VIEW FROM THE TOP: Detroit Red Wings
As the self-appointed spokesmen/woman of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, we are using the idea of "To the victors go the spoils" quite seriously. What we will do between now and the night the Stanley Cup banner is raised in the United Center is point out the shortcomings of all the teams that won't have four crisp new banners in their rafters. We continue this series with the Detroit Red Wings.
And here we are. This series is ostensibly about measuring the NHL's also-rans against the best team in the league last year. And of all those teams, none came as close to eliminating the Blackhawks from the playoffs as the Detroit Red Wings.
After slipping in to the playoffs with the 7th seed this year, Detroit dispatched 2 seed Anaheim and then took the Hawks to their limit. In fact, Detroit took a 3-1 series lead on the Hawks and needed just one win out the last three in the series to move to the Conference Finals. What happened then?
Chicago staged their epic comeback, ending it all with an overtime win on home ice in Game 7 and sending the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference with their tails between their collective legs. Hilarity ensued, and Hawks fans finally have an important playoff series victory over the Red Wings that they can bore their children with over Thanksgiving dinner for years to come.
At least, that's my plan.
So, did the Red Wings narrow the small gap between the two teams this offseason?
Well, they certainly went for quantity here. There's no denying how good Datsyuk and Zetterberg are. Aging Johan Franzen hasn't played near a full season since his NHL rookie year, it seems unlikely that at age 33 he'll manage it. Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader are good third liners who are running out of time to show they can play top six roles. Daniel Alfredsson is a splashy name, but at 40 who knows if he'll be Chris Chelios or Mike Modano?
The rest of the forward group is even murkier. You see the Wings have 16 forwards under contract, are 600K over the cap (they have until October to get under) and say they intend to keep 14. The problem is the rest of these guys are Donald Nyquist and a bunch of crap. Todd Bertuzzi is apparently still around. Same with Mikael Samuelsson. Jordin Tootoo? Guh.
Oh, and I'd like to go on record as saying that the Stephen Weiss signing might be one of the worst contracts not handed out by Paul Holmgren this offseason.
Here's where the Wings are have really dropped off from their heyday. First, they're still pretending that Niklas Kronwall is a No. 1 defenseman. Jonathan Ericsson is pretty good, Kyle Quincey is not good and the rest is up in the air. Danny DeKeyser looked promising before his thumb injury. Brendan Smith was good right up until the Blackhawks showed up and absolutely clowned him in the playoffs. Jakub Kindl is a nice device for reading books on.
Jimmy Howard is good, but he's no Corey Crawford. Johan Gustavsson has a heart condition.
Despite having 16 forwards and being over the cap, the Wings say they still want to sign Dan Cleary. I have absolutely no idea why.
ARE THEY AS GOOD AS THE BLACKHAWKS?
You know what? Let's just go to the tape: