The Detroit Red Wings' playoff run (and shot at a Stanley Cup) starts Saturday night in St. Louis, as the Red Wings cannot afford to waste any time with the shortened 48-game season.
The Red Wings will be looking to make the playoffs for the 22nd straight season.
But will they flop this season with another first or second-round exit as they have during the previous three playoff seasons?
For all intents and purposes, the answer should be no.
Here are five reasons the Red Wings are still able of contending for a Cup, despite losing former captain, Nick Lidstrom.
It is extremely difficult to become Stanley Cup champions in any given year. With four grueling rounds and up to seven games in each round, the journey to the Stanley Cup Finals is far from easy. Some players may underestimate the true difficulty of the sojourn, which is why the best teacher of how to win in the playoffs is experience.
The Detroit Red Wings have 12 players who were on the roster of thee 2008 Stanley Cup team.
With the Red Wings' success in the postseason over the past decade-and-a-half, as well as their 22 consecutive seasons of being in the playoffs, the experience is clearly on the Red Wings' side of the ice.
But after two second-round exits followed by a first-round burnout, the question is: are the Red Wings still hungry to win in the postseason?
The Red Wings know what it takes to be successful and hoist the Stanley Cup at the end of the season, but they now must use their experience to find it within themselves to step up when it counts in the playoffs.
Last year, the Detroit Red Wings had 16 players that put up 20 points or more in the regular season. No other team had more than 14 players with 20 or more points.
When talking about offensive talent, simply naming some of the Red Wings' top forwards sends shivers down the spines of opposing goalies.
Whether it is Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula or other role players, the Red Wings appear to be more talented offensively across the board than any other team in the NHL.
Despite losing Nick Lidstrom (34 points), Jiri Hudler (50 points) and Brad Stuart (21 points) to retirement or free agency, the Red Wings' acquisitions have helped them re-prime for this year.
Damien Brunner (who dominated the Swiss Elite League this year), Mikael Samuelsson (31 points last year), Jordin Tootoo (30 points last year) and Carlo Colaiacovo (19 points last year) should help to alleviate a bit of the pressure to perform offensively.
While fans and hockey pundits are writing off the Detroit Red Wings' defense due to losing Brad Stuart to free agency and Nick Lidstrom to retirement, they forget that defense is a team effort.
Combining Lidstrom's and Stuart's numbers would seem cause for alarm in hockey town; Lidstrom and Stuart combined for 218 hits and 194 blocked shots.
Additionally, the fact that Lidstrom's simple poke checks that stop breakaways and Stuart's ability to clear bodies and pucks from the front of the net cannot be measured in statistics, Red Wings fans should be a little bit concerned.
Not so fast.
Last season the Red Wings were seventh in the regular season in goals against giving up just 2.44 goals per game (or 199 total).
The Red Wings still have players like Pavel Datsyuk (97 takeaways last season) and Darren Helm (97 hits, 27 blocked shots and 27 takeaways last season) to lead them defensively in the forward group.
The Red Wings defensemen are not alone in their quest to keep the puck out of the net.
Detroit will win this season if defense is played "as a committee." They have the personnel, it is simply about making the defensive system work to suit the team.
Jimmy Howard should remind a fair number of fans of former Red Wings goalie, Chris Osgood.
Consistent success with Detroit in their first few years in the regular season that ultimately ended in playoff failure.
In his first three full seasons, Howard has a regular season record of 109-49-19 with 11 shutouts. Osgood had a 76-19-10 record over his first three seasons with eight shutouts.
Howard has a 13-15 record in his first three postseasons where as Osgood's record was 11-9 (not really playing that much in his second playoff season).
For those fans out there saying that it is unfair to be comparing Osgood to Howard at such a young stage in their careers, keep in mind that the teams Osgood played on in the 1990s had future Hall of Fame members on them like Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan amongst others.
Howard is a solid goaltender, and he earned a spot in the All-Star Game last year with his play.
As soon as he gets back to or past the second round of the playoffs, watch out.
Jimmy Howard is a streaky goalie like Chris Osgood was, and just like Osgood, Howard has a never-say- die mentality on a lot of shots that he faces.
If the Red Wings keep Howard healthy and clear of most traffic this season, he should guide Detroit to another solid campaign.
It has been almost eight years since the Detroit Red Wings hired Mike Babcock as their head coach.
Babcock's record with the Red Wings is 352-154-68 in the regular season and he is 56-43 in the playoffs with a Stanley Cup championship in 2008 and a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2009.
Babcock recently got another very experienced coach in Tom Renney.
As the former coach of the Edmonton Oilers, Renny should provide Babcock with some solid advice behind the bench. He has coached in the head coaching capacity in every year since 2003-04 with the exception of 2009-10.
The Red Wings are blessed to be under some of the best management in the league, with owner Mike Illitch owning the team since 1982.
Illitch has expressed a desire in doing whatever he can to make his Red Wings successful, including significant financial contracts over the past two decades.
Detroit was unable to land the two biggest prizes of the offseason in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.
That means that we could finally see the Red Wings be a significant part of the trade deadline as they try to add that extra piece to get them over the hump.
The strong, experienced coaching staff and the commitment to winning by the management puts Detroit at least at the "contender" level when discussing the 2013 Stanley Cup potential participants.
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