Newcomers: Damien Brunner, Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo
Departures: Jiri Hudler, Tomas Holmstrom
Injuries: Patrick Eaves
AHL: Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Joakim Andersson
The Detroit Red Wings should still boast one of the NHL’s most potent offensive attacks when the shortened season begins Jan. 19. Four of the team’s top scorers from last season return, and the arrival of three new players with unique skill sets should more than cancel out the loss of Hudler in free agency.
Henrik Zetterberg will lead the team as usual, and should get a chance to play on the top line alongside Pavel Datsyuk. Brunner will at least get a chance to join them on that line, as he and Zetterberg established great chemistry while playing together during the lockout. Points are going to be precious in this short season, and a top line like that should score enough to keep the Wings winning games.
Samuelsson rejoins the Wings, and will get a chance at top-six minutes, likely joining fellow Europeans Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen. The pressure is on for Franzen to have a big year, and hopefully these three can rediscover some of their former chemistry.
Daniel Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi will both need to have good seasons to help this team succeed. With both players nearing their end of their careers, any scoring they can provide will be helpful. Adding Darren Helm to these two could make it a pretty dangerous scoring line, especially if Helm (and the two veterans) can stay healthy all season.
Justin Abdelkader got a contract extension in the offseason and could be poised for a good season on this team’s grinder line. Drew Miller played well in Scotland during the lockout and will hope to transition that into NHL scoring success. This seems to be the best fit for former Nashville Predators pest Jordin Tootoo, who will help add some grit to the lineup.
That leaves Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak as the additional pieces to the puzzle. Both showed flashes of brilliance in the Wings’ lineup last season, it will be especially interesting to see what Mursak can do if he can stay healthy.
Eaves remains sidelined with concussion issues, and there may not be much playing time for him when and if he is able to get back on the ice. Nyquist seemed to be guaranteed a spot in Detroit this season, but could be left in Grand Rapids if there isn’t a top line spot for him in Detroit. Tatar and Sheahan are both having great seasons and would be in line to be called up for injury replacement. Andersson could also see time, though he has missed nearly two weeks in the AHL due to injury.
In a shortened season, every win will be precious and goals will be very important. Coach Mike Babcock has a challenge ahead of him to get this lineup in the right combinations to maximize their talent. If the top two lines can perform well, it is likely the rest of the forwards pick up the pace as well and help lead the Wings to the playoffs.