If you can remember a time when the Red Wings were not consistently one of the elite teams in the league then I have bad news for you: You are getting old. There was a time that they were, at best, an average team, but that was a while ago. They have made the playoffs 20 years in a row, they have won the Cup four times since 1997, they won their division nine of the last 10 years, and they are always an incredibly tough team to play against.
It’s no coincidence that Nicklas Lidstrom has been with them the whole time they have been so good. Lidstrom is an absolute freak—the best defenseman in the league despite being 41, and a seven-time (and defending) Norris Trophy winner. The guy just doesn’t make mistakes, and his work ethic and intensity have set the tone for this team for two decades.
One of these years Lidstrom is going to retire. Until he does, and as long as the brilliant Mike Babcock is behind the bench, this is always going to be a very tough, brilliantly prepared team.
Detroit Red Wings offseason moves
The Wings have never been known for splashy offseason moves, and this year was no exception. The biggest story this year was the retirements. Long-time wings Kris Draper and Chris Osgood packed it in, and Mike Modano, who was with the team for one season after a legendary career with Dallas, also called it quits.
The loss of character guys like that is always a concern, but less so on a team like Detroit in which so many guys have been around the block more than once, and where the team tone and atmosphere is so carefully cultivated.
There were no blockbuster additions to the squad. Adding a couple of mildly useful defensemen in Ian White and Mike Commodore stand out as the most interesting moves, and those are hardly deals to write home about.
2011-12 Detroit Red Wings outlook
You certainly can’t accuse this team of being young. Guys like Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen seem like they have been around forever. The age would only be a concern if they couldn’t produce like they used to anymore, and that doesn’t yet seem to be the case. All four are very strong players, and when healthy all have been as good recently as ever.
Health is a concern—especially for Datsyuk and Franzen—but the same is true for many less talented teams as well.
This is officially Jimmy Howard’s team now. That isn’t much of a leap since the goalie has started 63 games in each of his two years in the NHL. With Osgood gone, though, there is no security blanket behind him. Howard is a very capable goalie, but he wasn’t quite as sharp last year as he was the year before, so he’ll need to take another step forward to really keep this team on track.
One big concern with this team is that the next generation isn’t clear, and for a team that has succeeded largely with internal talent that is a concern. Guys like Darren Helm are young and impressive, but he’s a shutdown forward, not a big-time scorer. There are plenty of later-round draft picks who could turn into nice players, but without ever drafting high in the first round they lack elite players who are sure to be future stars. While that’s not likely to be a big concern this year, but with every passing year it becomes more of an issue to keep an eye on.
2011-12 Detroit Red Wings schedule
Last year the Red Wings lost in Game 7 of their playoff series to San Jose. It was a rough loss, and one that will burn in the minds and hearts of the vets on this team. Nov. 17 is their first chance to face the Sharks and extract some revenge, and you can be sure that they will be hungry to do so.
Detroit Red Wings NHL futures odds (from Bodog)
The oddsmakers like this team, but they don’t love them. They are at 12/1, according to Stanley Cup odds. Six teams are at lower odds. They are 11/2 to win the Western Conference.
2011-12 Detroit Red Wings predictions
I feel a bit uneasy about this team this year. While their core is still as good as ever, they have lost more talent than they have added the last couple of years, and sooner or later they are going to run out of gas.
While they are certainly among the best teams in the conference and a playoff berth—and likely home-ice advantage in at least one round—is a foregone conclusion, I find it hard to imagine this team hoisting the Cup this year, however.
While their odds might seem attractive at first glance, I fear that they just aren’t attractive enough. If they do win they will cost me money, because I just can’t justify betting on them.
Doc’s Sports is very excited for this upcoming NHL season. Visit our home page to access all team previews, as well as more sports articles, betting odds and full coverage on the 2011-12 NHL season.