Detroit Red Wings: Which Forwards Won't Make the Cut in Training Camp?
While much of the offseason focus has been on the defense and who the Wings will acquire to replace Nick Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, they have amassed a large number of forwards as well. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, GM Ken Holland talked about how they have 16 forwards that are fighting for 14 spots.
Who makes the team will come down to training camp battles. With the current stalemate in CBA negotiations, though, it is unknown if and what type of training camp there will be. A shorter camp will certainly benefit the veterans who are known commodities. If a deal is struck that will allow for a standard training camp to occur, then a few players might be able to fight their way onto the team.
We are just under a month to go until training camp opens on September 22. Here is a breakdown of who will make the team.
Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader.
While Holland said that there are 16 forwards fighting for 14 spots, that is not entirely accurate. Nobody thinks that Datsyuk or Zetterberg are in danger of losing a spot and neither are the rest of these players.
Justin Abdelkader has not resigned yet, but as a restricted free agent his options are limited. The team wants him back and has offered him a deal. It is just a matter of the two sides agreeing on a dollar amount. The new CBA will have an effect on these talks, as it will determine next year’s salary cap.
Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson.
With the team spending $3 million a year on Samuelsson and $1.9 million a year on Tootoo, they are both safe bets to make the roster.
Samuelsson will be returning to the Wings, where he played for four seasons and helped raise the Stanley Cup. He is coming off a rough year which saw him traded from Vancouver to Florida. He only played in 54 games but he did manage to score 14 goals in that time frame.
In Tootoo the Wings added a hard-nosed basher. He is known for his aggressiveness and ability to get opposing players off of their game. While he is here to be a physical force, many scouts point to his improved offensive game as well.
Too Much Possibility
The only way that Brunner does not make the roster out of camp is if he completely fails at adjusting to the North American game. Coach Mike Babcock already has him down for a top six spot.
Brunner has been a point per game player for the past three years in the Swiss A league. He could end up being the steal of the offseason.
The Red Wings needed to add a strong right-handed scorer and feel that they have found that in Brunner. He is only signed to a one-year deal so they will need to quickly learn if he can be the player that they believe he can be.
Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary
More than likely these two should be on that first slide as locks, but when you look over the roster these are the two players out of the “automatics” that have the most to prove.
Bertuzzi’s days of being an offensive force are long gone. His goals per season have been cut in half since his prime playing days. He had still been good and was providing a physical presence on the ice for a while, but these qualities seemed to be lacking last year.
He has slowed down on the ice as well. It was a surprise when the team resigned the 37-year-old for two more years during the season. He will likely make the team but for the younger players looking for someone to outplay, Bertuzzi should have the bulls-eye on his back.
Cleary is another veteran that should be safe but he needs to have a bounce back year. After scoring 20 goals in each of his first two seasons in Detroit, he has failed to top 15 in three out of his last four years. Last season, he kept playing through injuries which limited his effectiveness.
Like Bertuzzi, Cleary should also make the team but neither should take anything for granted. Also, with the amount of players fighting for spots, Cleary could be used as trade bait. Teams might be attracted to a veteran player who can provide some offensive depth with a reasonable cap hit.
Patrick Eaves, Gustav Nyquist, Drew Miller, Jan Mursak, Cory Emmerton
The real battle likely comes down to these five players—assuming the previous 11 players claim their spots and there are three spots open.
Drew Miller should make the roster. He gives them a scoring burst without much ice time. If he were ever given the opportunity to have more ice time, he could easily get 20 goals.
Gustav Nyquist showed a lot of promise in his first season with the team. He had seven points in 18 games and even played well enough to end up on Datsyuk’s line for several games. He is a hustle player who has shown the ability to score in his college and Swedish career, where he was often at or above a point per game level.
Miller and Nyquist should make the roster which leaves three players left battling for one spot.
The Last Man Standing
Patrick Eaves, Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton will battle for the final roster spot.
Cory Emmerton has a leg up on the other players in that he is out of minor league options. If the Red Wings try to send him down then he will likely be claimed by another team. Still, I do not think that he makes the team and will likely be leaving in a trade. He has the potential to be a solid player but never seems to stand out enough on the ice. He is average to good in most areas but not great in any.
Jan Mursak was supposed to make the team out of training camp last season but a broken ankle in training camp delayed his call up. He only played 25 games for the Red Wings last season. He is a hustle player with some potential.
Patrick Eaves was looking to make his mark with the team last season. Much like Drew Miller, Eaves is a player who gets a lot of production out of minimal ice time. Unfortunately, he took a puck to the face which resulted in a broken jaw and a severe concussion that ended his season after 10 games.
His recovery will dictate if he makes the team. If he has fully recovered from the concussion then he will fill the final roster spot. Mursak will continue to develop his game in the minors and would be the first call up. If Eaves is still not ready then Mursak makes the squad.
Of course the great wild card in this is the potential for trades. Beyond the players already under contract that are fighting for the last spot, the franchise also has Tomas Tartar, Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, Calle Jarnkrok, Riley Sheahan and Joakim Andersson all looking to make the roster in the next couple of seasons.
With that much depth and the probable need for at least one more defensive player, it is likely that some of these players and prospects will be leaving via a trade. There are still a few weeks to go until camp opens—if it opens—and a lot can happen in that time.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings as well as many other sports.
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