The start of each new Detroit Red Wings season means new hope and fresh predictions. The Red Wings are three games into the season and some players have already made a push for early MVP honors.
While it is premature to award for team MVP, it is never too early to take guesses at which players will continue to be in the running for the most valuable Red Wing.
Here are the early five favorites for team MVP.
The Detroit Red Wings management has hopes that Daniel Alfredsson might be a missing piece, as Detroit has not had a bonafide right-handed shot in the lineup since the departures of Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan after the 2005-06 season.
Alfredsson's hard shot hasn't netted him any goals in the young season, but he does have one assist in three games. That assist sent the game against the Carolina Hurricanes to overtime where the Red Wings won 3-2.
Although he is averaging three shots a game through three contests, the 40-year-old Swede will need to get the No. 2 line going for Detroit in order to have an outside chance at team MVP honors.
It is no secret that Johan Franzen is a top-tier forward in the NHL.
Now before trying to refute that statement, recognize that Franzen is an elite forward when he wants to be. Franzen dominates games in some instances, but he also looks completely disinterested with the sport of hockey at other times.
Franzen has two assists on the young season; both assists came in the Carolina game.
Which Johan Franzen will Red Wings fans and management see this year? It will depend on two things.
First, how motivated will The Mule be in playing with his new linemates in Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson? Secondly, how long will it take—assuming Franzen gets motivated—to put up bunches of points on a consistent basis.
While it would be foolish to take a perennial 30-goal scorer off of this list, no one knows the answers to either of the above questions. One has to wonder if Franzen will prematurely take his name off the team MVP list with his sporadic play.
If Jimmy Howard hadn't played as well as he did last season, the Red Wings wouldn't have made the playoffs. The Red Wings were in trouble in a transition year and Howard bailed them out on numerous occasions.
Howard won only half of his 42 starts last season, but his 2.13 GAA and 92.3 save percentage helped the Red Wings qualify for the playoffs by a single point.
This season, Howard has a 2-1 record with seven goals against in three games. If he can continue his above-average play, the Red Wings have a very good chance at making the playoffs again.
While 29-year-old American no longer has to prove himself to be the starting goaltender for Detroit, he does have much to prove to win the team MVP award.
Henrik Zetterberg is already off to the races this season with two goals and an assist in three games.
His goal with 16.4 seconds remaining against Carolina bailed the Red Wings out and set the stage for Stephen Weiss to win the game in overtime.
While goals against Carolina are nothing to really put on the highlight reels, his poise and clutch scoring abilities will help Detroit in the quest to make the playoffs for the 23rd straight season.
Zetterberg will finally be back on the top line this season with Pavel Datsyuk on a full-time basis, meaning he will have a shot to possibly put up career highs in all major offensive categories.
The 31-year-old Swede is also a premier defensive forward, but he is a distant second place on this list, simply because he is not Pavel Datsyuk.
Pavel Datsyuk may be 35 years old, but no one would ever know it from the way he plays the game. Datsyuk is (and should be) the favorite to win the Red Wings MVP award because without him on the ice, the Red Wings pale in comparison to when he is playing.
Datsyuk is the most creative player in the NHL, leaving opponents guessing as to what he will do next with the puck.
But the Russian superstar's bag of tricks does not stop there. He devotes himself to the defensive side of hockey as well, as he is among the league leaders in takeaways over the past decade.
The creativity, determination, offensive abilities and commitment to defense that Datsyuk has separates him from the pack just enough to put him as a clear favorite to win the Red Wings MVP award.
All statistics from NHL.com.
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