To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.
Today’s team: Detroit Red Wings
2014-15 record: 43-25-14, 3rd in the Atlantic
How they finished: Lost in seven games to Tampa Bay in the Conference Quarterfinals
Coach: Jeff Blashill (1st season)
Notable additions: D Mike Green, C Brad Richards
Notable subtractions: D Marek Zidlicky
Schedule against the Capitals: Tue. Nov. 10 at Detroit, Wed. Nov. 18 at Detroit, Tue. Dec. 8 at Washington
Outlook: One of the most consistent franchises in the NHL went through a tumultuous summer as head coach Mike Babcock left for Toronto. Jeff Blashill now takes his place with the task of maintaining the team's streak of 24 consecutive playoff appearances and he will have his work cut out for him.
Many of the team's most important players are starting to show their age. Pavel Datsyuk is 37, Johan Franzen is 35 and both struggle to stay healthy. Datsyuk will likely miss the first month of the season and Franzen's status is largely unknown. Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall are both 34. Even free agent pickup Brad Richards is 35. The Red Wings survived with Franzen only playing in 33 games last season, but this team still depends on these players for major offensive contributions. Relying on so many players in their mid-to-late 30s is a big gamble. Do the Red Wings have enough young talent to survive when the veteran well inevitably runs dry?
Of course there are young players like Tomas Tatar and Justin Abdelkader who will have to assert themselves more this season, but they cannot by themselves make up for the production of so many veterans.
In Mike Green, Detroit finally seems to have the right-shooting, puck-moving defenseman they have coveted for so long, but the team had a top ten offense last season, the second-best power play percentage in the NHL and an average defense. It doesn't sound like they needed much help with the aspects in which Green excels. He will help that power play stay great, but he won't help this team get better defensively.
It seems bizarre to consider a franchise with a 24-season playoff streak to be a team in transition, but that's exactly what the Red Wings are. The task for Blashill in this first season is to hand the reins over from its veterans to the younger players. He needs to make sure Tatar and Abdelkader become the focal points of this offense rather than Zetterberg and Datsyuk, he needs to make sure Green and Danny DeKeyser become the major facilitators from the blue line rather than rely on Kronwall and he needs to make sure Petr Mrazek continues to assert himself as the team's top netminder.
Can Blashill accomplish that transition over the course of one season, his first as a head coach in the NHL? That's a lot to ask.
Expectations: How much is Babcock worth? We're about to find out. He left behind a team in transition in Detroit that needs its young talent to assert itself over its aging veterans. Now a coach in his first season in the NHL has the task of helping that transition while not breaking their playoff streak.
Detroit has a lot of talent on its roster, but do they have enough to make up for the inevitable decline of some of their aging stars? That's the question. Previously, we would be willing to shrug our shoulders and say Babcock has a plan, but we can't now. Babcock made this formula work last season, but status quo isn't going to cut it for Detroit anymore.
You can never count out the Red Wings--they are simply too well run a franchise--but this feels like the year they could snap their playoff streak.
No pressure Blashill.
See more team previews:
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24
New Jersey Devils 8/25
New York Islanders 8/26
New York Rangers 8/27
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29
Washington Capitals 8/30