The 2009-2010 season for the Detroit Red Wings will be a unique situation as they do not have the target on their backs for once. With Pittsburgh winning the Cup last season, the attention will be focused on them. However there is no team in the NHL that is discounting the Wings.
The biggest concerns are on a few fronts. The recent news that Johan Franzen will be out of action with a torn ACL for four months leaves the Wings lacking in both blocking the opposing goalie's vision and in Franzen’s scoring touch. But with Bertuzzi being on the team, he will assume that role on Henrik Zetterberg's line.
Also, Justin Abdelkader has been called up to take Franzen's spot on the team. Abdelkader provides a physical presence in the style of Kirk Maltby and Danny Cleary.
The other concern is with goal-tending. Even though Chris Osgood's stats are creeping towards Hall of Fame levels, he is still an issue. Last season he went through a meltdown that led him to being benched and Jimmy Howard being called up.
This season Jimmy Howard is his backup and there is no Ty Conklin. In the first two games in Sweden against the Blues, the Wings gave up leads in both games and lost. Osgood and Howard will have to cut out that sort of play now that they are back in Hockeytown. Detroit fans are still recovering from the collapse of the Tigers and do not need to have another Detroit pro team have problems holding leads.
Usually the other talk has been with physical play. However, with the additions of Todd Bertuzzi and Brad May, along with last season's playoff rookies Darren Helm and Abdelkader — the physical play has improved. May was already in fights in his first Wing’s game against Chicago.
The age debate with the Wings comes up every season and this season is no different. The average of the team’s age is creeping towards 35 and really doesn't mean a thing. True Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski may have lost a step, but there isn't a team that wouldn't want them as their first line defensive pairing.
Draper and Maltby may not have the speed they once had, but they still have a level of experience that means they will still burn any team that doubts they can still play. Plus even though the average age is high, the presence of Helm, Abdelkader, Ville Leino, Jonathan Ericsson, and Patrick Eaves are still a formidable group of youthful players who will use their youthful fitness, and learn from the likes of Lidstrom, Rafalski, Draper, and Holmstrom.
To predict how the Wings will finish lies solely in if they can stay healthy. Hopefully the Franzen injury is the only serious bump and bruise for them. They combated quite a few injuries in their attempt to repeat as Stanley Cup Champs last season. Those injuries hampered that attempt and opened the door for the Pens to win it all.
This season will not have the pressure of last season, however it is optimistic with the team they have that another run for the 12th Stanley Cup is not a far off possibility. Their start in Sweden may seem a concern considering the outcome, but the Wings operate with a style of learning from their mistakes. Mike Babcock has them coached to realize that even in defeat there is still a lot to learn from.
It is pointless to see the 1-2 start as a point of concern when considering what else the Wings have to contend with. They had only three days of training camp, the start of the season being in Sweden, and the new players are still getting used to being on the Wings. Give it a few games and they should be in first place again.
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