Detroit Red Wings Players Most Likely to Have Bounce-Back 2014-15 Seasons
Like April showers bring May flowers, failed playoff achievements bring summer-layoff bereavements.
Heading into the summer Detroit will likely make significant changes, with seven players heading for unrestricted free agency and young players hoping to make their case for a roster spot.
There are roster players who didn’t live up to hype or simply have the season they expected. It’s hard to find fault in any players who magically remained healthy for the majority of the year, leading Detroit to a 23rd consecutive playoff appearance.
However, the team’s goal wasn’t simply to make the playoffs and bow out in five games. After taking Game 1 against the Boston Bruins, Detroit’s four straight losses ended its season in an untimely, substandard fashion.
Looking ahead to an offseason of healing and considerable roster clarity, there are a few key players ready to improve and contribute in 2014-15.
Whether rebounding from a lack of contribution or significant injury, these players are those most likely to bounce back next season.
A mutual necessity for player and team, Jimmy Howard may be under the most pressure to rebound in 2014-15.
His 21-19-11 record in 51 appearances was his worst as the starting netminder. He totaled the same amount of wins in nine less games played in 2013’s lockout-shortened season.
Detroit was banged up more than usual, and it could not have been easy to suit up behind that lineup carousel for the majority of the season. Detroit had 10 players make their NHL debuts this season, four of them on defense.
The revolving door in front of Howard certainly made settling in more difficult. Having an improved and consistent back end will go a long way toward helping him right the ship.
His own play will certainly require attention, specifically when shorthanded. Howard surrendered 34 power-play goals this year, totaling a .866 save percentage with the man disadvantage. While it’s not all the goalie’s fault, the man between the pipes needs to be a team’s best penalty-killer.
He also surrendered a league-high six goals in overtime and finished with the second-most overtime/shootout losses (11). Only New Jersey’s Cory Schneider had more (12).
It was a rough season for the entire organization, so to see Howard turn things around in 2014-15 wouldn’t surprise anyone. His competitive attitude is sure to be the driving force behind a healthy improvement for next season.
Like Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Ericsson has a shiny new contract that will be accompanied by increased expectations.
Ericsson inked a six-year extension worth $25.5 million, making him Detroit’s second-highest-paid blueliner.
He was limited to 48 games this season due to multiple injuries. A broken middle finger in March required surgery, ultimately ending his season.
He totaled one goal and 11 points, on pace to set a career high in points in his fifth full NHL season. His plus-two finished second among Red Wing defensemen, and he was one of just three to finish with a positive plus/minus.
When 100 percent, Ericsson is an integral part of the Wings’ defensive system. At 6’4” and 221 pounds, he is their biggest player on the blue line and was sorely missed in their first-round series with Boston.
He was averaging 21:14 of ice time before suffering the injury but could see less time if Detroit acquires a right-handed defenseman as expected. He will remain among the top four and could find a niche on the second pairing with Danny DeKeyser.
Detroit’s defense corps struggled for the majority of the season last year, but a few changes and a healthy Ericsson could turn that weakness into a strength. Any improvement on the back end will be felt in all facets of the game.
He isn’t likely put up tremendous offensive numbers, but he’s grown into a reliable presence on the back end. His return to the lineup will be grounds for a bounce-back season regardless of his offensive output.
Nobody will be viewed under a microscope heading into the 2014-15 season quite like Stephen Weiss.
He was saddled with significant offensive responsibility the moment he signed his five-year, $24.5 million deal on July 1 last summer.
A distressing groin injury before the season began plagued him, restricting mobility and limiting the 31-year-old to just 26 games and four points. With an entire summer to patiently heal, Weiss plans to return to form in 2014-15.
When healthy he provides reliable play at both ends and is a solid option in the faceoff circle. His presence will give the Red Wings excellent depth down the middle, where they are traditionally most successful.
The four-time 20-goal scorer will be a big boost to Detroit’s lineup offensively. Having a proven scorer centering the second line will allow players like Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening to settle back into the roles they’re accustomed to.
Weiss can create a domino effect in the lineup that could carry substantial weight. The pressure this season will be greater, as the 2013-14 campaign has already labeled him as a possible free-agent bust.
Weiss is a professional and will shoulder the responsibility. This writer expects him to rebound with a good season on par with the standard he has set previously in his career.
This team could build upon some breakout performances from 2013-14. With the addition of a healthy Weiss, scoring could become more frequent.
This comes with a considerably large “if” as Weiss continues to rehab from surgery. Everything is dependent upon his health come training camp.
The heart and soul of the Detroit Red Wings is evident in the presence and play of its captain.
Henrik Zetterberg started the season at a torrid scoring pace with 11 goals and 30 points in 28 games before suffering a herniated disc in his back in December.
After missing nearly the entire month, he returned to score 18 points in 17 games before the injury was too severe to continue. He underwent back surgery in February and made it back for the final two playoff games in April.
The only thing Zetterberg needs to do is heal. When he finally resorted to surgery, he was tallying more than a point per game and leading the team in most offensive categories.
At 33 years old he continues to put up tremendous numbers while succeeding as one of the league’s top defensive forwards. He is a world-class player and the undisputed leader of a team that also contains Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall.
When 100 percent he could easily reach 30 goals and 80 points in 2014-15. He didn’t have a poor season by any means, but there is still room for an immense talent like his to improve upon what he felt was a disappointing season.
He inspires teammates to improve and makes everyone around him better. There is no pressure on Zetterberg to produce at a point-per-game pace next season. Just having him penciled into the lineup will be a significant lift for the entire team.
Possibly the Red Wings’ most polarizing player, Johan Franzen lived up to his streaky reputation again in 2013-14.
For Detroit, Franzen had his best streaks of the season while Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were sidelined with injuries.
He gained notoriety as a playoff performer but has gone through a significant dry spell over the past few seasons. He totaled just two points in Detroit’s first-round exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
Looking ahead to the 2014-15 season, Franzen’s productivity is a big question mark. He amassed 16 goals and 41 points in 54 games, which is actually on pace for career highs in goals and assists over an 82-game season.
He missed 28 games due to concussion-like symptoms. If Detroit’s top lines can remain healthy and intact, Franzen could be in for a breakout season at 34 years old.
Considering his output from last season it is possible Franzen is set to have a big year in 2014-15. He had the most success on a line with David Legwand and Gustav Nyquist. A healthy Stephen Weiss in place of Legwand could provide a formidable second-line punch for Detroit.
He has the ability to score at will but can’t seem to keep it going over the course of an entire season. He’s cracked the 50-point mark three times but made the 30-goal plateau only once.
It’s safe to say there is no evidence as to which Johan Franzen will appear next season. Regardless, he is still an integral part of Detroit’s offense.
All salary information courtesy of CapGeek.com.
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