There are new faces in Hockeytown, but the goal remains the same; continue to bring the Wings back to being contenders
It has been 309 days since the Detroit Red Wings skated off the ice at Little Caesars Arena after a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes on March 10th, 2020. They didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the last game of the 2019-2020 campaign. Their season ended with only 17 wins, their lowest win total since the 1985-1986 season.
On Thursday the Red Wings turn a new page by opening the 2021 NHL season with the very same Carolina Hurricanes coming to town. It should be the beginning of what should be an intriguing year for the boys in red and white. It is not only going to be an interesting year for the Wings, but for the NHL itself. In response to COVID-19, the league has shortened its season to 56 games. The regular season will end in May and the Stanley Cup Playoffs could end as late as mid July.
The Red Wings also find themselves in a realigned division. The NHL has changed the structure of the league, creating 4 divisions of 8 teams each. Detroit finds themselves in arguably the toughest division along with the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, to make up the central half of the Eastern Conference.
As a result of the shortened season, the Red Wings had to reduce the length of their preseason training camp to 12 days, which could make for a slow start for the squad. However, the offseason the front office had should not be overlooked. General Manager Steve Yzerman and company went to work, bringing in a plethora of new skaters via free agency. Star players Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi were also awarded new 4 year and 1 year contracts respectively.
Yzerman did a lot of things well in the offseason. He also hit a home run of a draft which included selecting young Forward Lucas Raymond from Sweden, fourth overall. However, now its time for Coach Jeff Blashill to take these new assets and give the Red Wings faithful something to cheer about. Here are some things the fans should look forward to seeing from their hockey club in the new year.
Goaltending By Committee
The Jimmy Howard era in Detroit is officially over after he posted the worst season of his career in 2019-2020. Howard is now on the open market and bringing in his replacement was at the top of Steve Yzerman’s priority list this past summer. As a result, the club signed 34 year old, Thomas Greiss from the New York Islanders.
Greiss joins the Red Wings on a 2 year, $7 million dollar contract that was signed on October 10th. Even at such an old age he has put up solid numbers. In 2019-20, he recorded a solid Save Percentage of .913 and a Goals Against Average of 2.74.
The plan for this season is to have Greiss and Jonathan Bernier rotate at the goaltender position. Bernier was a bright spot for the Wings as he was reliable and bailed the defense out of many mistakes. Depth at the goalie position will be a nice luxury for Jeff Blashill in 2021. If Bernier is going through a slump, Greiss will step in for a couple games. If Greiss goes down with an injury, Bernier is capable of being a full time starter. Neither goaltender is an all star work horse. As a tandem they have potential to be a solid anchor to the Detroit Red Wings defense.
The Emergence of a Second Line
It was no secret that the 2019-2020 Detroit Red Wings would go as far as their top line would take them. Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi seemed to be the only source of scoring for a team that didn’t do much scoring to begin with. Bertuzzi led the way in goals with 21, and Larkin had the most assists with 34.
In 2021, the Wings are hoping to help out their top line with some secondary scoring. Steve Yzerman has set the coaching staff up with an opportunity to do this with some of his free agent acquisitions. Forward Vladislav Namestnikov, has found himself on the second line in almost every training camp practice, and rightfully so. Namestnikov bounced around to 3 different clubs in 2019-20, but still managed to post 31 points.
Alongside him will most likely be Robby Fabbri and Filip Zadina. Fabbri, aquired in trade via the Blues early last season, and provided a much needed scoring punch right away. Zadina, Detroit’s first round draft choice in 2018, is the Wings most promising youngster. Both guys combined for 20 goals and saw decent time on the power play in 2020.
Namestnikov, Fabbri, and Zadina could be the second line Detroit has been missing. Don’t be surprised if we see veteran Forward Bobby Ryan also become a member of this group after he overcomes an injury suffered in training camp. Mathias Brome and Valterri Filppula are candidates as well, but no matter who may play on the second line, they must provide some offense.
A New Captain
The Detroit Red Wings have been without a captain since Henrik Zetterberg announced his retirement in 2018. Ever since then, the fanbase has had a favorite for the role. On Wednesday it came to fruition. The club announced that Dylan Larkin was being named the 37th captain in Red Wings history.
“He felt I was ready, and I felt I was ready” said Dylan when asked about the conversation he had with Steve Yzerman when given the role of captain. Even after coming off a down year in 2019-20, Larkin is definitely the guy for the job. A rebuilding team like the Red Wings needs a defined leader and now they finally have one. Now its time for Dylan to assume his role.
If Larkin can not only be a captain in the locker room, but also play like one on the ice, the Wings will be in for a very pleasant 2021 season. Detroit may not be a write-in for the postseason this year, but without a doubt they need to improve on the abysmal showing they had last season. Now that Larkin has the ‘C’ on his chest, he may now have the confidence he needs to bring the Wings back to being contenders.
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