Red Wings Crystal Ball
With the Detroit Red Wings looking to have locked up a top three seed, the only thing left to do is wait for their first round opponent. So, while we're waiting, Wings fans can check out my predicting skills when it comes to next year's season. All of the following points are things I believe can happen for the Wings, some being more or less likely than others.
1. Darren Helm will score 20+ goals
Not only has Helm been one of the league's top penalty killers, he has also been the heart and soul of the Red Wings in every situation. If we look at his progression from his debut in the 2008 playoffs to now, his play has improved every year. He could always skate, and in 2009 he showed some of his clutch penalty killing and goal scoring:
His points production has risen every year until now as well. He has developed some sick hands and his smarts follow closely. Now all that's missing is his finishing touch. Look for him to get to twenty in 2011-12.
BONUS PREDICTION: Helm will be an assistant captain in the near future.
2. Larsson Returns, steals starting job from Howard
This all depends if Daniel Larsson decides to return from Sweden. He has one year left on his contract with HV71 in Sweden, and it isn't certain he will be a part of the Red Wings' future. If he decides to come back, he would probably go to Grand Rapids again, but he has enough talent to perform at the highest level. Considering Chris Osgood ill likely retire after this season, the Wings will need a backup goalie and Larsson could fit the bill for cheap, and will have Jimmy Howard looking over his shoulder. In 2008-09, Larsson out dueled Howard for the starting job with the Griffins, his stats were phenominal and was an AHL all star.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Osgood retires, Larsson returns, splits duties with Howard and shows his talent. It adds drive to the goalies and the team.
3. If Nick Retires, welcome Shea Weber
This might be the biggest reach of all, but with Detroit, anything is possible. Hopefully Nick Lidstrom decides to stay for one more year. If not, the Wings will have Brian Rafalski as the number one guy, and at age 38 he is soon out the doors as well. Having Niklas Kronwall as the number one d-man was the plan a few years ago, but is probably better suited to be a 2nd/3rd defenceman. Enter Ken Holland with the keys to the Mike Illitch vault and a newly found 6 million dollars in additional cap space (from Lidstrom). Maybe Detroit gets Shea Weber to come to MoTown. If he doesn't resign with Nashville, Weber will be UFA, and with Detroit looking for a long term number one, Weber fits the bill. While I'm at it, Weber won't be able to wear number 6 because of Larry Aurie (number isn't retired, it's out of circulation, much like Vlady Konstantinov's number 16). So Weber will wear number 59. Why? Because it's a prediction, and he's Shea Weber and blast pucks through nets. He can do what he wants.
4. Tomas Tatar will have an impact
Tatar was called up this year for nine NHL games and scored one goal. Not bad for a guy drafted in 2009 in the second round. He lit up the World Juniors in 2009 and is almost at a point per game in the AHL this season with the Griffins. With a lot of depth players in limbo unless Lidstrom retires, some could hit the road, like Jonathan Ericsson and Kris Draper. Tatar would be a perfect addition to the fourth line and could possibly push Jiri Hudler out of his place on the third line. Tatar is one of the best prospects that could potentially produce after Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are gone (Tatar would be 30 when they are both 40ish). Seeing Detroit won't rush him, and with players like Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton in line, Tatar might be back in GR next year. Maybe he'll light the A up with newly signed Gustav Nyquist.
5. Modano Comes Back for Pennies
If I am Mike Modano, I am not thrilled with how my season has gone. Two goals, a sliced wrist, out half the season and only one goal since then. Modano still looks like he is hitting his stride as of late and still has gas left in the tank. With teammates praising the way he is playing, he will be back unless he wins a Cup this year. I think he will sign for next to nothing for another shot at the Cup and a storybook ending in his hometown.
One can dream...