Coming into last year, the Detroit Red Wings looked stronger than ever. Fresh off a dominating cup win they added arguably the best sniper on the market and seemed poised to create another dynasty, even in this cash strapped salary cap era.
This year certainly seems to be another story. Gone are Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson amongst others leaving the team with roughly 31 percent of the offense to replace.
Who did they bring in?
Todd Bertuzzi, Drew Miller, Jason Williams and Patrick Eaves amongst others. Those four combined for a whopping 54 goals last year, a little more than half of the 89 goals that left this past offseason. If you subtract 35 goals from last year’s totals the team still would finish 7th in scoring and not first.
GM Ken Holland planned on using rookies and young players such as Ville Leino, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm in scoring roles, hoping it would force them to step up their games and make up the remaining 35 goals needed. What Holland did not expect were injuries. Injuries and injuries alone could derail all hope this team had to make the playoffs, let alone another return to the Stanley Cup.
Only four players skated in every regular season game so far: Todd Bertuzzi, Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart. Only one of those players is a legitimate first line or first pairing player. Ironically both Bertuzzi and Holmstrom fill the top line at the moment, flanking lone healthy scoring threat Pavel Datsyuk.
The rest of the roster missed a total of 161 man games through the halfway part. In other words the Red Wing through half a season have enough injuries to fill almost two seasons.
Johan Franzen, a 34-goal scorer of last year, already missed 38 games and will not return until March. However, he remains the only long-term injury. Superstar Henrik Zetterberg and 14 goal scorer Dan Cleary should return in a week or so. Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall, Andreas Lilja and Jason Williams could follow suit in another two weeks giving this team more hope.
As of this writing the Wings sit 9th in the Western Conference, on the outside looking in. Their problem as you could expect is scoring goals. Only the St. Louis Blues score less than Detroit, by a margin of one. Last year’s powerhouse scored the most in the league a stark difference between their current results.
The goaltending tandem of Jimmy Howard and Chris Osgood actually improved dramatically to last year’s Ty Conklin-Osgood duo which increases the odds of the Wings sneaking in. Howard needs to continue his consistent goaltending for this team to make the playoffs.
What the Wings do over these next few weeks should determine their fate. If the fallen can return and immediately turn on the jets leading into the Olympics, then this team stands a good chance. How many players can return to 100 percent following injuries? That percentage fairly depicts this team’s chance of making the playoffs.
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