DETROIT,MI - DECEMBER 15: Jaroslav Halak #41 of the St.Louis Blues steers a shot aside as Tomas Holmstrom #96 of the Detroit Red Wings provides a screen during their NHL game at Joe Louis Arena on December 15 2010 in Detroit Michigan.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
The climb up the offensive side of the roster continues with the latest installment of our Red Wings player previews. I covered the new kids last Wednesday, Graham and J.J. took care of the grinders, and now we move on to the part of the roster that will be counted on to put up the points. It's all about the net front presence today as we take a look at Tomas Holmstrom and Danny Cleary.
Last Year's Benchmark: Danny Cleary put up a career best in goals (26) and points (46) in only 68 games. If he stayed healthy and played 75-80 games, we may have see Cleary hit the 30 goal mark. Homer had a solid, yet not spectacular season with 18 goals and 37 points. He led the team in power play goals (10) and was third on the team in power play points (20). He continues to defy his age produce with all the beatings he takes in front of the net.
His production was down a bit last year, but so was his ice time. The Demolition Man will turn 39 this season and will take more abusive beatings in front of the net, but that isn't going to stop him. Even with decreased ice time last season, Homer nearly put up 20 goals. He played more games than in any season since 2006-07. In the final year of his contract, and possibly the final year of his career, Homer is back to do what he does best.
Strengths: I think we all know what Holmstrom's biggest strength is. He belongs in front of the net. That's his home. It's his office. It's where he goes on vacation. There is no one better in the game today at tipping pucks and just being a pest in front of the goalie than Tomas Holmstrom. We love him because he's a Red Wing. If he wore any other sweater we'd probably hate him like very other team does. He's that good at his job.
Weaknesses: Homer isn't the best skater in the world. He's not going to beat Darren Helm in a foot race. He was a minus player (-6) for the first time since 2001-02. At times last year, Homer was relegated to 3rd/4th line duty. Late in games Babcock would move someone up to play with Pavel Datsyuk and/or Henrik Zetterberg (whichever line Holmstrom was on) because he's not the greatest two-way, defensive player. He was a potential liability late in games.
Expectations: Similar to what we saw last season. Homer is no spring chicken and will see a majority of his ice time on the power play. Expect to see most of his production come on the power play too. He'll camp out in his office and do what he does best. Hitting the 20 goal mark would be fantastic, but realistically, 15-20 goals and 35-40 points is what I expect.
It was career year for the veteran forward last season, and, if he didn't miss 14 games, his number would be even better. He beat his career high in goals by 6 and beat his career high in points by 4. The winger will turn 33 this December and like a fine wine, he's getting better with age.
Strengths: Cleary's biggest strength has to be is versatility. The thing I've always liked about No. 11 is that you can put him anywhere in the lineup and he can excel. Place him on a 4th line with Helm and Eaves and he'll grind down the opponents with them. Place him on the top line with Datsyuk and Zetterberg and he'll work hard down in the offensive zone and score a goal. You can place him anywhere and he'll do his job and do it well. He's also developed a Holmstrom, Jr. type game and works well as a net-front presence.
Weaknesses: He finished with a minus-rating for the second straight season (and the year before that he was even) so tightening up his defensive game can't hurt. I think his minus-rating may have been more of a product of the team last season than his own personal play. One of the biggest weaknesses Cleary has is that sometimes he forgets who he is on the ice. He's at his best when he plays the "Holmstrom" role on the top 2 lines. He's not Zetterberg or Datsyuk and when he tried to play like them, sometimes he gets himself into trouble on the ice and tries to make plays he can't. He needs to know his role. Get into the corners, get in front of the net, cause problems down low and clean up the garbage.
Expectations: Cleary's goals (and points) the last five seasons -- 20 (40), 20 (42), 14 (40), 15 (34), 26 (46). In each of those seasons he's played between 63-74 games. So what to expect from Danny boy? 20-30 goals and 40-50 points in about 72 games. I expect him to have a bigger role on the power play and if he stays on his game down low in the offensive zone, I wouldn't be shocked to see 25-30 goals. And if he stays healthy, it could be another big career year and the Red Wings will gladly take it.
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