Ah, the Detroit Red Wings. The steadiest of the Eddies. There are multiple draft classes who literally have never lived in a world where the Red Wings have missed the playoffs. Now, last year they cut it close, barely eking into the final playoff spot in the East, their first year in their new conference. Had they been out West, it may have been a different story. They were the only playoff team to have a negative goal differential. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they got bounced in the first round in five games, although they gave the Bruins a bit of a run for their money. They aren't really Cup contenders anymore, but can they keep the playoff streak alive?
If they do, it will be basically the same team as last year doing it. The Red Wings didn't do much of anything this offseason. Last year, their top scorer only had 49 points, but they also had an offense riddled with injuries. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg both only played 45 games. Even guys like Johan Franzen were limited, and only a handful of forwards played even 70 games. That should change this year Datsyuk and Zetterberg are getting up there, but they are still very talented players.
Then, there's the collection of young talent. Gustav Nyquist exploded onto the scene last season with 28 goals and 48 points in 57 games. Guys like Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan contributed, and perhaps players such as Tomas Jurco and Anthony Mantha will be ready to contribute this season. The Wings haven't birthed a star in a while, but they should have some legitimate depth this season. A lot of these guys played more last year than Detroit hoped, I imagine.
The defense is a similar story. Niklas Kronwall is going strong. Jonathan Ericsson is a solid defensive player. After that, it will be the responsibility of guys like Danny DeKeyser to emerge. Then, there is Jimmy Howard. He's a mystery. Last season, he struggled. However, he has been a very up-and-down goalie in his career. He's had three great seasons, and two poor ones. Anything is possible with him.
If Detroit is healthier, and Howard is better, and I expect to see both of these things come to fruition, I don't think the Wings will have to sweat it as much this season. However, I imagine that finishing third in their division is the best they can hope for. There, though, maybe they can win a round. Regardless, Detroit fans probably don't have to brace themselves for that rarest of sights; an NHL postseason without the Red Wings.