of injuries, Darren Helm was destined to be a second or third line center for the team. His speed and defensive abilities proved to survive his absences, and this season, he improved his scoring ability, with 20 points in only 42 games. Justin Abdelkader has been praised by Pavel Datsyuk as being able to “pull the piano” on the first line, a salute to his work ethic and determination, which has earned him a first-line spot in the past. To see them both on the fourth line now may be surprising, but it’s really for the best. Now that Stephen Weiss will be able to start the season off in a healthy state, he WILL be the second line center on this team, and Riley Sheahan has earned the center position on the third line, which will be the Kid Line once again (which I will touch on later). This leaves the fourth line the only place for Helm to go, and having Helm as a 4th-liner implies some serious depth. As for Abdelkader, I believe that Gustav Nyquist can pull the piano even better, and has a better scoring touch. I believe that the second and third line winger positions will be occupied by others (see below), thus pushing Abdelkader to the fourth line.
As for the second line, I would really like to see Daniel Alfredsson return for one last season as a Red Wing. In his first year in Detroit, Alfie led the team with 49 points (18 G/31 A) in 68 games. Alfredsson admitted this season wasn’t the best he could have provided, but that’s still an impressive showing for the 41-year-old. Alfredsson wants to return, but will have to wait a bit longer to see where the health of his back stands, a problem that plagued him this season. If he signs, he’ll play right-wing on the second line. However, if he does not, I could see Abdelkader moving to the second line, leaving space for Luke Glendening on the fourth line, who signed a 3-year extension with the team this season. Top-rated Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha will also be seeking a roster spot this fall at training camp, and he will only fit in a top-six position, so this spot may be a possibility.
Lastly, we’re introduced to the possibility of Daniel Cleary stealing a roster spot of a young player after signing another one-year deal, and this time, the Wings have to avoid it at all costs. Last offseason, Cleary dropped a multi-year deal from the Flyers at the last-minute to return to Detroit on a one-year-deal, ultimately prolonging Gustav Nyquist’s appearance on the team. This couldn’t have been predicted by the management; they had no idea Nyquist would have such an impressive showing in the NHL. This season is different, as the player that could be cheated from a spot is the possible future star Tomas Jurco. The Slovak forward has the size, strength, and hands that rival or surpass his kid counterparts in Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar. Jurco is the only “kid” left who is still waiver-exempt, meaning he can safely start the season off in Grand Rapids. He is desperately needed on the Kid Line to complete one of the deepest and most fascinating third lines in the entire league.
Now, time for the defense!
Thankfully, Detroit’s defensive squad will be much easier to piece together.
This setup seems like a no-brainer on defense. The only outstanding changes are finding a way to dispose of Jakub Kindl, the former 1st round pick that did not live up to expectations, and inserting Xavier Ouellet. Ouellet is said to be Grand Rapids’ most NHL-ready defenseman, and can undoubtedly be as good as Brian Lashoff, but will probably be much, much better. Ouellet doesn’t have much offensive upside, but he is incredibly responsible on defense, and has hockey sense off the charts. Brian Lashoff $725,000 cap hit is smaller than Kindl’s hit of $2.4 million, and although Lashoff is bad, for such a small cap hit, he is a fairly safe 7th defenseman.
The players and management of the Detroit Red Wings are taking a lot of heat for several consecutive mediocre seasons. Albeit the team has made the playoffs every season since their last cup win in 2008 (and 17 seasons in a row before that), the team hasn’t achieved enough postseason success as it should have while having players like Zetterberg and Datsyuk on the team. They aren’t getting any younger, and it’s time to make this team a serious contender. Feelings will be hurt, players will be cut, and there will be changes, but in the long run, whatever happens is in the best interest of the team. Brace yourselves, Wings fans, it’s gonna get bumpy in Hockeytown.
Let’s go Red Wings!
*all roster images are from of Capgeek.com, which is, in my opinion, the 100% best resource pertaining to salaries and rosters of any major sport. Check it out!
Tags: Detroit Red Wings