One of the biggest questions of the off-season and indeed of recent franchise history has been answered for the Detroit Red Wings news that Henrik Zetterberg’s hockey career had come to an end. And having that knowledge, for better or worse, certainly sets the stage for the 2018-2018 season in Detroit.
Zetterberg was signed for three more seasons, but the Red Wings have put him on the long-term injured reserve list and that is how things will shake down. He finished second on the team in points last season and was still capable of eating up lots of ice time, so saying he’ll be missed is an understatement.
The focus for now in the Motor City turns, according to general manager Ken Holland, just a little bit down the road.
“The hope is that we can hang in,” Holland says. “The longer that we can hang in, I think the better the environment is for everybody – for the fans, for our players, for especially our young players.”
In order to build that environment and “hang in,” Holland and Co. picked up a few goodies.
Goalie Jonathan Bernier was signed as a free agent and the intent is to have him share the net with Jimmy Howard, who’s in the final year of his contract. Bernier is a respectable netminder who spent 37 games with the Colorado Avalanche last season and posted a 2.85 goals against average.
The Red Wings also re-signed defenceman Mike Green, who’s played the last three seasons in Detroit and has been aiding in the development of the young core. He led the team in ice time last season and put up 33 points, including eight goals.
Also picked up was Tomas Vanek, who makes his return to the Red Wings after a stint with the Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets last season. He’s been signed for a year and, like the other veteran pick-ups, will bridge the club to the young talent.
That young talent begins with Dylan Larkin, the 22-year-old who signed a five-year deal with the club this summer. He’s on record wanting to mean as much to the city as Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg, so there are some big skates for him to fill this season. With the proverbial changing of the old guard all but done, the time is now for Larkin.
Filip Zadina is primed to take a top six spot coming out of training camp, so he’s worth keeping an eye on. The 18-year-old led the QMJHL in rookie scoring last season and could be an impact player right away if he’s NHL-bound this season. Scouting has him on a line with Vanek and Andreas Athanasiou, which is where he showed up at camp this week.
Evgeny Svechnikov will also be getting a big look at training camp. He may be overshadowed by Hurricanes prospect Andrei Svechnikov right now, but he’s still in the mix. The Red Wings are hoping their Svechnikov can improve on what was a slide backward in Grand Rapids last season and training with his brother should’ve helped him tick up his skating.
Most of what could go right or wrong this season in Detroit hinges on how well the rookies do, so that will always hang a question mark over the franchise. And that means it’s really hard to say how well this club will do. There are more than a few breakout rookies in the mix and Holland knows that, so he’s padded his roster with a few well-placed veterans.
But the proof, ultimately, will be in the pudding. And the Red Wings are hoping for the best start to the post-Zetterberg era as possible, even though reality often deals a different hand.