Today, we're going to take a look at the members of the Wings' forward corps expecting to make up the bottom six. We've got guys who aren't likely to find themselves with any PP time, but should eat up PK minutes and will be counted on to provide energy and make their opponents' lives miserable. Let's take a look.
Eaves, 28, is a fan favorite for his willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Unfortunately, that willingness is what led him to the situation he's currently in: suffering from post-concussion symptoms which have yet to fully subside. Eaves has two years left on his deal at $1.2M and is working to get back to the grinding & PKing role with a surprising shot from the former 1st-rounder.
Strengths: Eaves is positionally sound, has a great snap-shot, shoots right-handed, and gives it is all on every shift. He's good enough to temporarily take on scoring responsibilities with higher lines and thinks hockey very well.
Weaknesses: Well, he's not very good at shootouts. Sadly, the concussion is a huge downside. There's no telling when he'll come back and how long it might take him to regain his form.
Expectations: None. I honestly have no idea whether Eaves will play again this season and in what capacity.
Drew Miller will be 29 by the time the season's over. After bouncing around a few teams (including a cup win in Anaheim), Miller has found a home in Detroit. He's in the last year of a 2-year deal on a cap hit of $837,500. Miller stayed in shape by playing overseas in Scotland for the Braehead Clan, where he was a fan-favorite and got to find a scoring touch over there.
Strengths: Miller is a strong penalty-killing presence and has a willingness to play in the dirty areas, including the front of the net.
Weaknesses: Consistency. Miller is a jack of many forward trades, but he's not consistently great at any of them.
Expectations: With a healthy Red Wings lineup, Miller may find it difficult to stay in the lineup, but it's hard to count him out for too long.
Helm signed a four-year deal this offseason that will take him to age 29 and carries a cap hit of $2.125M per year, a hefty raise over the $1M he made last season. Helm has been working out during the offseason and is said to have a Kris Draperesque work ethic which will have him ready to fire out of the gate when the season starts. He might be wearing a full face shield when that happens, as he suffered a broken orbital bone during an informal lockout practice.
Strengths: Helm's new salary is an indication that he's ready to break out as a prototypical third line center with the kind of speed and tenacity that any team would love. He draws significantly more penalties than he takes, is famous for his penalty killing, and can put up decent points.
Weaknesses: In comparisons to Draper, what Helm lacks is the breakout point-producing season. It's not for lack of creating chances, but rather for lack of finishing ability.
Expectations: Helm will be expected to earn the raise he was given this offseason with excellent PK work and impressive point output.
At $533K, the 24-year old Emmerton is the cheapest Forward in the Red Wings' lineup. as the team's 4th line center for 71 games, he scored 6 goals and added 4 assists. As a man attempting to get some playing time in Europe during the lockout, he's incredibly unlucky. Emmerton suffered a broken finger in his first game in Finland's SM-Liiga and hasn't gotten as much playing time as he'd like.
Strengths: Emmerton plays a defensively responsible game and grinds well enough. Six goals from a fourth-liner is actually nothing to scoff at.
Weaknesses: Noticeability. Emmerton didn't really have much in the way of standout performances that hinted to him having a ceiling much above his current role.
Expectations: As a center, Emmerton has a bit of an advantage over fringe wingers, but he won't be counted on to do too much for the team.
Mursak is the 24-year old fleet-footed Slovenian winger with a rare (for Detroit) right shot and a soon-to-be-expired $550K cap hit. He got into 25 games last year, scoring only three points with very limited usage, but led his Austrian league in points per game during the lockout. While the competition wasn't as great as other European-bound players faced, Mursak's scoring pace is somewhat hard to ignore.
Strengths: Mursak is a speedy and strong skater with a fair bit of creativity and some nice playmaker's vision.
Weaknesses: While he was able to do very well on the bigger European surface during the lockout, Mursak struggles on the smaller surface to avoid being knocked off the puck.
Expectations: We're probably getting into sink-or-swim territory for Mursak, who could find himself not developing fast enough to be worth taking up space on the Wings lower lines.
The 37-year old big guy with molasses-slow spin-o-rama techniques will enter this season starting on a two-year deal with a cap hit just over $2M. While his 751 points in 1,093 career games is impressive. He's nearing the twilight of his career and may not see the same kind of top-line usage he's been getting each of the last two seasons.
Strengths: Bertuzzi is still a power forward with soft hands who is hard to knock off the puck and can take the puck to the front of the net.
Weaknesses: Big Bert is getting old and the wear is starting to show. Aside from that, his reputation leads to a lot of penalties.
Expectations: Bert may find himself as the de facto replacement for Tomas Holmstrom as a net-front presence on the power play who sits on the lower lines to create space at the top.
Tootoo, now 29, will join the Wings after spending his career with Nashville. An established pest and tough guy who never could seem to stay on Barry Trotz's good side will have a cap hit of $1.9M for each of the next three years to ply his trade for a Wings team that head coach Mike Babcock has said needs to get tougher. 125 points in 486 career games isn't exactly scorer's touch, but his raise was based largely on his last season, where he put up a career-high 30 points.
Strengths: Tootoo is a dogged puckhound and a great pest. He's also the kind of guy who's willing to fight for his teammates.
Weaknesses: Dumb penalties have plagued Tootoo throughout his career. He doesn't have much in the way of scoring ability.
Expectations: I'm expecting Tootoo to be a fan favorite before the playoffs roll around. He's going to kick the ass of somebody we all hate more than we ever hated him and it'll be great.
The 25-year old former Spartan will enter his fourth complete season with the Wings with a new contract and perhaps some new expectations. His 22 poitns last season and 8 goals were career bests that he'll be expected to improve upon, considering his $1.8M cap hit for the next four seasons.
Strengths: Abdelkader is the kind of guy who never saw a shot he wanted to pass up, and that's a very good thing on a team full of passers. He's also very good at shooting to spots which create rebounds. He's a decent pest and is developing a scoring touch that might be bolstered by his time with Team USA at the World Championships last summer.
Weaknesses: Abdelkader takes far too many penalties and is still inconsistent on the PK positionally. He needs to work on being more consistently smart.
Expectations: Switching between 3rd line wing and 4th line center, Abby will get in a ton of games this season and will start work on earning his salary.