E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN and is the middle of a Better or Worse? column that he's doing for each and every NHL team. He said that the Wings are worse, but only by a little.
I figure the Red Wings will get to the century mark again this season, but I don't think they will get to 113. So, I guess that means they won't be quite as good.
GM Ken Holland, who, in my opinion, is the best GM in the league, made some important decisions during the summer. Holland's biggest moves involved his defense. He got a little younger by signing Brian Rafalski, 34, to a five-year deal, while allowing Mathieu Schneider, 38, to leave for Anaheim. In the short term, I'd take Schneider over Rafalski. This move, however, was made with an eye on the bigger picture. After all, the ex-Devil figures to have more miles left on the odometer.
I find it hard to argue with his assessment. The Wings should win the Central Division and they should be one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Will they be the top team in the conference this season? I'm not so sure. But as long as you make it into the playoffs, it really doesn't matter too much which spot you're in because the teams are usually so close to one another point wise anyways.
Allan Muir at Sports Illustrated gave the Wings a B on their summer offseason report card.
Alright, I've learned my lesson. After predicting doom last fall, the Wings made me look silly by running up 113 points and winning a pair of playoff rounds before bowing out to the eventual champs in the conference finals. Here's what I missed: Those Wings weren't just talented. They were tougher, both physically and mentally, than any Wings edition since Detroit's last Cup. This season's club may not quite match those benchmarks, but it will be in the ballpark, despite a tumultuous offseason.
A lot of the team's success depends on veteran (and a bit crazy) goaltender Dominik Hasek. If he can stay healthy, the team will have one of the best goaltenders in the league and the team will play with a lot of confidence in front of him.
Since Bertuzzi, Calder, Lang, and Schneider all left this offseason, the Wings will need to look to some of their younger players to pick it up offensively. Valterri Filppula had a great season and some great plays in the playoffs. Unfortunately, he would get by all the defensemen only to send off a weak shot. If he can just start getting off some harder shots that aren't right to the goalie, I think we could see a breakout season from Filppula.
Another rookie last season, Jiri Hudler, had a great season despite only playing an average of 10:02 minutes every game. Hudler actually had the lowest time average on the whole team (not including the AHL call up players). He had 15 goals and 10 assists during his rookie season. I expect both Filppula and Hudler to get some more ice team and with the increased ice team, we should see an increase in offense from the pair.
I believe our defense is just as strong as it was last year, but it's the offense that could give us trouble if the young players don't step it up. The Wings have around $5 million under the salary cap so I expect them to sign a forward by the trade deadline. The Wings can afford to be a little weaker on offense with them playing 32 games against their Central Division opponents. Admittedly, some of those teams have taken a step in the right direction, but the Wings have been able to rack up high point totals for the past couple of seasons in part due to the current schedule. They just need to improve their offense come playoff time and a signing at the deadline will do just that.