The Detroit Red Wings concluded the preseason on Saturday night, meaning that now is the time to make some predictions and preview the upcoming 2013-14 season.
The regular season starts for Detroit on Wednesday night at home against the Buffalo Sabres.
With so many roster moves to make and so little time before the roster-finalizing deadline on Monday, here is the season preview for the Detroit Red Wings.
The Detroit Red Wings picked up center Stephen Weiss from the Florida Panthers via free agency this summer. Weiss was signed to a five-year deal as a potential replacement for departed top-six forward Valtteri Filppula.
The Red Wings also inked Daniel Alfredsson to a one-year deal in free agency. "Alfie" has a huge bomb of a right-handed shot which will help the Red Wings tremendously both at regular strength and even more so on the power play.
Valtteri Filppula signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season when he didn't get the money that he was seeking from Detroit. The Lightning eventually locked up Filppula for five years and $25 million, per CapGeek. While the Red Wings may miss him on the second line, Filppula was asking for way too much for a player coming off of a disappointing season with 17 points in injury-limited action.
Detroit also saw Damien Brunner walk into free agency and eventually sign with the New Jersey Devils. The Red Wings will miss Brunner's scoring, but he was extremely inconsistent over the last 25 games of the regular season with just 10 points in 25 games on the top line.
Detroit bought out defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo and didn't re-sign veteran defenseman Ian White.
|First Line||Henrik Zetterberg||Pavel Datsyuk||Justin Abdelkader|
|Second Line||Johan Franzen||Stephen Weiss||Daniel Alfredsson|
|Third Line||Todd Bertuzzi||Joakim Andersson||Tomas Tatar|
|Fourth Line||Drew Miller||Dan Cleary||Mikael Samuelsson|
|Extra Roster Players||Darren Helm (LTIR)||Patrick Eaves (IR)||Jordin Tootoo|
Note: In this scenario, roster moves will still have to be made after Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves come off of LTIR. Gustav Nyquist has been sent to the AHL according to Helene St. James Twitter account.
|First Pairing||Niklas Kronwall||Jonathan Ericsson|
|Second Pairing||Dan DeKeyser||Jakub Kindl|
|Third Pairing||Kyle Quincey||Brendan Smith|
Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson will be the goalies this season, although Gustavsson is currently out with a groin injury.
The Detroit Red Wings have a lot still up in the air for the 2013-14 season.
In a previous article on Bleacher Report, I identified Jonathan Ericsson as the biggest X-Factor for Detroit this season. There should be some additions to this, however, as noted by the Red Wings' play in the preseason.
Stephen Weiss is a definite X-factor this season. Weiss didn't look good until he was finally united with his future linemates in Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen.
Although the trio lit up the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night in Detroit, combining for four points, Weiss didn't have any of them, and he was held to just one shot on goal.
Should Stephen Weiss ever find the scoresheet, the Red Wings offense will take off even more than it did in that preseason contest.
The Red Wings are currently without a fourth-line center after sending Cory Emmerton through waivers on Sunday, with Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss and Joakim Andersson holding down the top three center spots.
Detroit fans and management are really hoping that Helm can make a return before then end of September to center the third or fourth line. Helm was only able to play one game last season and has been deterred from playing this preseason by his back and groin.
Needless to say, it would be huge for the Red Wings to get him back at full (or near full) strength.
There are a number of scenarios for the Red Wings this season, and no one scenario is like any other, as all are completely possible due to the unpredictability of the NHL landscape.
Best-Case Scenario: Stanley Cup Champions
When a team makes an assertion that it should be in the conversation for a Stanley Cup, hockey fans, analysts and others take notice.
The Red Wings did just in 2012-13, as they made an assertion that the regular season was a fluke. The Wings knocked out the No. 2 seed Anaheim Ducks and took the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to the brink in seven games before losing in overtime of Game 7.
If the Wings are firing on all cylinders, like they were in the preseason game on Friday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, they will be very hard to stop. Detroit went 3-for-4 on the power play in that game and looked nothing short of dominant.
If they can sustain any part of that dominance in the regular season, it wouldn't be a stretch to see this team repeat last year's magic in the playoffs.
Worst-Case Scenario: Miss the Playoffs
While no Red Wings fan has the possibility of the Red Wings missing the playoffs on their mind, it could happen. The Red Wings went into the playoffs last season as the No. 7 seed and actually had to win their last four games to qualify for the playoffs.
If the Red Wings had two fewer points last season, they wouldn't have made the playoffs. Simple as that.
If Detroit gets hit by the injury bug again this season, like they did last season and throughout this preseason, it could be a very long year for the Red Wings organization.
The Detroit Red Wings have a long season ahead of them with plenty of distractions on the horizon.
The Red Wings host 2014 NHL Winter Classic and will be badgered by HBO from time to time as well. In addition to the Winter Classic, a number of Red Wings will be representing their countries in Sochi at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
After these events, it will be extremely hard for this Detroit squad to have much gas left in the tank for a long playoff run.
While the Red Wings certainly have the talent to excel as an organization, key questions remain with Stephen Weiss on the second line and the physical makeup of the fourth line.
The Red Wings have had trouble getting consistent scoring in the past outside of their first (and sometimes second) line. Don't expect this to change any time in the future.
Regular season prediction: 103 points, third in the Eastern Conference.
Playoff Prediction: A series loss in the Eastern Conference Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
All statistics via NHL.com unless otherwise noted.
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