Why so old?
Well it's simple really, Detroit's nucleus has just been aging since their 1997 and 1998 Cup runs.
Detroit kept that nucleus of Shanahan, Yzerman, Fedorov (until he left for Anaheim), Lidstrom, Murphy, etc, until all of them moved on to retirement.
Lidstrom of course is still with the team, but he is now 41 years old, and leads another older nucleus in Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and company.
Detroit's age always makes it easy for people to count the Red Wings out when it comes to the playoff success, and contending for a Stanley Cup.
However, in 2002 and 2008, the Red Wings defied the naysayers and won the Cup, almost repeating in 2009.
But the offseason retirements of Draper, Osgood, and Rafalski have left some pretty significant holes in the Detroit roster going forward into this 2011-12 season.
Which young players will fill in these gaps you might ask?
Read on and I will list the five players that must step up this season to replace those three retirees.
Cory Emmerton has waited long enough to play on the Detroit Red Wings.
Emmerton played two games with the Wings last year and scored a goal while playing for Detroit.
The second round 2006 pick by the Wings has one last shot to play for the Red Wings or he must be put on waivers before he could go back down to Grand Rapids.
Emmerton is too good to go unclaimed by another team, so this is his only shot.
In his play for Detroit's AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids last season, Emmerton put up 12 goals and 38 points in 65 games with the Griffins.
Although AHL success does not dictate NHL glory by any means, Emmerton seems to possess the "x factor" in that he cannot be sent down to Grand Rapids without going through waivers.
Detroit management will likely keep him around one way or another, but the question remains: where will he play?
If he can step up in the face-off circle, he might even be able to work his way into the fourth line center position for Detroit.
Justin Abdelkader made tremendous strides in Detroit last season.
Abdelkader put up a plus/minus rating of plus-15 last season; a huge turn around from a minus-six from the year before.
Abdelkader also put up 19 points in 74 games.
Although Abdelkader went minus-four in the playoffs with no points, expect him to carve out a niche on that fourth line with whoever ends up playing with him.
He has the ability at 212 pounds to drive to the net and adds a big physical presence on that fourth line.
I believe that his success on the fourth line will be determined by how much he goes to the net and is able to cause problems for defensemen and goalies who have to reckon with him.
The defensive prowess that he brings (with the plus/minus of 15) will also be critical for the success of the fourth line.
Red Wings head coach, Mike Babcock showed no fear in putting the fourth line out in clutch situations, so expect more of the same this year.
If the NHL had to define the word "breakaway" in a dictionary, Darren Helm's face would appear somewhere in the definition.
Helm's speed is legendary over the past couple seasons, and he is one of the fastest players in the League.
But Helm's ability to kill penalties well and pester opponents with the puck has made him the ideal two-way forward.
He also improved significantly last year in regards to being able to bury more of the breakaways that he was presented with throughout the season.
Helm only had 12 goals and 32 points last season, but by possibly playing on the third line this season, look for him to get more chances and his point total to rise to somewhere in the 40-45 range.
Helm's abilities on the draw are another huge asset to this Red Wings squad, he averaged about 56.5 percent on draws at home and right around 49 percent on the road.
The biggest thing that separates Helm from everyone else on this Wings team, (and possibly in the Western Conference) is his ability and determination to finish on his checks.
Helm had 128 hits last year, 30 blocked shots, and was plus-26 in the turnover department.
Talk about dedicated.
This guy is going to be a force to be reckoned with this year.
Jakub Kindl only played 48 games last season.
There is an excellent reason for that.
Playing time in Detroit means you're scoring or at least chipping in and pulling your weight.
Kindl didn't really do either.
He had just four points (two goals, two assists) in 48 games last season.
Strangely enough, all of his points were on the road.
Kindl was minus-11 in 20 home games, with no points, but in 28 road games he was plus-six with four points.
As puzzling as the past season was for Kindl, and as steep as the learning curve was, Kindl must find his game and find it soon.
I've downplayed Jonathan Ericsson a fair bit in my articles that I've written, but Kindl's four points in 48 games are much worse; hopefully he vastly improves this season.
His minus-nine in the turnover department is also not compensated by his 30 blocked shots.
Kindl must step up and prove himself in at least one end (preferably both ends) of the ice.
Alright, so when we say Detroit's average age last year was over 30, having a starting goalie who is just 27 years old means he is still a "youngster."
In fact, Jimmy Howard is only entering his third full season in the NHL.
Hopefully we see a return to his first season statistics as last year's regular season statistics were not the best ever.
In 2009-10, Howard was a Calder Trophy runner-up with 37 wins, a 2.26 GAA and a 92.4 save percentage.
Last year, Howard's statistics dropped in every category except for wins: 37 wins, 2.79 GAA and a 90.8 save percentage.
Many fans are quick to blame the defense, but I think it was just a team that was built more for offensive success, than defensive strength.
The retirement of Rafalski would seem to leave Rafalski would seem to leave the Red Wings high and dry as far as decent defensemen go, but GM Ken Holland quickly scooped up Ian White from the free agent crop.
If Detroit promotes a "defense first" mentality, perhaps Howard's statistics can improve.
How much they improve is up for debate, but the Red Wings will lean heavily on Howard this season to be the No. 1 goalie.
Any fan would put in their two cents if asked about the Detroit Red Wings upcoming season.
Although one would receive a variety of answers, some common themes that I believe surface whenever the topic of "getting better" comes up are: defense, penalty killing, and getting scoring from the bottom six forwards.
If Detroit can play better defense as a team, Jimmy Howard will be able to make this season a successful one.
Howard has shown that he can stand on his head as far as goaltending goes, but he cannot do it by himself.
The Red Wings must buy in to a defense first approach; they must find a way to get the penalty kill back at least in the top 10 throughout the season.
They also must find a way to keep the puck out of their own end.
If they can take care of the defensive side of the game, their own talents will allow them to prosper offensively.
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