So, now we finally turn the page on the Red Wings 2017 campaign and focus on the 2018 season, which begins with very little optimism today. The salary cap still looms large over top of the Red Wings, so there hasn't been an influx of good free agents, while their lack of luck and scouting hasn't exactly developed a plethora of young talent through the draft either.
Still, what is being done is exercising a little bit of patience, hoping for some of those young players to possibly blossom a little late and wait out a few of these issues.
The goaltending could just as easily turn their game around, as both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek both looked below-average in the 2017 season, while Trevor Daley has been installed on a blueline that also lost a lot of confidence last season. Up front, that's where the youth really needs to step up and there are some spots on this roster, where they can't afford any more free agent signings, so the youthful competition might ramp up the overall game. It's not a perfect place to be, but the Wings could work with it.
Table last updated on August 13th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Year number three. I believe that's the factor that makes Dylan Larkin into a player ready to break out... again. However unexplainable the sudden drop off of the sophomore jinx/slump is, it's just as impressive to see players bounce back from it as well.
Larkin's 45-point rookie season was met with a 32-point sophomore slump season and I think we'll be seeing some great things from this little speedster, trying to help aid the recovery of his team from this pit of despair. It could be a tough road ahead for these Red Wings, but there will be some bright spots this season and I figure Larkin will be one of them.
First Round Picks
The Red Wings are going to be without a projected opening round pick this time around, as things are not exactly clear for this team, especially when it comes to the net, where they had one projected pick last season. The Red Wings didn't finish with a player in the top 25 in scoring last season and I don't think they will again this year.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
Up front, there should be a fair bit of scoring coming from the forwards, but nothing that will necessarily rock your socks off. Henrik Zetterberg showed that he still had some gas left in the tank and he did put together a pretty impressive year. The 36-year old will be leaned upon heavily again, guiding the rest of the forwards like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Anthony Mantha and Frans Nielsen through the year.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The blueline isn't exactly outstanding, but there are some names that could be sprinkled through the draft this year, who will round out a decent scoring line. Mike Green is now hovering at the 35-point plateau, while a new full-time member of the line, Nick Jensen is set to make a splash with the club this year. Newcomer Trevor Daley, Danny DeKeyser and Xavier Ouellet should all be considered as decent options as well, as it looks like it'll be scoring by committee from the back.
It was widely thought that last season would have been Petr Mrazek's coming out party as the team's number one, but he ended up being a bit of a bust, not even finishing in the top 30 among goalies last season. Then they looked to Jimmy Howard to pick up the pieces, but he struggled as well, only winning 10 out of 26 appearances. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, both of them are back and there just isn't any indication that things are going to be much better in the crease. One will have to take the reins and go, but which one will it be?
Team To Pick From Late?
Although they may be sliding down the depth chart, the veteran defense of Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall may still end up being sleeper options for your team. Neither player's health did them any favours last season and they could have ended up being forgotten by a lot of poolies, so if you're looking for a nostalgia sleeper pick, these two could be that pick up.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The Red Wings have all kinds of salary cap issues and that is the leading reason why this group has had to stick with some of their players. They couldn't afford to make any moves, other than the necessary. Even with LTIR help from Johan Franzen, I am showing the Red Wings with less than $150,000 in unused help.
Without making another move, which does seem unlikely, the Wings don't have enough room for the potential deal that restricted free agent Andreas Athanasiou is going to cost them. The 23-year old is just starting to find his legs with the team and I have him as being worthy, assuming they can get him under contract.
The luck also hasn't quite stretched over their health of late either, since they had a laundry list of players who couldn't finish the season and needed a summer's worth of rehab. Luke Glendening is still on the fence for training camp and the start of the regular season, after ankle surgery in June had him off for 3-to-4 months. Justin Abdelkader's knee held him out of the end of the season, but he avoided major surgery and hopefully the summer has sorted him out. Tomas Tatar had off-season shoulder surgery in April, but was already back at it when free agency opened up, so he should be good to go. Anthony Mantha didn't finish the last five games of the season to a broken finger, but there was too much time in between then and now, so he should be ready to go for his full sophomore campaign. A major knee injury for defenseman Ryan Sproul may still have him on the shelf for camp and the start of the season, if the timetable means anything, he may have had that knee surgically repaired in the off-season, but I haven't seen any confirmation. Finally, Jonathan Ericsson had his season end in February, due to a major wrist injury last year. We have yet to see an update for or against his rehab, so we'll assume all is going well and that camp is likely in the cards for him.