The Detroit Red Wings are back.
Not back in the sense that there was any serious drop in their play, but back in the sense that they are healthy and, once again, a danger to win the cup. The Wings are coming off a 104-point campaign that saw them finish third in the West, losing in the second round of the playoffs to the San Jose Sharks. The only reason Detroit had issues last year was because of injuries plaguing the team and disrupting their chemistry. However, Detroit is a serious threat to win the Stanley Cup this season, which would be the 12th cup in the history of Hockey Town, USA.
The Red Wings enter the 2011-12 campaign with almost all of their players from last year—with the exception of Chris Osgood, Kris Draper and Brian Rafalski, all of whom retired following the 2010-11 season. All-Stars Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and the seemingly timeless Nick Lidstrom are all returning to try and help the Wings to another Stanley Cup.
The Wings' offense, led by Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi, ranked second in the league last year in goals scored—and there shouldn't be much of a drop off in that category this season. Flat out, the Wings are just more skilled at every offensive position than any other team in the NHL. The Wings also enter the year with highly talented prospect forward Tomas Tatar, hoping to help the team put the puck in the net. Tatar put up 24 goals for 57 points in the AHL last season, and is one of a handful of the Wings' future elite players hoping to help the big club this season.
Defensively, we have one thing to say: Nicklas Lidstrom.
Lidstrom seems to be immortal. At the tender age of 41, Lidstrom is coming off a 62-point season, and won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman for the seventh time in his career. Although Lidstrom was a minus player for the first time in his career last season, he should be able to bounce back in 2011-12, in what could be his last in a Wings uniform.
Of course, Lidstrom isn't the only reason the Wings are able to keep the puck in their own possession for so long during games. The Wings have plenty of forwards who are extremely skilled defensively. Darren Helm enters the season with the opportunity to fill the void Kris Draper left in the team and shut down top lines around the league for years to come. In addition to Helm, Datsyuk and Justin Abdelkader are very skilled in keeping the puck out of their own end.
The one man in Detroit with the most pressure going into the season—although he won't be the reason the Wings win or lose the cup—is goaltender Jimmy Howard. Howard, who posted a 37-17-5 record last season with 2.79 GAA, will definitely feel the pressure, as goaltending is the one position where there are still question marks. The question marks shouldn't be there, but they are, and will be until Howard helps the Wings past the second round of the playoffs. It is time for the former Rookie of the Year to show his worth to the Detroit faithful.
Overall, Detroit is the team with the most elite, proven talent on this list, and has some of the highest potential of any team to return to glory with a Cup victory in 2011-12.