NHL 2017 Season: Detroit Red Wings Pre-Season Overview
Looking at the 2016 – 2017 season, it’s hard to see the Detroit Red Wings doing any worse this year. They came 7th in the Atlantic Division, just one point ahead of the Buffalo Sabres, and they were ranked way down in 14th place of the Eastern Conference. Their end of year record was 33 – 36 – 13, and they only managed to score 207 goals for the 244 that were scored against them.The previous season was, without a doubt, the very worst that they’ve had since the 1990 – 91 season. They missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 seasons, and after taking some lessons from the year, it’s one that both the players and the coaching staff will want to forget.The team now move to a new home at the Little Caesars Arena, but that’s the only real major change that has come this year. Instead of scrambling to replace coaches and managers as some teams would do, the Red Wings have instead focused more on consolidating the talent that they already have.Let’s take a look at the two key additions that the team has made, along with some of the existing roster that should continue to provide value in the upcoming season.
Frans Nielson Will Continue to Pay Off
Nielson was signed midway through 2016 on an extensive six-year contract. Playing previously for the Islanders but seemingly underutilized, Nielsen played in 79 games for the Red Wings last season, scoring 17 goals and 24 assists. Versatile in the center and the left wing, Nielsen might not have the flash or the star power that some players have, but he’s an incredibly hard worker and he can perform consistently every time that he gets on the ice.Nielson is critical to the future of the Detroit Red Wings because he’s such a versatile player. He had the most power play points for any member of the team last year, and he was also involved in some critical game deciders. He works well under pressure, and unlike some of the younger players in the sport, he doesn’t mind adapting to the coach’s requests on the fly. Nielson works well with right wing Gustav Nyquist, which is good news for head coach Jeff Blashill because it makes his job much easier.Frans Nielson will probably never have the same kind of star power as the household names in the NHL, but there’s no denying that he’s one of the most versatile and reliable players on this team. His long contract duration should continue to pay off for the Red Wings this season and into the future.
Trevor Daley and Luke Witkowski bring Talent to the Defense
Looking at the number of goals conceded last season, it’s quite clear that the Red Wings needed to do something different with their defense. Two of their additions will bring new talent and depth to the defense, with Trevor Daley coming from the Penguins, along with Luke Witkowski from Tampa Bay Lightning.Some sports publications have claimed that the Detroit Red Wings are just around the corner from a complete collapse. They point to signings like Daley and Witkowski being temporary band aids on an overall team performance that has been slipping. While we can agree that these kind of signings aren’t exactly the best move for the long term, they at least mean that the Red Wings want a bounce back year and that they want to start getting results now instead of in the distant future. These two players will bring significant muscle to the defense, which will hopefully take pressure off forwards like Frans Nielson and Gustav Nyquist. Witkowski is a versatile hockey player, he can attack almost as well as he can defend so having him flexible as a defenseman and as a right wing means that he will create new options in terms of strategy and rotation. Witkowski made 4 assists last year, but he only appeared in 34 games. More time on the ice in the NHL could help the results to start coming. Daley is another defender who is highly versatile. He’ll be on board with the Red Wings for three years, and his extensive experience in the NHL should be beneficial to the team. Injuries have seen him with less time on the ice in recent seasons, but he still has the capability to score and provide assists when necessary. Last year saw him record 5 goals and 14 assists from a season where he played 56 games. His very best season in the NHL came in the 2014 – 15 season when he scored 16 goals and 22 assists. With the potential that he brings to the Red Wings he’s a solid acquisition.
Detroit Red Wings: Other Players Who Need to Step Up in 2017 – 2018
The biggest problem for Detroit Red Wings last season was that some of their players genuinely regressed in their performance. This year, there will be plenty of opportunity for redemption, and if they can pull off a strong bounce back then the last season will quickly be forgotten. Riley Sheahan is one of the players that went backwards last season. From 80 games he only scored twice, compared to 14 goals in the 2015 – 16 season. Both of his goals came in the final game, which means he played 79 games without scoring. Pete Mrazek struggled as goaltender, but Jimmy Howard was there to pick things up, and he quickly became the team’s starter. From 26 games he ended with a save percentage of .927 – which places him amongst the best in the league. He’ll likely get more time on the ice this year, and we’ll be able to see if he can carry his strong performance throughout a whole season. Defenseman Xavier Ouellet is something of an unknown at this time. Last year he played the most hockey of his NHL career, appearing in 66 games. He can help to drive possession and that’s something that could be built on in the 2017 – 2018 season. He’s a player to watch and could turn out to be one of the best defensive assets on this team. Overall the Red Wings haven’t made huge changes, but they have made some acquisitions that could provide a fast turnaround in performance. Anyone predicting doom and gloom for Detroit will be disappointed, and we believe that last season was not indicative of a slump, but rather just an unfortunately anomaly where a number of key team members just didn’t have the best year.