Detroit Red Wings: 9 Reasons for Wings Fans to Be Excited for This Season
It goes without saying, then, that it takes Wings fans more to get excited than a typical team's fans.
Regular-season success is important for the Red Wings, but many times it does not provide an accurate indication of how well they will do in the playoffs.
Detroit has had seasons where it wins the President's trophy and then proceeds to lose in the first round to the eighth seed, and other seasons where the Red Wings themselves are the lower seed, and they turn the tables and win the Stanley Cup.
Although each playoff season seems to be different, the Red Wings seem to have experienced a bit of surreal déjà vu the past two playoff seasons.
Both playoff seasons ended in second-round exits.
Both at the hands of the San Jose Sharks.
Rest assured I wouldn't be bringing up the déjà vu if Detroit didn't fall behind three games to none in each series.
Last year differed a bit from the previous season; Detroit almost pulled the unthinkable: coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to win the series.
The Red Wings fell short in Game 7, but showed great effort and talent that seemed to be lacking in the first three games of the series.
Now, after some offseason retirements, many fans remain unsure what to think of this year's Red Wings squad.
Personally, I am excited for this season to start, and in this slideshow I will give nine reasons that you as a fan should be excited for this upcoming Detroit Red Wings season.
1. Nicklas Lidstrom Is Back
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The slide caption says it all, basically.
Nicklas Lidstrom is the best defenseman in the last 20 years.
Four Stanley Cups, 12 All-Star selections (10 of them first-team All-Star), seven Norris trophies, more than 1,100 career points, more than 1,400 games played, an Olympic gold medal and a Conn Smythe trophy.
This guy won the Norris Trophy last year at age 40.
Now 41, Lidstrom still has the abilities to put up big numbers, as he put up 16 goals and 46 assists last season.
It will be interesting to see how the retirement of Brian Rafalski affects Lidstrom's numbers.
He will certainly take a hit in the points department, but he might improve from his career-worst plus/minus of minus two last season.
Whatever ends up happening, fans should always be excited to have a Norris Trophy-winner on their team.
2. Offseason Acquisition Ian White
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Ian White may not be the most exciting defenseman in the world, but this guy can play, and play well in his own end.
Although White played for three different teams last year, he ended up playing a significant role with the Sharks in their playoff season last year.
He will attempt to fill the shoes of Brian Rafalski.
Rafalski was a top-five offensive defenseman last year.
His stretch passes (when they worked) proved to be some of the best in the NHL.
However, his nagging injuries as well as his frequent bad breakout passes often made him suspect to criticism.
There is no doubt Rafalski would have played much better if he was injury free, but White is (as far as anybody knows) injury free, and that should show up during the season.
White brings a defensive presence to Detroit that Rafalski seemed to be lack towards the later part of his stint with the Red Wings.
White is physically tough: 59 hits and 144 blocked shots last year make White stand apart from the other defensemen.
His defense-first mentality should bring a sigh of relief to Red Wings fans who watched the defense slip to 23rd overall last year in goals against.
3. Jimmy Howard Is (Hopefully) Past the Would-Be "Sophomore Slump"
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For all intents and purposes, I think the whole idea of a "sophomore slump" is garbage.
Yes, goaltenders who start off with a good rookie season may taper off a bit in their sophomore season, but I think the whole idea of a sophomore slump has been blown out of proportion.
Having said that, Jimmy Howard put up almost identical numbers in terms of wins and losses last season, still registering 37 wins.
But his GAA and save percentage were what really took a hit.
His GAA shot up to 2.79 and his save percentage dipped to 90.8.
While these numbers are not terrible, the GAA went up by over half a goal from his rookie season.
A healthy shot-blocking Ian White will hopefully help bring these numbers back to where they were in Howard's rookie season, and hopefully Howard can contend again for 35 wins or more.
Howard being signed to a two-year contract is definitely something for Red Wings fans to be excited about, as Detroit's goaltending situation has been up in the air for quite some time before Howard came to the limelight.
4. $9 Student Tickets
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Do I hear $9 for a ticket at the Joe Louis Arena?
