Cleat Geeks

Winged Wheel Watch: 2018-19 Red Wings Preview

After an expectedly rough 2017-18 season, the Detroit Red Wings, with a significantly changed landscape, have their eyes on improvement for the 2018-19 season.

Come in, come out

The Red Wings’ first order of business was to sign general manager Ken Holland to a new, two-year deal (the minimum term for an executive contract). Otherwise, they had a very quiet offseason, adding only two new faces in the forms of goaltender Jonathan Bernier and winger Thomas Vanek. They also re-signed defenseman Mike Green to a new two-year deal. The team also parted ways with defenseman Xavier Ouellet via a buyout

The most significant change for the Red Wings, however, is the loss of Henrik Zetterberg, their team captain, who was medically forced into retirement due to recurring back issues.

Image result for henrik zetterberg red wings

Photo by; Detroit News

In addition to losing Zetterberg’s presence on-ice as a playmaker and leader, they also lose his leadership in a younger-by-the-minute locker room. What the Red Wings will do in the immediate future to replace the vacant captaincy is not clear, the prevailing thought among fans and beat writers alike is that Dylan Larkin is the next in line for the captaincy. Whether he, or anyone else, will be given the “C” for the upcoming season is yet to be determined, though it’s entirely possible, if not likely, that the team operates with three alternate captains as they make the decision.

The team

Head coach Jeff Blashill is set to return for his fourth season behind the Red Wings’ bench.

A few injuries have accelerated the long-anticipated youth revolution for the Red Wings, as Green has been ruled out for the season opener, as well as about a month afterwards, due to a virus. Injuries to fellow defensemen Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall have the potential to open up more spots to begin the season.

As a result, these are the players you can expect to see on opening night.

(note: “A” denotes alternate captaincy.)

Image result for dennis cholowski red wingsForwards: LW Justin Abdelkader (A), C Andreas Athanasiou, LW Tyler Bertuzzi, C/LW Christoffer Ehn, RW Martin Frk, C Luke Glendening, C Darren Helm, C Dylan Larkin (A, home games), RW Anthony Manta, C Frans Nielsen (A, road games), RW Gustav Nyquist, C Michael Rasmussen, LW Thomas Vanek

Defensemen: Dennis Cholowski, Danny DeKeyser, Joe Hicketts, Filip Hronek, Nick Jensen, Libor Sulak

Goaltenders: Jonathan Bernier, Jimmy Howard

Injured: D Niklas Kronwall (A), D Mike Green, D Jonathan Ericsson

Cholowski and Rasmussen have both, at least for now, been guaranteed spots with the team to begin the season. And if you caught any preseason action involving either of them, you know that it’s not surprising that they’re here. Ehn, a 22 year-old, 2014 later round pick, is a surprise here after putting on a solid show during preseason play.

The aforementioned injuries to veteran defensemen present opportunities for Hicketts and/or Hronek, who have both been assigned to the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins. Both have long been considered to be among the Red Wings’ up-and-coming core of defensemen, as well as the 24 year-old Sulak, who brings size and skating ability to the blue line.

Already assigned to Grand Rapids Griffins, among others, D Vili Saarijarvi, RW Givani Smith, and LW/RW Filip Zadina, this year’s sixth overall draft pick. There was hope that the 18 year-old Zadina would immediately crack the Red Wings’ rotation, but struggles with the quicker pace of play and physicality of the NHL in preseason play showed the need for a little more seasoning.

Predictions

There will be signs of improvement as younger players mature and we begin to see current up-and-comers like Larkin, Mantha, Bertuzzi, and Athanasiou make this team their own. There will be excitement as we see the likes of Rasmussen, Zadina, Hronek, Hicketts, and Cholowski get time on the ice. But there will be little else.

There is scoring talent, both with their younger players and some veterans, but there are issues in the consistency of offensive production and there is little in the way of defense. They are in no position to contend. It won’t be without excitement, but a low finish in the eastern conference, coupled with a higher draft pick, is a likely outcome for this group.

 

 

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