It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.
Team: Detroit Red Wings
How they did last season: 41-30-11 (93 points); 3rd in the Atlantic Division; 8th in the Eastern Conference. The Wings qualified for the playoffs for a 25th consecutive season, but they also got bounced in the first round for the third straight year and fourth time in five years.
Notable acquisitions: C Frans Nielsen; LW Thomas Vanek and C Steve Ott.
Notable departures: C Pavel Datsyuk, C Brad Richards and C Joakim Andersson.
When they will play the Caps: Feb. 9 in Washington; Feb. 18 in Detroit.
Analysis: The Red Wings have been one of the most consistent franchises in all of sports for a quarter century. But take a close look at this year’s Pavel Datsyuk-less roster and it’s tough to envision The Streak reaching 26 seasons.
Similar to the situation in Vancouver, it’s probably time for a proper rebuild. But, like the Canucks, the Red Wings seem content to keep reaching for Band-Aids, while simultaneously attempting to retool on the fly.
With Datsyuk off to the KHL and an offense that struggled to score (2.55 goals per game/23rd) last season, GM Ken Holland signed Frans Nielsen (six years, $31.5 million) in an attempt offset the lost production. Datsyuk had 16 goals and 33 assists in 66 games; Nielsen had 20 and 32 in 81 contests.
Holland also signed declining winger Thomas Vanek, who was bought out by the Wild after a couple of disappointing seasons. The hope in Detroit is that a motivated Vanek (one-year, $2.6 million) has another 25-30 goal season in him.
Meantime, Steve Ott was signed to provide some grit on the fourth line and to help kill penalties. He inked a one-year, $800,000 contract.
Here’s the thing: Nielsen and Vanek are 32 and Ott turns 34 this month. And they’re joining a roster anchored by Henrik Zetterberg, 35, and Niklas Kronwall, also 35.
There were also some changes behind the bench as second-year head coach Jeff Blashill sought to surround himself with more NHL experience. To achieve that, he added veterans Doug Houda and John Torchetti to his staff.
So, yeah, the Red Wings were indeed busy this summer (even though Holland did not sign the top-4 defenseman the lineup so desperately needs). But it’s unclear if they took a step forward or another step toward the inevitable.
I’m going with the latter.
Season prediction: It’s not all bad for the Winged Wheel, I guess.
The roster does boast Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, a pair of productive forwards in their mid-20s. And there’s a trio of up-and-coming players in Dylan Larkin, Petr Mrazek and Danny Dekeyser.
Larkin, who is expected to transition to center this season, has the potential to be a big time player. When Mrazek is on his game, he sure looks like a No. 1 goalie. And Dekeyser, assuming his upward trajectory continues, should develop into a solid top-pairing D-man.
With a handful of prospects knocking on the door, as well, the Red Wings need to stop reaching for the stopgap solutions and fully commit to a youth movement. Perhaps seeing The Streak come to an end will force them to (finally) decide it’s time.
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2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS
— Boston Bruins
— Buffalo Sabres
— Detroit Red Wings
— Florida Panthers
Montreal Canadiens (coming Aug. 19)
Ottawa Senators (coming Aug. 20)
Tampa Bay Lightning (coming Aug. 21)
Toronto Maple Leafs (coming Aug. 22)
Carolina Hurricanes (coming Aug. 23)
Columbus Blue Jackets (coming Aug. 24)
New Jersey Devils (coming Aug. 25)
New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
Washington Capitals (coming soon)