1 Thing Each Detroit Red Wings Star Must Accomplish in 2014-15
After an injury-plagued 2013-14 campaign, healing is Priority No. 1. Expectations for next season aren’t far behind.
It’s easy to assess this past season as a disappointment, but under the circumstances the club has a lot to look forward to. And for Detroit's top stars, it’s more about moving forward than looking that way.
Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen each missed a significant chunk of the season due to injury. It’s fair to say that each have every intention of improving upon their 2013-14 seasons.
Detroit will rely on all of its stars to pave the way for the rest of the lineup; they’ll shoulder the load as expected. For the better of the team, there are important aspects of each player's game that need special attention.
This list is comprised of one thing that each Detroit Red Wings star needs to accomplish if the team is to be successful in 2014-15.
Henrik Zetterberg Must Remain Healthy
It’s quite difficult to find anything about Henrik Zetterberg's game that could need improvement.
It’s even more difficult to pass judgment.
In 45 games he totaled 16 goals and 48 points with a team-leading plus-19. He was on his best scoring pace since he amassed 80 points in 80 games during the 2010-11 season.
Up until this season, he has been a constant for the Red Wings, missing only four regular-season games from 2010-2013. There is not much else you can ask from your captain.
As long as he’s healthy and penciled into the lineup, Detroit will be just fine. He was the leading scorer for the majority of the season until he was surpassed simply because he missed time.
He’s the undisputed leader in a locker room full of immense talent and hockey intelligence. His game speaks for itself, even when he is not 100 percent.
A full summer to rest his surgically repaired back should have him relaxed and ready for what lies ahead. There’s no doubt that Zetterberg will return to his elite level of play and that his presence will be felt up and down the lineup.
Pavel Datsyuk Needs to Shoot the Puck
Like Henrik Zetterberg, it is extremely tough to find a fault in Pavel Datsyuk’s game.
That being said, the “Magic Man” could certainly afford to shoot the puck more frequently. He has a career shooting percentage of 14.3 but hasn’t hit the 200-shot plateau since the 2009-10 season.
From 2005-2010, Datsyuk amassed five consecutive seasons with 70 or more points while failing to register 200 shots just once. The 35-year-old hasn’t posted double-digit shots on goal in a game since March 11, 2008—he finished that season with 264 shots and 97 points.
The hockey universe recognizes Datsyuk as one of the best playmakers, and he is revered as a top defensive forward. For a team that finished 15th in the league in goals for in 2013-14 (222), a few extra shots from No. 13 would be welcomed.
He hasn’t cracked the 20-goal mark since 2010-11, so Detroit would love to see him get going offensively once again.
As long as he’s in the lineup, he remains a threat to make a play. After averaging just 2.8 shots per game last season, a few extra attempts on goal every night could make him even more dangerous.
That is a scary thought for any opposing defense.
Johan Franzen Needs to Force the Issue
Johan Franzen is a notoriously streaky forward, and the frustration is mounting for Red Wings faithful.
Franzen has proven he can rake in the points, but when it comes to his career numbers he’s tallied 30 goals only once. He shows flashes of brilliance but follows it with an extended dry spell.
Inconsistency is his biggest issue, but perhaps a bit of a mean streak could help. He appears to take his momentum in stride, almost as if he’s waiting to break out or enjoying it while it lasts.
It is time he forces the issue instead of remaining patient.
When Franzen is hot the offense runs through him like a well-oiled machine, but when he’s cold he’s more useless than Han Solo in carbonite.
His $3.95 million cap hit is quite friendly considering his offensive upside, but Detroit needs to see his upside more often. Like Datsyuk, his best seasons have come when firing more than 200 shots on goal. He has registered 28 or more goals in each of the three seasons he has done so.
He will produce offensively but may be able to reach another level if he ups the intensity. Coach Mike Babcock drives his team with an ultra-competitive approach, and Franzen needs to play up to that mentality all the time.
There is still more that he can do to help the club. It’s about time he comes to the forefront on a regular basis.
Jimmy Howard Must Keep It Simple
Jimmy Howard had his worst statistical season in 2013-14, and with a talented young prospect knocking on the door he’ll need to right the ship soon.
He’s a key part of the team, but without an improvement in play he could be on the outs sooner than expected. Luckily, it won’t take much for Howard to turn things around.
Like most goalies, he is a creature of habit, so adjustments don’t necessarily come easy. Shoring up fundamentals will go a long way toward more consistent performances.
He is often a victim of big rebounds and questionable angles. Often teams are successful crashing the net knowing the puck could kick out. Without playing efficient angles, it’s tough to gauge shots and recognize play development.
By reverting back to basics, Howard can improve upon the fundamental aspects of goaltending and for better habits. Detroit needs a reliable netminder, and it needs Howard to be that guy.
As long as he can keep it simple and stay out of his own way, he can be the No. 1 goalie to whom they committed $31.75 million.
Niklas Kronwall Must Stay the Course
In 2013-14 Niklas Kronwall led the team in points at the end of the season, the first defenseman to do so since Paul Coffey in 1995.
Kronwall has been Detroit’s leader on the blue line since Nicklas Lidstrom retired after the 2011-12 season. He was again the best defenseman for the Red Wings during a season in which they struggled on the back end.
As the veterans heal and young players become better acclimated to the speed of the NHL, he must continue to be the rock for the entire corps. He is also a tremendous locker room leader and team ambassador.
Consistency is something the team lacked last year, but Kronwall was as close to an iron man as Detroit’s leaders had (79 games played). As the captain on the power play and No. 1 blueliner, Detroit needed someone to step up, and Kronwall did just that.
After a stressful season, the load should lighten on Kronwall. With the expected addition of a right-handed linemate, per Ansar Khan of MLive.com, as well as the health and experience of the rest of the group, Detroit’s blue line could come together nicely.