Detroit Red Wings: 8 Reasons the Wings Will Be Among the Favorites Again in 2012

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2011

Detroit Red Wings: 8 Reasons the Wings Will Be Among the Favorites Again in 2012

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    The Detroit Red Wings have suffered early exits in the postseason the past two years at the hands of the San Jose Sharks after the Wings had made consecutive trips to the Finals.

    Detroit's roster is laden with talent and experience, but the age is slowly starting to show and the championship window could be closing for the Red Wings.

    That being said, Pavel Datsyuk and company have plenty of fight left in them. Detroit will find themselves as a Stanley Cup favorite once again when the 2012 NHL playoffs roll around. 

Jimmy Howard

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    While the Detroit Red Wings' roster is generally aging a bit, Jimmy Howard has yet to tap into his full potential between the pipes. His up and down play has often been the weak link for Detroit. 

    Howard is gaining valuable experience and if he takes another step forward this season, it will help get the Red Wings back into the Finals. I think Howard has another gear in him that we haven't seen yet.

Pavel Datsyuk's Health

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    Pavel Datsyuk is one of the top three players in the National Hockey League. Unfortunately, Datsyuk spent much of last season on the shelf with a hand injury that definitely affected his play even after his return.

    Datsyuk's health is obviously a major boost to the Detroit Red Wings this season. They weren't the same team without the Datsyukian magic in the offensive zone.

Experience

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    The Detroit Red Wings are among the most experienced teams in the league. Most of the players on the roster have won a Stanley Cup and the tradition of excellence in Detroit is rich, from the front office right on down. 

    That experience continues to make them a well oiled machine during the regular season and always a threat to go deep in the postseason, regardless of their seeding.

Coaching

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    Stability at the coaching position is essential to long-term success in the NHL. Lucky for the Red Wings, they have stability and then some with an elite coach in Mike Babcock.

    Babcock has delivered a Stanley Cup Championship to this organization and has not missed the playoffs since joining the club in the 2005-2006 season.

Nicklas Lidstrom

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    Despite speculation about his potential retirement, Nicklas Lidstrom has returned for another season with the Detroit Red Wings. After winning the Norris Trophy for the seventh time in his career, there should be little doubt about how much Lidstrom has left in the tank at this point.

    As long as Lidstrom is on the blue line for Detroit, the Wings will be competitive.

The Roster Is Still Intact

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    The Detroit Red Wings will not return an identical roster to start the 2011-2012 season, but the team that won the Central Division a year ago is still largely intact to start the upcoming campaign.

    Meanwhile, the addition of Ian White is not as much of a downgrade from Brian Rafalski as most people tend to think. Rafalski's play had started to drop off and White is a very capable puck mover. Couple that with the fact that there are some young defensemen ready to take the reigns in Detroit and the perceived makeover of this roster is not as drastic as it has been made out to be.

Hunger

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    Certain teams have trouble staying hungry and the Red Wings may have fallen into that trap the past couple of seasons.

    However, after consecutive losses in the Western Conference Semifinals to the San Jose Sharks, this experienced group of veterans figures to be hungry for another championship, which could be the last for some of these guys.

Defense

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    As offensively gifted as the Red Wings' roster is top to bottom, the team really thrives on its play in the defensive zone. Some may be concerned about that defensive prowess slipping a bit in the wake of Brian Rafalski's retirement, but not me.

    For one, the blue line will still be rock solid with Ian White coming in to replace Rafalski. Also, many people tend to forget the tremendous defensive ability that the Wings' forwards possess. Sure, Detroit did not have the best defensive season a year ago, but Datsyuk—their most defensively gifted forward—was out for a good chunk of the season.

    The continued maturation of Jimmy Howard along with a healthy Pavel Datsyuk, will make the Red Wings an impressive defensive hockey team.