As we all gear up for another Detroit Red Wings season, I’d like to make three not so bold predictions on what I think may occur this year.
This is contrary to what other sport bloggers write. You may have noticed or read their articles already, with titles like “Top Ten BOLD Predictions” or “Five Reasons why [Fill in the Blank Team] will win the Stanley Cup”. All these articles are based on personal opinion, last year’s stats or trades in the off-season. My predictions, however, are solely based on observation and common sense. They don’t take into account any unforeseen events, injuries and basic brain farts that can hinder a team or player’s success. They are merely generalities of what usually happens, and are as vague and open to interpretation as any simpleton with a crystal ball.
1. More than One Player will have a Scoring Streak
Aside from the consistent goal scorers like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, a third or fourth liner always seem to get on a hot scoring streak. Last year it was Darren Helm and Danny Cleary. The year before that, Todd Bertuzzi. It’s one of the many reasons why I love Detroit. They have a deep pool of talent and everyone contributes to its success.
Besides seeing Helm continue to increase his goal production (he gets better every year), I expect Johan Franzen to kick it up a notch as well. Franzen slumped in the latter part of the 2010-2011 season. After scoring an impressive five goals in one game against Ottawa, he didn’t really hit the net again till the playoffs. With a $3.9 million average yearly salary and 9 years left on his contract, his lack in production is going to start becoming a hindrance to the Wings salary cap. If Franzen doesn’t put up 30 goals this season, it’s a possibly he could be traded in July.
2. Someone will get Injured
It’s a simple truth that we must all accept as hockey fans. It happens consistently and yet we all seem surprised and disheartened when it does.
And it might happen more frequently to the Wings this season.
Even though the majority of the Detroit roster is younger now than in the past, remnants of the old regime still remain. Nicklas Lidstrom is a ripe 41 years old, Tomas Holmstrom is 38 (and already injured), Zetterberg will soon be 31 and Datsyuk is a deceiving 33 (I was shocked when I found out Pavel was this old. We may have only 3-6 years left of #13…You have my permission to freak out). With age comes injuries, and it’s only a matter of time before it takes its’ toll on the Wings’ key players.
The upside is that there’s a cache of talent stored in Grand Rapids. Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are all NHL ready and can fill in nicely if any veteran goes down. Add a healthy Jan Mursak in December and Detroit looks safe if any injuries arise
This is by far the biggest “no sh**” prediction of the article. If you are a true Wings fan, you’ve probably just spooked the cat by blurting out a huge “Duh”.
The Wings have made the playoffs for the last 20 seasons and the roster is stacked with talent. Barring any unanticipated calamities (see the 2009-2010 season), we should all be watching the Detroit well into April.
Now the bad news…
It won’t last forever.
All streaks end. It happened with the Boston Bruins (29 seasons, ending in 1996), the Chicago Blackhawks (28 seasons, ending in 1997) and the St Louis Blues (25 seasons, ending in 2004). Notice something about those teams that I mentioned? When they finally did end their streak, they all stunk. Think it couldn’t happen to our beloved Red Wings?
Detroit once had another 20 year playoff streak. It was 1939 through 1958, and was followed by a 20+ year downfall. It was the era of the “Dead Wings”, and Hockeytown didn’t recover till the signing of Steve Yzerman. We’ve all benefited from the brains and talent of Mike Ilitch and Ken Holland, but they won’t be around forever. This is a morbid thought, true, but it’s something the fans have to take in perspective.
One final note that is more a statement than a prediction:
I don’t know who will win the Stanley Cup and neither does anyone else.
It’s an incredibly hard trophy to acquire and there’s never a guarantee; however, that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the season. We’re in for another 6-7 months of hockey, and I plan on relishing every bit of it. The Detroit Red Wings may take home Lord Stanley or be eliminated again in the second round. Either way, I plan on enjoying the ride.
Now excuse me while pack up my crystal ball and head to the Joe.
Follow Derek Hansen on Twitter @Hockey_Mouth