The best time of the year is here: the start of the Detroit Red Wings season. This season is no different; the articles of hope and areas of improvement have hit the press. The season of leaps of positivity with hopes across the NHL that things will be better and everyone can compete for the Stanley Cup.
There always seems to be a team that jumps out of nowhere and makes a run for the playoffs. The Red Wings hope they are this year’s team. For the first time in a long time, Detroit is in the group of teams wondering if they can get back into the playoffs.
The reality is for the Red Wings, they need to focus on a smaller portion of the season first. The Red Wings need to establish themselves as a good team and show consistency.
The Wings have questions about the future of general manager Ken Holland and head coach Jeff Blashill. If they get off to a slow start, it will become the main storyline for the season. The reverse is, if the Red Wings have a successful season, the status quo could remain with Holland extended and Blashill back with more years of the same direction, which would be a tough pill for many Red Wings fans to swallow. There are no signs that things will improve soon.
The Andreas Athanasiou contract stalemate has gone beyond where it should have. A situation created in part because of a lack of cap space due to previous bad contracts catching up to Holland. Along with future contracts coming up and the reported contract demands of Athanasiou $2.5 million per year. The Wings’ are reportedly holding at 1.9 million per season. Personally, I would settle at $2.2 or $2.3 million per season but then the decision needs to be made who goes to get that space, something Holland most likely already has figured out at the $1.9 million figure.
The projected cap space next season is $11,961,288 (depending on where the cap rises next season) with Dylan Larkin, Petr Mrazek Anthony Mantha, and Riley Sheahan restricted free agents. Athanasiou will need to be added into that number. and the cap situation will remain difficult no matter what he signs for if and when that happens.
Mike Green is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and has already been listed as the fourth available player on TSN’s Trade Bait. He is surely to be traded by the trade deadline.
Those are just some of the off-ice questions.
On the ice, the Red Wings need to improve the power play which was 27th in the league at 15.1%. They were 26th in goals for with 198 and allowed the fifth most goals in the league last season with 244.
More consistency is needed from nearly every forward in the scoring department along with the need for Larkin and Mantha to take another step forward to establish that this is their team. It’s easy to say Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar need to be more consistent, but everyone does.
Of course, a healthy Jimmy Howard goes a long way, as he played well last season when healthy. It should be a make or break year for Mrazek; he needs to perform well and have no questions about his commitment to long term this summer for the long-term health of this franchise, it needs to be his net.
While I don’t think it will be a good season for the Red Wings, the answers to our questions will become clear sooner rather than later. We will watch together, cheer together and vent together. Probably sooner rather than later we will be looking at what the draft lottery possibilities are together.