Under new coach Jeff Blashill, injuries and uncertain goaltending may threaten the Red Wings' 24-year playoff appearance streak.
COACH: Jeff Blashill
2014-15 RECORD: 43-25-14, 100 points (third in Atlantic, lost to Lightning, 4-3, in first round)
VITAL SIGNS: 2.82 goals-for per game (10th); 2.57 goals-against per game (15th); 23.8 power place pct. (2nd); 80.9 penalty kill pct. (17th); PDO: 100.4 (13th); Corsi For pct.: 53.5 (3rd); Fenwick For pct.: 52.0 (11th); face-off pct. 51.5 (10th)
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Henrik Zetterberg — Pavel Datsyuk (injured) — Justin Abdelkader
Tomas Tatar — Brad Richards — Gustav Nyquist
Darren Helm (injured) — Riley Sheahan — Johan Franzen
Drew Miller — Luke Glendening — Landon Ferraro
Niklas Kronwall — Jonathan Ericsson
Danny Dekeyser (injured) — Mike Green
Kyle Quincey — Brendan Smith
Outlook: The Red Wings’ playoff streak could reach a quarter-century this season, but they’ll have to do it without the guiding force that has never failed to lead an aging, injury prone core to the postseason: Mike Babcock. The league’s most highly regarded coach departed Hockeytown for Toronto during the off-season, leaving Detroit after 10 playoff appearances and a Stanley Cup title. Babcock’s replacement, At 41, Jeff Blashill—a Detroit native—was promoted from Detroit’s AHL Grand Rapids affiliate and is only a few years older than several of the Wings’ top players. On Oct. 9, he’ll coach his first NHL game, against none other than Babcock and the Maple Leafs.on Detroit’s top line.
Goaltending is another big question. Last year, Jimmy Howard’s inconsistency led to Petr Mrazek starting in the postseason. Mrazek showed flashes of brilliance against the Lightning, nearly leading Detroit to an opening round victory over the eventual Eastern Conference champions. Both Howard and Mrazek are vying to start on opening night, and each will likely see substantial time between the pipes this season. So far this preseason, neither goaltender has emerged as a clear favorite to claim the starting job.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Tomas TatarWhile the Red Wings’ potential for success depends to a large extent on their veterans, whether the team can seriously contend for the Cup hinges on its younger players. Tatar, 24, took another huge leap last season, tallying 56 points, an increase of 17 from 2013-14, his first season as a Red Wings regular. He led the team with 29 goals and was one of five Wings to play in every regular season game. Expecting him to improve by the same degree this season is unrealistic considering the jump he just took, but Tatar has a chance to truly assert himself as a star player.
PREDICTION: 98 points, third in Atlantic