The Detroit Red Wings have been more active this summer than usual with the acquisitions of Ian White and Mike Commodore. Those signings are the reaction from Brian Rafalski's unexpected retirement this offseason.
The Red Wings are always seen as a playoff team and it is hard to see the NHL playoffs with out Detroit in it. Those two defenseman should help the team on the back end in Detroit, which was somewhat of an issue last season.
Here are some predictions for the upcoming season.
The Red Wings have made the playoffs for 20 straight seasons in the NHL. That is the longest streak, not only in the NHL, but in professional sports right now. If they do in fact make the playoffs next season, they will tie the Montreal Canadiens 21 straight appearances from 1948-1969, which is fifth all-time in the league.
I'm not sure if the Red Wings are a top five cup favorite this season, but when you make the playoffs as much as they do you have to give them the consideration. They definitely have a playoff team this year, if not another Stanley Cup in Hockeytown.
Johan Franzen has been seen as the best NHL playoff performer of the last couple postseasons. With point per game numbers and scoring three or four goals at a time, can anyone say no?
He is Detroit's best goal scorer as he led the team last season with 28 goals. He has never broken the 40 goal mark in his career and the closest he has gotten was 34 in the 2008-2009 season. In the next season he was on a good pace, but then a torn ACL caused him to only play 27 games.
Look for Franzen to net 40 this season, but it may just be at the number 40 at season's end.
For the past couple seasons in Detroit, Jonathan Ericsson has been talked about a lot. Not in a good way either. He made his debut in the 2009 playoffs and was a very promising looking defenseman. Then the next season seemed to be every Red Wings worst.
Ericsson played in 62 games in 2009-2010 and put up 13 points with four goals and nine assists. He was also talked about being lazy and beaten to pucks that should have been his.
The Red Wings recently signed him to a three year deal worth $9.75 million. So he will be making $3.25 million a year. I don't think he is worth that much money, but apparently Ericsson and GM Ken Holland do.
I see him having another mediocre season and not living up to the pay grade he didn't deserve. Then again a $2.35 million raise might have some influence on play this season.
Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller are amazing fourth liners for the Red Wings. That's why genius GM Ken Holland signed them to contract extensions. He knows they are the core players that can help the team out with their physicality.
Eaves signed for three years for a total of $3.60 million and Miller signed for two years for $1.65 million. These are the overlooked players in hockey. The playoffs isn't about your All-Stars scoring for you or your league best goalie stopping the puck. It is about your third and fourth lines being better than the other teams third and fourth lines.
They have both chipped in their fair share of hockey for Detroit and played well enough to the contracts they got. I think Miller actually deserves more and if he shows he can take it to the next level in the next two seasons he will get the raise. Look for both to have great seasons once again.
Jimmy Howard had a great sophomore season last year with 37 wins which was the same amount as his stellar rookie season. He was tied for second in the league for wins with Cam Ward and Mikka Kiprusoff. Just one win away from being tied for first.
The only thing some people have against Howard is he can be a very streaky player. A main reason for a midseason slump last year was the talks of bringing in All-Star goalie Evgeni Nabokov. That had to rattle his mental state at least somewhat to under perform. Then with a contract extension from Detroit, he got out of the slump and back to old form.
He will have another great season with the Red Wings and show them he is the goalie to build a team around. He might even put up 40 or more wins this season depending on health. If he can stay healthy all season I expect him to do it.
What else can Detroit fans say about Nicklas Lidstrom? The man is impossible to hate. Usually there is one fan of every team that doesn't like a player on the roster. You will not meet a Red Wings fan that doesn't like Nicklas Lidstrom. If you do then they're not a fan.
Lidstrom recently took home his seventh Norris Trophy at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas this summer. He is now just one shy of Bobby Orr for being tied with most in NHL history. They may even in fact rename the Norris Trophy to the Lidstrom Trophy. Which I don't think too many people would be upset about.
Lidstrom is 41 years old now and hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. Every year people say that his age will catch up with him and everyone has yet to see it. So I don't expect him to start with the age factor now. Also, this will probably be his last season so he will play to his full potential and try to go out with another Stanley Cup.
Look for him to win the Norris again or at least be nominated in the top three once again in his astounding career.
This is one that I'm the least bit sure if it will happen. The only reason is because Hudler really controls his own destiny. With a sluggish return season to the NHL last year, he is on thin ice with the Red Wings. Especially after leaving for the KHL before the 2009-2010. That got him on the wrong side of coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland.
I also am not sure if any team will be willing to trade for a struggling Hudler. The only thing they may be able to get out of him is some prospects. Which would be fine seeing Detroit's knack for hidden talents that flourish with the franchise.
If Hudler has a bounce back year then I expect him to be safe on the roster. If he is struggling just a little too much then I expect the Red Wings to try and move him for a tougher, more reliable player.
The Red Wings have an NHL record 11 straight seasons with recording 100 or more points in a season. That is a remarkable feat for any franchise in the league. The fact that a team can match the equivalent of 50 wins for 11 straight years is almost a mini dynasty.
The Red Wings are in a somewhat young and inexperienced division too. The Blues are still young and upcoming, the Blackhawks are dangerous, but still relatively young and the Blue Jackets probably still won't make a serious run for the division.
I think the Red Wings will do it once again and keep this NHL record going and could do it for plenty of seasons to come.
Going back to last slide's breakdown of the division, I just think Detroit is the most experienced and talented team in the Central. Detroit has won the division nine out of the last 10 seasons. With the Blackhawks winning it in 2010. Before that they had won it eight straight seasons.
So the division is obviously not too tough for Detroit at least for the past decade or so. Expect the Red Wings to win another Central Division title and be a top three seed in the Western Conference.
Detroit has statistically been the best playoff team since the lockout in 2005. They have made the playoffs every single season since and have only been knocked out in the first round once since the lockout. They have also won a Stanley Cup in 2008 and went back the next season in 2009, but fell one win short of the Stanley Cup.
The Red Wings have more experience and talent man for man in the NHL than any other team in the league. They definitely have the what it takes every season to win the Stanley Cup, but as we all know it is the hardest trophy in sports to win.
I am not going to say Detroit will win the Stanley Cup because the season hasn't even played a preseason game. So we don't know if the chemistry will be clicking to championship form yet. I can't predict either because I predicted the Kings would hoist the Cup this season, so it would sound a little dumb to predict two teams winning the Stanley Cup.
Just look for Detroit to go deep once again in the playoffs and maybe even make another great Stanley Cup run for Hockeytown.