Hey, you guys! Hockey is getting closer and closer! Training camp is less than two weeks away at this point, and it's time for us to start looking at our top wingers. It's not much different than it has been, I think it's time that we take a guy like Henrik Zetterberg and start utilizing him on the wing more often. He's a great center, but I'd rather put more wear and tear on him than he already has.
#93 / Right Wing / Detroit Red Wings
Dec 23, 1979
Ah yes, the fan favorite. Though he hasn't played a game since January, The Mule looks to make a triumphant return for game one of the 2015-2016 regular season. It's a scary situation, no doubt about it. This season is going to tell us what the future holds for Johan Franzen, and his career. With all of the recent healthy issues, it's not looking good for the 35-year-old veteran.
Strengths: When he's on his game, The Mule is an absolute offensive force as a power forward. Not only can he provide brilliant playmaking abilities, but he also gives you a bit of that "grit factor" that everyone knows and loves. He's efficient at both ends of the ice, and skates extremely well for a player with his size. Franzen can be thought of as an authoritative net-driver, with shot accuracy that is completely underrated. Franzen is great along the boards with puck battles, and creating space with his exceptional strength and size. When The Mule is hot, the team is hot.
Weaknesses: Well, aside from having weekly concussion-like symptoms since January, and a complete question mark on his future in the NHL, Johan Franzen is a streaky scorer. He'll be hot for a stretch of games, then go completely invisible for another stretch. It's frustrating for fans to watch, because you see how dominating he can be, but then turn into a somewhat pillow-soft player. Along with that, he's extremely prone to injuries, much like every other player on the team.
Expectations: He's going to try and return this season, and Honestly? It could be disastrous to not only his career, but his personal life. I want to expect Franzen to make the right decision for himself, but I'm not sure I can comfortably do that. He's said before that he will retire on his own terms. So with that being said, if he does make a return, I'm not sure I am comfortable speaking about what I expect to happen to The Mule.
Gustav Nyquist, a hockey player who is very good, is coming off of a career-high 54 points (27g, 27a) in 2014-2015, and has recently earned himself a four-year contract worth $19 million. For a back-to-back 20 (almost 30) goal scorer, the Red Wings will have Nyquist at a bargain price through his prime. There was obviously no sophomore slump for the 26-year-old, but the bar has been set quite high for Nyquist. After a disappointing two points in the 2015 NHL Playoffs, Gustav Nyquist must put his foot to the gas, and show that he is the next player to lead this team down the road.
Strengths: He scores a lot of awesome goals. He's a natural center, who has converted to the wing with great success. He has a great shot, and shots with accuracy (see: his high shooting percentage ha ha ha.) He was never a true goal scorer in the AHL like he is now, but his transition to full-time with the Red Wings have been nothing but successful. I would argue that Nyqust is likely one of the best skating forwards the Red Wings have, he's quick, agile, and has some of the smoothest crossover strides I have ever seen. His high hockey IQ, and exceptional vision set him up to be a terrific playmaker. Guys, Gustav Nyquist is good.
Weaknesses: Size. While he's definitely put on some weight over the years, he's still a small guy. The 183-pounder can be pushed off the puck somewhat easily if he is unable to elude the defender. Another big weakness is the expectations of him. From the moment Nyquist played his first NHL game, he was destined to be an elite player for the Red Wings. He's performed at a high level each season, and has proven that he can be a mainstay offensive threat whether it's by scoring goals, or setting up plays. The fear for me is that if he slips in production, even the slightest, it will be drastically over-examined.
Expectations: What can I say? I expect greatness from Gustav Nyquist, because he's a core player for this team. He's shown that he can be better each year, so I expect to see a 30 goal (or somewhat close to 30) season. I think expecting Nyquist to score at least 60 points shouldn't be asking too much.
Who doesn't love hot sauce? If you don't, then you're wrong. Tomas Tatar scored a team-leading 29 goals last season after scoring 19 the previous year. Much like Nyquist, he is a true part of the Red Wings core, and will have a growing role in the team's success for years to come.
Strengths: Tomas Tatar a quick, and elusive little bugger. He has spectacular vision, which enables him to make brilliant plays on a consistent basis. Tatar has a smooth set of hands that accent his exceptional puckhandling. Another strength of Tatar's is his passion. He's an extremely passionate hockey player, who always seems to be having fun. I love that about him, and I hope he stays that way forever.
Weaknesses: Tatar has a tendency to make silly mistakes that will cost him and his team. He can get a bit shaky in his own zone. When a player with his caliber of talent makes a mistake, it stands out. But hey, that was all Mike Babcock's fault.
Expectations: Like with Nyquist, I expect greatness. Tatar is a versatile forward who has proven that he can dominate at the NHL level. He's a pint-sized offensive firecracker that just needs to keep the mistakes to a minimum. I want 70 points from Tomas Tatar this season.
#40 / Center / Detroit Red Wings
Oct 09, 1980
Wait, he isn't a winger, is he? My opinion stands that Henrik Zetterberg should not be playing center anymore. Too many miles on this man, and he's best used on the wing. Captain Hank is coming off a season which he scored a team-leading 66 points. With the injury to Pavel Datsyuk, there's a lot of question to whether or not he'll be on the wing, or at center. Let's hope for the former on that.
Strengths: Zetterberg is an elite two-way forward, with some of the best vision in the NHL. Henrik is one of those players who can "make a lot out of a little" thanks to his off-the-charts hockey IQ, and fantastic playmaking abilities. Zetterberg's acumen with the puck are second to none, as you rarely see him making costly mistakes. He is our leader, he is our captain. He also has a beard that cannot be matched.
Weaknesses: I think the biggest weakness for Zetterberg is his health, and how much the team actually depends on him to play against top competition every single game. He's got a lot of miles on him, and it would be nice to see the Red Wings be able to put him into a lesser role in the near future, but I am not sure that they can afford to do that right now.
Expectations: I expect him to have a good season, but I am not sure if I expect him to match his point total that he had in 2014-2015. He's been on a steady decline, so I have less expectations every year. I could very well be wrong, but it's no secret - The man is simply relied on far too much. I expect Nyquist and Tatar to score more than him, and you should too. Let's say, 60-ish points for Hank this season.