The Detroit Red Wings may never be more hated by non-Red Wings fans than they are now. The team that just won the Stanley Cup improved greatly with the unexpected signing of coveted forward Marian Hossa. The team also re-signed its key in-house free agents and added badly needed goaltender depth. Although it would be more accurate to call the Montreal Canadiens the "Yankees of hockey", the Red Wings with their recent success on the ice and in player transactions have become almost as hated to many hockey fans as the Pinstripes have to many baseball fans.
On the other hand, Wings fans must be incredulous at recent developments. If it wasn't enough to win their fourth Cup in 11 years, the team signed the player who was the biggest thorn in their side during the Stanley Cup finals when it signed Hossa. The former Pittsburgh Penguin surprised many, including his agent, when he turned down several longer and more lucrative deals from other teams to sign a one-year, $7.45 million deal to play in Detroit. Hossa made the unusual move because he felt his best shot at the Cup was with the Wings.
Brad Stuart's signing, although less of a headline grabber than Hossa's, was still very huge for the team. Acquired as a so-called rental player before last season's trade deadline, Stuart was such a large contributor to the team's run for the Cup, that he became a must-sign during free agency. He'll likely be paired up on the blue line with the punishing Niklas Kronwall, a duo that was highly effective in the playoffs.
Valtteri Filppula and Ty Conklin were the other key signings. Signing Filppula allows the Wings to keep and further develop a promising young player. Signing ex-Penguin Conklin gives the team needed depth at goaltender after the retirement of Dominik Hasek and is another reason Pittsburgh fans despise Detroit.
With the team able to retain almost all key players, the majority of competition is going to be at the bottom of the roster. The team is right at the salary cap, so the front office will walk a tightrope in determining who plays in Detroit and who gets sent to Grand Rapids. Conklin and Jimmy Howard are battling for the backup goaltending spot while Darren Helm hopes to make one of the last forward spots. Darren McCarty and Aaron Downey are battling for an enforcer role that the team may not choose to keep. Jonathan Ericsson is one of the Wings' most impressive prospects at defense, but will spend time at Grand Rapids, a victim of the numbers game.
The two players to look out for on this roster are Hossa and Johan Franzen. With Hossa, it's obvious: he's the high-profile signing, he came to the Motor City to win a Cup and the fans expect him to be a major contributor. Franzen on the other hand, started to breakout late last season and was threatening playoff scoring records before going down with an injury. If he can consistently show the type of game he showed when he was healthy in the last playoff run, the Wings will have the scoring punch they need for a 12th Cup.
The regular season comes with Red Wings fans eagerly awaiting another run at the Cup. On paper, the Wings seem to have an advantage, but on ice, the season can be long and grueling. If they cannot win the Cup, the Wings at the very least will be one of the funnest teams to watch--even if you hate them.