It seems like just yesterday the Red Wings were putting together an impressive playoff run.
Their final go-around in the Western Conference ended in a semifinal series with Chicago that took a thrilling seven games to determine the winner. Detroit fell game one short of advancing to the Western Conference Finals, Yet the loss didn’t deflate the hope and promise of the Wings’ young talent heading into October.
Now that day is here.
Training camp is open and the battle for professional roster begins. It’s unlikely any of the young players with no NHL experience will crack the lineup on October 2. That’s because a bold off-season from GM Ken Holland, landing former Senator captain Daniel Alfredsson and Plymouth Whaler alum Stephen Weiss.
Together, these two bring a pedigree of success along with oodles of offense so desperately needed by the Red Wings. They ranked 22nd in the NHL in offense last season.
As training camp is in session in Traverse City, a lot of questions surface about the team’s ever-growing forward situation, what in the heck is going on with Darren Helm, a prospect update, and much more…
What does GM Ken Holland do with his 16 forwards on the roster? With the additions of Alfredsson and Weiss left the Red Wings with a logjam at forward. The Red Wings had 15 forwards under contract after this point.
Then this happened…
Source saying Dan Cleary deal with Detroit Red Wings is expected to be 1 year at $1.75M #TSN
— Aaron Ward (@aaronward_nhl) September 12, 2013
The signing of Cleary complicates a lot of things for Holland as he must be at the 23-player limit and under the salary cap by season’s start. He has a lot of work to do but this quote is quite interesting…
Holland said putting someone on IR and signing Cleary not an option. They’d have to trade or waive someone. They have 16 forwards now.
— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) September 12, 2013
With 16 forwards under contract, the question is who is the first to go. The likely first move is sending Darren Helm to the Long Term IR. He has been skating all summer but recently had a setback.
As expected, Wings’ Darren Helm said today he won’t be on ice for first day of camp tomm. (Groin). Called it day to day but likely longer.
— Ansar Khan (@AnsarKhanMLive) September 11, 2013
If Helm does land on LTIR his salary ($2.1 million according to Capgeek) would not count against the cap. Another likely move is waiving Mikael Samuelsson. The Wings would have to retain part of his salary if he did clear waivers or claimed by another team. A last ditch effort would be to send Gustav Nyquist to Grand Rapids. He is the only forward who is still waiver exempt despite being NHL ready.
What young Wings will see time in the NHL this season? If any callup were to happen, it is likely to occur on the defensive end. The Red Wings feel comfortable with their seven defenseman under professional contract now and don’t plan on giving an untested prospect a chance in the NHL.
Yet, the Red Wings would likely bring up Ryan Sproul first on defense. The CHL Defenseman of the Year brings a lot of offensive ability and a big body on the back end. He shoots right handed and has a heavy shot that the Wings love. Other options will include Adam Almqvist, Max Nicastro, and Xavier Ouellet who has an outside chance.
Up at forward, things get interesting. Grand Rapids returns many of their players from the Calder Cup-winning team. They do get young power forwards Martin Frk and Teemu Pulkkinen added to their roster. Coach Jeff Blashill will count on major production from Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, Landon Ferraro and Frk, who are the most likely to receive a callup to the NHL this year. Count on Luke Glendening as well to serve a checking role if injuries persist.
How will the goaltending duties be split? Seeing as Jimmy Howard signed a six-year contract extension, he will carry the load for the Red Wings going forward. The Syracuse, N.Y. native strung together a season worth noting. Howie played 42 games and compiled a 21-13-7 with a 2.13 GAA and .923 Save Pct. Had it not been for his record there could have been a Vezina Trophy nomination for Howard.
It should be expected to see Howard between the pipes in 50 games this year. With Jonas Gustavsson healthy and Petr Mrazek in Grand Rapids just in case, the Wings seem to be set in net.
Having “the Monster” healthy will be huge to this team, however. Gustavsson came over last year from Toronto and played in only seven contests. He struggled with injuries but proved last year in a 2-1 win against San Jose that he is ready to contribute when called upon. Working with goaltending coach Jim Bedard and also Chris Osgood will prove to be beneficial to the big Swede.
Before you scroll on, listen to this interview conducted by @GeorgeMalik with Jimmy Howard and his Training Camp experience along with some Gus talk…
Where will the Red Wings finish in the new Atlantic Division? During the offseason, the NHL approved a new realignment plan that sent the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference. They were placed in a division with longtime rivals Boston, Toronto and Montreal. Along with those Original Six teams they will play Ottawa, Buffalo, and the Florida teams in their own division.
Detroit is slated by many analysts to finish in the top three of the Atlantic. Boston is the frontrunner in most publications but they also do not rule out a strong year from the Red Wings. TSN writer Barry Riz noted that the Red Wings make the Eastern Conference better…
With respect to fellow realignment teams Columbus and Winnipeg, it’s the movement of the Red Wings that most shakes up the league.
The Eastern Conference just became more difficult, and the Western Conference just became a slightly easier place in which to play…
Riz also says this…
Detroit was frequently a challenger for the Western Conference crown alongside strong teams like the Blackhawks and Canucks and should find themselves in a comparable spot in the East alongside elite clubs like the Bruins and Penguins.
Detroit should have no problem in their new confines.
Finally, who becomes the Red Wings first line left wing? So far it seems Justin Abdelkader will be playing with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on the top line. Abdelkader made a late push last season after being promoted to the top line and picked up much of the slack for Datsyuk and Zetterberg. He can play wing on any line and may have to this year with the logjam on forward.
Other options will be Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Gustav Nyquist and Daniel Alfredsson.
Finally, to conclude this long-winded article here is another George Malik audio clip of Ken Holland speaking to media at Training Camp in Traverse City, Mich.