No Lidstrom for first time in 20 seasons
With a 113-day labor stoppage nearing its end with a tentative agreement on a new CBA, hockey fans can now look forward to a 48 or 50-game season for 2012-2013.
After another early postseason exit coming from division rival Nashville, there are many questions—and lofty expectations—for a Red Wings team that is desperate to make another deep playoff run.
So with a new hockey season soon to come, there are five major headlines surrounding the Red Wings following the 2011-12 roller coaster ride.
The Red Wings fell just short on landing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in 2012 free agency, but added four veteran pieces in Jonas Gustavsson, Jordin Tootoo, Mikael Samuelsson, and Carlo Colaiacovo.
Additionally, the Red Wings made a low-risk move on Swiss star Damien Brunner to try and add another scoring punch to the top six forwards.
These moves will ultimately lead to another Red Wings playoff run, their 22nd consecutive time doing so.
When the season officially does come to a close, however, the Red Wings will be very busy.
Valtteri Filppula will be a key player to re-sign before the free agency period begins. Ian White and Jimmy Howard will likely garner brand new deals to stay in Hockeytown.
Questions will also surface about Danny Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi and their futures in Detroit.
Things will be very busy in Detroit over the offseason in 2013.
With an active offseason will come the opportunity for the players in the Red Wings farm system to make the NHL.
There are many top prospects within the organization vying for spots on the 2013-14 roster and some who might be unfortunately snubbed a spot due to roster conflicts.
We do know that there is a need at defense.
Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul are the organization's top defensive prospects yet to see NHL action. Both defensemen have a chance to make the big club in 2013-14 but will likely end up in Grand Rapids, Detroit's AHL affiliate.
Fans can also expect the North American debut of Calle Jarnkrok and Teemu Pulkkinen in 2013, along with Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar to get every opportunity to make the jump to the NHL.
It could be true that 2013 will be the year that the Red Wings have new kids on the block and continue to add depth to their quality farm system.
Z will be given the "C"
Once Nicklas Lidstrom retired in May, the internal search for a new captain began.
The candidates for this position have been speculated, but the consensus opinion has these three players in the running for to become the next Red Wings captain:
- Pavel Datsyuk
- Niklas Kronwall
- Henrik Zetterberg
Reports have already begun to surface that Zetterberg will be named as the team's next Captain (Mlive). Trying to fill the Captaincy role after a legend like Lidstrom held it for seven seasons is truly an arduous task.
But if Lidstrom was able to seamlessly take over after Steve Yzerman's retirement, Zetterberg will be able to do the same in 2013.
For the past 21 seasons Red Wings fans have been spoiled with the ability to watch playoff hockey.
Over those 21 seasons there have been four Stanley Cup victories, six appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals, and eight appearances to the Western Conference Finals. In addition, the Red Wings have won their division 14 times over the past two decades.
This season the expectations should be the same for the Red Wings. The team still retains its offensive punch along with becoming a grittier, younger team.
Questions still loom on defense, but the core is a defensive minded group who will still be able to keep the flow of the game and provide adequate help on the offensive side.
And with a promising goaltending tandem in Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson, anything is truly possible.
A deep playoff run for this current team of Red Wings might not be unexpected for the 2012-13 season.
Captains New and Old
For as long as I remember being a Red Wings fan, there has always been No. 5 playing defense every year.
This year will mark the first time since the 1991-92 season where the Red Wings will go into the season without the seven-time Norris Trophy winner patrolling at defense.
After a lengthy and successful career, Lidstrom has earned the right to retire. It's just going to be a painful process for fans to cope with losing a critical team-player and true mentor and leader like Lidstrom.
Learning how to play without him might be the toughest thing the Red Wings will have to deal with. The team struggled last season during Lidstrom's absence due to injury, and their season took a tailspin from that point on.
There will be a night for Red Wings fans to rejoice about Lidstrom's career in the very near future. But until then, the start to the 2012-13 season might be one that fans aren't accustomed to.