The Detroit Red Wings will skate into the 2017-2018 season without owner Mike Ilitch at the helm. He passed away in February and there will be changes in store for the organization, including a new home at the Little Caesars Arena.
The Red Wings failed to qualify for the post-season in 2016-2017, marking the first time they missed the playoffs in 25 years. That could mean that the Motor City is in the mood for a rebuild, although money may be a factor. The club is about $4 million over the existing salary cap and will need to shed some coin before the regular season starts.
The Red Wings have a number of players over the age of 30 signed through the 2019-2020 season and that means that any rejuvenation process will take time. But the veteran group in Detroit is strong and could push the club to the post-season once more, especially with the likes of Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall still playing valid roles.
Zetterberg is still the top draw among Red Wing forwards. The 36-year-old enjoyed a very good year in 2016-2017, with a 68-point campaign in 82 games. He scored 17 goals and had 51 helpers, plus he accounted for two power play goals and 195 shots on goal. The Swede averaged 19:43 of ice time a game, but Detroit may want to ask him to do a little less next season.
Tomas Tatar was the only Red Wing to score 20 goals last season, as he put together 25 and added 21 assists for a total of 46 points in 82 games. The 26-year-old is a speedy and tenacious forward, averaging 17:16 of ice time a game. He’s a little on the small side, but Tatar can play both wing positions and skates on the power play and penalty kill.
Gustav Nyquist had a disappointing season with just a dozen goals to call his own. He posted a meagre 165 shots on target and had 48 points in 76 games. The Swede thinks the game well and seems a good fit on the wing, but he’d obviously like to hit better markers in 2017-2018. He surged a little toward the end of last season, however, and some of that energy could play through.
Anthony Mantha is considered to be the breakout star in Detroit. He’s going into his second full season in the NHL and had decent totals in 2016-2017, posting 36 points in 60 games. The 22-year-old has natural goal-scoring skill and is a big strong forward at 6’5, 221 pounds. The Longueuil native should be paired with Zetterberg and will see more power play time in 2017-2018, which means his totals could trend upward.
Mike Green should continue to put up the points for the Detroit defence. He’s got a dozen years of experience under his belt, but he “enjoyed” the worst plus/minus totals of his career in 2016-2017 and had just 10 points on the power play. The 31-year-old still amassed a reputable 14 goals and a total of 36 points, however.
Trevor Daley is a new arrival worth watching. The 33-year-old could challenge Green for power play time. He produced five goals and added 14 assists for 19 points with Pittsburgh last season, plus he added five points in 21 post-season games and averaged just over 19 minutes of ice time a game in the playoffs. He’s mobile and sturdy, making him a good fit for Detroit’s blueline.
Danny DeKeyser had a dozen points in 82 games in 2016-2017 and he was held without a point on the power play, so it’s fair to say his production took a dip. The 27-year-old excels in a mobile shutdown role and averaged 21:56 of ice time a game last season, but the Red Wings would like him to improve his point shot.
Jimmy Howard gives the Red Wings a chance to win every single game. He put up good totals in 2016-2017, finishing third overall in goals against average and second overall in save percentage. Unfortunately, Detroit couldn’t score enough to offset his play and the wins just didn’t come. But if things clear up offensively up front, Howard should continue to post solid totals.
Petr Mrazek is the other half of the Red Wings’ goaltending equation, but he didn’t have a very good season last year. He posted the worst save percentage and goals against average in his career through 50 games last season and finds himself going into a contract year. That could mean things improve, especially with Daley and Co. giving the blueline more credibility.