I think I do!
I mean, come on, it's the Detroit Red Wings.
Student tickets starting at anything less than $30 is something to get excited about if you're a Red Wings fan.
Think about it, fans at arenas like Air Canada Center in Toronto would be paying through the roof (upwards of 50 bucks) just to get standing room only tickets, and here are students at the Joe Louis Arena getting $9 tickets.
This offer will surely put a smile on the face of all student fans here in Michigan.
5. Detroit Has Another Realistic Chance to Win the Central Division
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Are my "homer" goggles off?
Yes, they are; this is a realistic expectation.
Detroit can win the Central Division this season.
Despite Nashville's rise to prominence over the past couple seasons, Detroit should still be the favorite to win the Central Division once again.
Chicago didn't get better this year—if anything, it got worse, as it got rid of Brian Campbell, one of its top puck-moving defensemen, having Troy Brouwer depart via free agency and signing a bunch of grinders and enforcers to the lineup.
Chicago acquired Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers, Sean O'Donnell and Dan Carcillo via free agency, but do these players really strike fear into opponents as goal-scoring threats?
Despite these acquisitions and moving in the right direction, it will not contend for the playoffs this year.
St. Louis acquired Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner via free agency, but don't look for them to lead St. Louis back to the playoffs any time soon.
6. Highlight-Reel Goals by Pavel Datsyuk
Alright, let's be real here.
Pavel Datsyuk is the best stick handler in the NHL.
I'm not going to go all the way and say he's the best player in the NHL, but he at least has to come into the discussion when talking about top-five active players.
His highlight-reel goals this season will provide a source of excitement among fans.
This guy is loaded with talent, but what is scary is that his creativity surpasses his talent level.
If watching Datsyuk put on a show isn't a good enough reason to be excited to watch Detroit Red Wings hockey this season, you need to go follow another team.
7. Dollar Hot Dog/Dollar Pretzel Night/Dollar Popcorn Night
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There's nothing like going to the game and getting some food from the vendors to snack on during the game.
Mark your calendars now, because there are select games where certain food is a dollar each:
Dec. 8 against Nashville: Dollar Hot Dog Night!
Dec. 15 against St. Louis: Dollar Pretzel Night!
Dec. 22 against Vancouver: Dollar Popcorn Night!
As most of you fans know, there is more to sporting events than just the sport itself. Great food and friends make the atmosphere much more enjoyable.
8. Someone Gets Kronwalled (Multiple Times This Season)
Niklas Kronwall is deadly with his hits.
Any player breaking out of his own zone with the puck better have his head up when this guy is on the ice or he might end up like Martin Havlat in this video above.
This video only happens a couple times a year, but it's still a highlight-reel check whenever it occurs and it brings the crowd to life whenever it happens as "the Joe."
It doesn't leave the "Kronwallee" very alert or conscious of his surroundings, as you can see from the video.
I'm sure I can pencil in at least 10 big hits by Kronwall this season, and you as a fan reading this should be excited to see each of them.
9. Darren Helm Will Be Better This Year Than Last Year
I can't say enough about Darren Helm.
This guy gives 110 percent on every shift that he is on the ice.
Despite being 5'11" and 195 pounds, Helm puts more effort on the ice than just about any player in the league.
As a result, he is able to dominate players in the hitting game and often finds himself leading the Red Wings in hits on any given night, despite playing only 13 minutes a game.
Look for him to receive slightly increased ice time this season, and since he can actually score on breakaways now, look for him to put up a few more goals this season, with an outside chance at hitting the 20- to 25-goal mark.
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This slideshow was supposed to give Red Wings fans nine reasons to be excited for the upcoming season.
Now I haven't even mentioned Henrik Zetterberg, Johan "the Mule" Franzen, or any other top six forward that could have a breakout season this year.
If you're sitting there reading this, realize that Detroit, despite its age, still has an excellent opportunity to advance deep into the playoffs and come away with a Central Division championship and an outside chance to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
All that said, there are plenty of reasons to be stoked for this upcoming season, it's just a matter of how many reasons the fan wants to find.