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2010-2011 Red Wings Season Preview

JJ and I brought you a preview for each player during the off-season but now it's time to look at the team as a whole. Players are good and all but it's how they play as a team that matters, just look at the Washington Capitals! Did I say that? Moving along...We'll take a look at departures and arrivals, strengths and weaknesses, and some other factors for the team heading into the saddest season in recent history. One in which we will continuously hear "defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks"...that makes me shiver typing that.

2009-2010 Season Review:
What a nightmare of a regular season it was. Injuries left and right to big time players like Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg unglued the plan for the Red Wings and the team had to scrap and fight for the playoffs far more than any other time in recent memory. Up until the Olympic break, things looked pretty bleak but Detroit turned everything around in tremendous fashion and began looking like the team that everyone had expected them to be. The playoffs came and an intense seven game series with the Phoenix Coyotes was first up. The series provided some excellent memories such as the Doanface, throwing the snake, Abby's MMA debut, and of course shutting up Phoenix fans at home during game seven with style. Then came the San Jose Sharks and fans were witness to truly excellent officiating work. Detroit's only highlight during the series was the Muletrick in front of the Joe Louis crowd in game 4, preventing a sweep.

The remainder of the preview follows the jump...

Who's In (or back for seconds): Jiri Hudler (Moscow Dynamo, KHL), Mike Modano (Dallas Stars), Ruslan Salei (Colorado Avalanche)

Who's Out: Brett Lebda (Toronto Maple Leafs), Andreas Lila (unsigned), Jason Williams (unsigned)

Team Strengths:

In net:Jimmy Howard had an excellent breakout rookie season in 2009-2010. In fact, I think he has all the skills to follow that season up in excellent fashion and be a Vezina finalist. He's shown that he's got the skills and mindset to compete at the NHL level and with a defense such as Detroit's in front of him he should have another stellar season in net.

Defense: Detroit suffered some monumental defensive collapses last season and they'll need to right the ship in that department. One way that it seems like they're doing this is by putting Niklas Kronwall with Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski with Brad Stuart. This does two things for the top two defensive pairings: 1.) It gives each pairing a big hitter 2.) It gives each pairing a skilled puck-attacking defenseman. Kronwall and Lidstrom should be an excellent pairing and their offensive skills might help to keep the pressure off in the defensive end because of their ability to keep plays going in the offensive zone. Rafalski and Stuart might take a little time to mesh but Stuart has been a silently good defenseman for the Wings over the years and Rafalski has been as well. The addition of Ruslan Salei might help Jonathan Ericsson with his maturation on the back end.

Offense: Detroit has excellent depth at forward this year. Last season it was a bit thin after Jiri Hudler, Mikael "Shooter" Samuelsson, and Marian Hossa all left for greener pastures. Tomas Kopecky? Yeah, whatever. The offense would have been good but the plethora of injuries had guys like Kris Newbury playing at times. That doesn't translate to much success in the offensive department does it? Jiri Hudler returning and Mike Modano arriving are going to do some excellent things for this team as they give it a tremendously talent third line with Dan Cleary and the top two lines are great, no matter how they get mixed up throughout the course of the year. I honestly think you could do any combination of the top two (maybe even three lines) and get production out of them. Filppula centering a line with Bertuzzi and Franzen is going to produce some major points and Datsyuk being reunited with Zetterberg and Holmstrom is going to be borderline unstoppable I think.

Team Weaknesses:

In net: Jimmy Howard struggled with rebound control and breakaways during the 09-10 campaign and that could be his undoing in the 10-11 campaign. However, the concern for the Wings in net seems more aimed at one Chris Osgood. Osgood struggled pretty bad last season and it forced Howard to take the reigns quicker than expected and more often than expected. If Osgood can't be counted on to backup Howard with success, it may cause Howard to have to play more games, something which could take its toll on him throughout the season.

Defense: The third pairing could be a bit of a question mark for the Wings as Jonathan Ericsson had an atrocious season last year and has still had some trouble in the preseason. I think we could see quite a bit of Jakub Kindl in the line-up if Ericsson is unable to make necessary adjustments.There's also a bit of an uncertainty surround Ruslan Salei's first season in Detroit, but personally I think he'll fit in just fine.

Offense: I honestly really think that the only weakness with this team on offense is deciding where to put everybody. Other than that, it's gravy.

Depth Chart: A quick look at the expected start the season at least.

Tomas Holmstrom Pavel Datsyuk Henrik Zetterberg
Johan Franzen
Valtteri Filppula
Todd Bertuzzi
Jiri Hudler
Mike Modano
Dan Cleary
Justin Abdelkader
Darren Helm
Patrick Eaves

Other forwards: Kris Draper, Drew Miller, Mattias Ritola, Kirk Maltby

Nicklas Lidstrom Niklas Kronwall
Brian Rafalski
Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson Ruslan Salei

Other defensemen: Jakub Kindl, Derek Meech

Jimmy Howard
Chris Osgood

Note: Ritola and Meech are likely to be trade or waiver bait.

Players in the minors that could make appearances: Tomas Tatar (F), Doug Janik (D), Jordan Owens (F), Thomas McCollum (G), Joey MacDonald (G)

WIM Predictions:

JJ: I don't feel out of line expecting a division title and a finals berth out of this squad. Considering the Western Conference is the better one, that means I predict Stanley Cup #12 coming to Detroit next June.
Graham: The Wings may be getting older, but the core is intact and the depth has been improved. Cup winners all have outstanding third and fourth lines, and the Wings have a forward corps to match anyone in the NHL. The idea of the Wings in the Finals is not a far-fetched one, and I believe we will witness Cup number 12 being hoisted this June.
Casey: Well, I'm going to jump right on the train above and say I think the Wings will be back in the Finals and will be bringing the Cup back to Detroit. They have immense talent at offense and defense and even if Jimmy Howard does struggle a little bit, they have a good enough team surrounding him that they could pick it up.