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2018 Detroit Red Wings What to Watch For

NHL Centennial 100 Celebration Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/NHLI via Getty Images

As we are official in 2018, the Detroit Red Wings start the year 16-16-7 and are 13th in the Eastern Conference and 25th overall in the NHL. The 39 points the Red Wings have, is currently nine behind Boston and Toronto (who have 48) for the second and third spot in the Atlantic Division. The Wings’ are eight points behind the New York Rangers and five behind the Carolina Hurricanes with those two teams holding the two Wild Card spots.

Could Detroit Make It Interesting?

The first thing to watch out for is what happens if the Red Wings go on a small winning streak combined with a small losing streak from one of the Wild Card teams and some other luck with teams I will mention below? What if it pushes the Wings’ to any closer then five points out of that last Wild Card spot?

Fact is they are so far from anyone else to make the Playoffs, and that last Wild Card spot is the small tiny opening to make the playoffs Ken Holland is craving. Now, the other issue is Pittsburgh, New York Islanders, Philadelphia and Florida are ahead of Detroit and outside of the playoffs right now. Jumping five teams at this stage is very hard to do.

I do not think this will happen, nor do I want it to happen. Here’s why, it would no doubt change or prevent General Manager Ken Holland from doing the right thing and selling assets off. I fear if he has any sniff of the playoffs this first few months of 2018 will set the franchise back even more.

Trade Deadline

Monday, February 26 is the trade deadline in the NHL. We need to watch out for which direction the team will take. Everyone should be in play on this roster, except forwards Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. The Red Wings need to show they are serious about rebuilding the right way, even moving out an unexpected player or two.

This would be unpopular, but if someone came calling about Henrik Zetterberg, I would listen. Sure, you would likely have to eat some salary and you won’t get top prospects or picks back but consider getting anything of value for him. Zetterberg won’t be on a contending Red Wings team again and it could give him another chance to win a Stanley Cup. If this were to be something under consideration, the deal would be easier to make in the summer when teams have more flexibility.

Holland in 2018

The biggest story line for 2018 for the Detroit Red Wings will be who is the General Manager this summer and beyond? It would be hard to believe that Holland would be rewarded with an extension but stranger things have happened. The first thing we need to look for, is whoever is running the team needs to lay off signing veteran players in free agency and move out bad contracts via trade along with having an action plan in place for those he can’t move.

The summers of 2020 and 2021, if this is done right should be the last ones with the majority of bad contracts on the books, sooner if the GM is creative with trades. Until that point, the focus should be on drafting, developing and playing young talent. We need to look for how the team starts to get out from underwater with some of these contracts.

Hopefully, the Red Wings would then have a core of key young players in the lineup and draft picks ready to be in the lineup. Followed by getting back into the free agent market, in a smart way.

My pick to watch for as the next general manager of the Detroit Red Wings is Maple Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas. Promoting Kris Draper or Ryan Martin doesn’t generate much hope for the future in my book and neither does former Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi.

Blashill in 2018

Finally in 2018, we will watch for head coach Jeff Blashill. I would think regardless of what happens with management, that Blashill will not be back. If you have a new general manager from the outside, he should get his own coach and if it is someone who is still in the organization a new voice is needed regardless of how much of the blame one puts on Blashill.