Central Focus: Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings were poised to make major moves during the offseason. With the surprise retirement of Brian Rafalski, the Wings suddenly had a whopping $6 million dollars to spend in free agency. With their core locked up, it looked like a couple big name defenceman could have been Detroit-bound. But the Red Wings took the route they usually do; take a chance on a player that has the ability and just isn't in the right place.
|Derek Meech, D||Winnipeg|
|Chris Osgood, G||retired|
|Kris Draper, C||retired|
|Brian Rafalski, D||retired|
|Mike Modano, C||retired*|
*Modano is still pondering his future
|Mike Commodore, D||Columbus|
|Ian White, D||San Jose|
|Ty Conklin, G||St. Louis|
|Chris Conner, LW||Pittsburgh|
Detroit is looking like they will be around the same talent level as last year, if not better. Even with Rafalski leaving, White can potentially fill that role with ease. There isn't that much pressure this year, especially playing with Nicklas Lidstrom. Commodore will likely battle for the 6th position with Jakub Kindl. Conklin is a good replacement for Chris Osgood, as he played in Detroit in 2008-09.
|Henrik Zetterberg||Pavel Datsyuk||Tomas Holmstrom|
|Todd Bertuzzi||Valterri Filppula||Johan Franzen|
|Dan Cleary||Darren Helm||Jiri Hudler|
|Patrick Eaves||Justin Abdelkader||Drew Miller|
|Cory Emmerton||Jan Mursak||Chris Conner|
|Nicklas Lidstrom||Niklas Kronwall|
|Ian White||Brad Stuart|
|Jonathan Ericsson||Mike Commodore|
|Jakub Kindl||Brendan Smith|
The Red Wings roster certainly looks promising enough. They have enough cap space to call up players like Tomas Tatar in case of injuries, as well as for the trade deadline, where the team hasn't really been active in recent years, only notably acquiring Brad Stuart from the Los Angeles Kings in 2008.
Look for Jimmy Howard to get less starts than last year with Ty Conklin in the fold. If 2009 was any indication, Conklin should be a great fit. He stepped in for Osgood when he was injured and played like a number one goalie. It even sparked debates on who should start in the playoffs.
Datsyuk and Zetterberg will lead the charge on offense. Hopefully Franzen and Filppula pick up their games, and Jiri Hudler should have a better season as well.
Lidstrom will be the same as last year, there is no doubt in my mind. Kronwall has to play like a number two defenceman, and that will mean less players getting 'Kronwalled' and more people getting 'Stuarted.' Ericsson needs to do something this year do. Anything positive is good for me.
Detroit should challenge for the Central Division title again this year. The most likely competition is again the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators. They seem to have the right pieces together to finish second at least. Until the season starts, we can only guess at where everyone will finish, but you can bet Detroit will be in the playoffs for a 21st straight year.