It’s early January and hockey times are, well... a bit different than we’re used to. To make hockey work, the NHL realigned their divisions, shortened their schedule, and lumped each team in with geographically-selected rivals to salvage a 56-game season.
We’ve already written your definitive hater’s guide to the Detroit Red Wings new Central Division, but in the spirit of “we’re all stuck here together so we may as well get to know each other” we have the pleasure of kicking off a new series here in which each site in our new family will take a turn around the room introducing their team to some folks who may not know much about us.
We’ll be sharing the posts from the other sites each day as those go up, but for now we’re kicking it off with our five questions:
1) How would you describe your team’s style of play?
Oh howdy a semi-loaded question off the bat. How do I start? If you’re at all familiar with the level of ineptitude on display by the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings, you might be insulted to even see this question approached. You know how line dancing, ballet, breakdancing, etc. are all styles of dance? We were kind of like the person who excitedly leaps onto the dance floor and tries to flop into doing the worm but instead smashes their face on the ground and is immediately knocked unconscious.
Fans of the team called them a team in search of an identity last season. Coming into this season, the anticipated lineup improvements both by addition AND subtraction look to upgrade us from a one-line team in front of a defense way over its head and a goaltender with less stopping power than a spiderweb at the speedway to a 1.5-line team with only a slightly overmatched defense and a goalie we’re very much hoping wasn’t a product of playing behind Barry Trotz’s system last year.
The Wings want to play an up-tempo style, but we’ll believe they won’t be a shell-oriented attempt-to-counterattack team when we start seeing anything resembling an outlet pass from the back end again.
2) What players should opposing fans know the name of - and why?
You should know the one line that kept its head above water for obvious reasons: Tyler Bertuzzi-Dylan Larkin-Anthony Mantha are a trio whose styles match exceptionally well and are great at forechecking. Outside of those three, remember the name Filip because if you see somebody else do something cool, there’s a good chance that’s the dude’s name.
If you insist on knowing all last names like some sort of weirdo, that would be the winger Zadina and the defenseman Hronek. The former is our first rounder from 2018 (6th overall) who has a ton of energy and a scoring touch while the latter was a 2nd rounder in 2016 who has shown a knack for moving the puck and is improving in his own end faster than his peers.
You probably already know the name of Bobby Ryan and might even remember Vladislav Namestnikov. Outside of that, we have a number of other options that we’re banking on, but those players will be tasked with forcing you to learn their own names rather than coming pre-hyped from us.
3) Why could your team win the division?
I feel compelled to give a serious answer here, so I’m going to preface this with the statement that I’m putting some heavy weight on the shoulders of the word COULD here.
The sheer number of ifs defy reason, but the Red Wings COULD see their top line continue to set the standard while their middle six gel in ways that confound other teams and their grinding fourth line regains its days-of-yore potential to shut other lines down. The defense COULD see drastic improvements among the youth and COULD see Danny DeKeyser return to full health while Mark Staal is reinvigorated by being outside of New York. Thomas Greiss COULD steal a whole bunch of games in a shortened season and a few other teams COULD crap the bunk.
4) Why could your team be the caboose of the division?
The likelihood of this one is juuuuuuuust a bit higher than the one where they win the division, I would guess.
Detroit has a number of holes that consistent teams feast on. While the Wings are capable of giving any team a run on any given night, the difference between the good, the bad and the elite is the number of ifs they have to rely on going their way. Detroit lacks center depth, scoring depth, a #1 defenseman, a proven shut-down guy, and total confidence in their goaltending. Pretty much every game, they’re trying to shuffle their holes around so all three don’t line up too much, but good and great teams are going to exploit those holes more often simply due to more opportunities to do so.
5) On a scale of baby kitten to Tiger King, what’s the potential of the heated matchup of your team with your new division mates? (Here’s where you can talk about past history/recent matchups/etc.)
The big obvious one is that Chicago is a historic and hated rival. Our departure from the division in 2013-14 and our fall from grace might have cooled things, but now both teams are back together and it looks like they should be pretty evenly-matched, this is likely going to be some of the most-fun stuff to watch anywhere in our neck of the woods. You likely won’t be seeing great hockey, but it’ll be fun in the same way that watching raccoons fighting over a discarded bag of Burger King can be fun.
You might think that rekindled division/conference rivalries with Columbus (never won a playoff game against Detroit), Dallas (some fun late 90’s disdain) or Nashville (screw you, Shea Weber) would also be pretty fun and there’s a good chance of that. Detroit gave Dallas a nice punch to the nose to start last year and that put an awful shock into that fanbase. This season they’ll have a chance to do similar things, but I think mostly these teams are going to be worried about bigger things.
It’s funny to be reminded that the Lightning for so long had this little smoldering hatred-yet-appreciation for the Wings when we weren’t even thinking about them, but that’s how I feel Detroit fans are in with the Bolts these days. Tampa has no reason to even consider us, but they do, while we could sing for a week if we could beat that team in regulation for a change.
Closing out with Florida and Carolina? I’ve got nothing. We’ve shared a division with the Panthers for close to a decade and I have no feelings about them. I’m sure I’ll get tired of the Bunch of Jerks Hurricanes when we’re playing them 8 times, but we’ll have to see how that shakes out.