Last summer, sports writers, hockey fans, and especially Detroit fans were skeptical about how the 2009-2010 season would unfold for the Red Wings.
Why not? Chris Osgood just came off a horrid 2008-2009 season; however, he performed admirably for them in playoffs, losing in Game Seven. Still, there were doubts on him performing such in the season.
As well, many thought players like Pavel Datsyuk would have a down season after struggling in the playoffs and Henrik Zetterberg wouldn't be as such a force being 30 years old.
Nicklas Lidstrom was going to be 40 at season's end and generally the team got older and had no injection of youthful blood.
We saw players who were vital to the 2008-2009 success such as Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson, and 1A goalie Ty Conklin all leave.
The season didn't start out too well at all, losing back-to-back games in Sweden to St. Louis, which was then followed by a long list of injuries to key players such as Johan Franzen, Zetterberg, Dan Cleary, Valterri Filppula, Niklas Kronwall, Jason Williams, and Kirk Maltby.
The entire season was a struggle and a whole lot of sitting on the outside looking in for the Wings until the Olympic break ended, which saw the Wings completely healthy and having the best record after play resumed.
Detroit, however, lost in five games to San Jose in the second round, but the extra month off will go a long way for the Wings this upcoming season.
Detroit looks on paper to be the best team in the NHL, led by a very powerful offense that has players all in their prime or entering their prime.
Detroit will have the best 12 forwards up and down their roster, better than any other team besides possibly the Washington Capitals.
The Wings added the all-time leading American scorer Mike Modano to their lineup, penciled in as their third-line center.
Adding Modano gives coach Mike Babcock the flexibility to reunite Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Tomas Holmstrom on a line again, which propelled Detroit's offense in the early years after the lockout.
Their second line will consist of Filppula, who had a great second half and figures to have a breakout year finally, centering playoff sensation Swedish Mull Franzen, and an aging Todd Bertuzzi.
Modano, who doesn't have the speed that made him such a fearsome center in the 90s, will have blazing wheels on his wings with Hudler making his return to the NHL and gritty speedster Cleary.
Modano hasn't lost his hockey IQ or passing skills, so making a beautiful pass to Hudler will ignite their attack on most nights.
Detroit has six players fighting for three spots on their fourth line with Kris Draper, Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader, and possibly Mattais Ritola. Twenty-nine other teams must be green with envy on the depth at forward that the Wings will possess.
Of their forwards, Datsyuk and Zetterberg are figured to gain well more than 80 points each, Hudler and Franzen at 60-70, Filppula and Cleary 50, Bertuzzi and Modano around 40. That's a very potent offense.
Their defense hasn't changed and the extra month will greatly benefit the 40-year-old Lidstrom, who struggled the first half of the season, but soared during the second half. He still turned out a season that could've been worthy of another Norris nomination.
Brian Rafalski will look to have a bounce-back year, especially having so many options at forward to break the puck out to. A full season from Nicklas Kronwall will go a long way for the Wings defensive game, as well as their puck possession.
Brad Stuart will again look to turn out another solid season for the Wings with his physical play and offensive capabilities. Jonathan Ericsson will look to take a step forward at his development and be less of a defensive liability.
The Wings have both Derek Meech and Jakub Kindl that will be looking to make an impression on Ken Holland and Babcock come training camp.
The Wings signed Ruslan Salei as an insurance to be their sixth or seventh defenseman if they cannot get Andres Lilja re-signed, Ericsson doesn't progress, or if Kindl and Meech aren't ready for the big time.
The Wings have just as much depth on their blueline as they do their offense, which doesn't bode well for the other 14 teams in the West.
Jimmy Howard will look to prove that he wasn't just a shot in the pan last year after being nominated for the Calder trophy. Howard turned out 37 wins with a 2.24 GAA and a .924 SV percentage.
Howard struggled in the beginning of the season, but as the Wings lost more bodies and were running on fumes, Howard kept them in most games and really stepped up to salvage the season until the Wings got healthy.
With the offense the team supports, as well as bearing no laundry list of injuries, Howard won't see as many pucks as he did last year, which will bode well for him come the post season.
Howard looked out of gas in the playoffs and didn't play great against San Jose. Although, their first three losses were by a goal, it didn't help that he let in four in each of those three games.
Then there's Osgood as his backup, who may be a good insurance policy and should be able to help limit Howard to 60 games.
The Wings finished with 102 points, aren't losing anybody significant, and have upgraded their roster.
Giving that no one in the Central got any better only worse, the Wings should have no problem regaining their crown, as well as fighting for the President's Trophy.
The Wings will break 50 wins for the fifth time in six seasons, produce 116 points, and either win the President's Trophy or fall by a point or two. This season looks like the Wings could add their fifth Stanley Cup in 14 years.
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