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10-06-2003, 06:43 AM
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A Good Flying Bird*
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
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NewsGuyOne's RedWing Season Preview

With four surefire Hall-of-Famers playing in perhaps their last NHL season, the this Detroit Red Wings squad is taking perhaps their final kick at the proverbial can.
It's been an abnormally rocky off-season for the Wings after losing their grip on Stanely by the quacking Anaheim Ducks. First top prospect Igor Grigorenko, who promised to duplicate the rookie successes of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, was nearly killed in a car crash in Russia. Then the team bought out the contract of Luc Robitaille, who was anything but lucky in Motown last year.
The Wings went out signed hulking Stars defenseman Derian Hatcher and announced a new era of tough, defensive hockey in Detroit. As if to prove it, the Wings let the Ducks win the Sergei Fedorov sweepstakes and the team losts its best forward, both defensively and offensively.
The Wings tried to regain some of that offense when they resigned Ray Whitney. But they lost a lot of leadership and class when they let Igor Larionov slip away to the Devils, opening a spot for 19-year-old Jiri Hudler.
All this, and we haven't even mentioned the saga of Cujo and the Dominator.
So here are your 2003-04 Detroit Red Wings.

GOAL -- B

Dominik Hasek His comeback could lead the team back to the promised land. Or it could rip the team apart.
So far, Hasek has been spotty in pre-season. He's let in some shaky goals. But he's also displayed some of quickness and instinctiveness that made him the best goalie in the NHL (yes, at his peak, the Dominator was better than Roy). But Hasek's going to need a lot of playing time, and with the Wings trying to keep Manny Legace sharp and show Curtish Joseph to prospective buyers, the coaches have a tall order in front of them.
Asking a 39-year-old goalie to comeback after a year away from the game is a lot. But this is Hasek we're talking about. He's a ferocious competitor, and that bodes well for the Wings.

Curtis Joseph The quicker he leaves, the better off the Wings will be. He's handled this situation with class. It's too bad he never took off in Detroit, but he knew what was expected of him when he came here. Goalies are easy targets in Detroit. Particularly those who follow in the footsteps of Hasek.

Manny Legace Legace needs playing time to remain sharp, as he was when backing up Osgood and Joseph. But he struggled when Hasek was last here and he often went weeks without playing. He'll probably get even less time this year. Legace could be the game's best backup and many feel he'd be an adequate starting goalie. But that opportunity is at least one year away.

DEFENSE A+

Nick Lidstrom The games best defenseman will have more help this year with Derian Hatcher around and full seasons from Matthieu Schneider and Jiri Fischer. He's lost a step, but he's still an amazing hockey player. It appears he'll be paired with Hatcher and some say that will give him more opportunties to jump into the offense. Don't bet on it. Not with Hatcher's speed.

Derian Hatcher Big bruising defenseman brings hitting, leadership and crease clearing ability to the Wings. His lack of speed has surprised some Wings fans. But come on, he's paired with Lidstrom, who made Matthieu Dandenault look like Bobby Orr-light last year. Hatcher makes an already good defense inpenatrable on paper anyway.

Chris Chelios Chelios is still one of the best defensive defenseman in the game. He's as chippy as they come. And one of the smartest in the game. However, his passing skills have badly eroded and he's been killed by turnovers in his own zone. Having Hatcher around should lessen the burden on the old man. He still ranks among the league's best penalty killers.

Jiri Fischer The big young defenseman looks poised to pick up where he left off in the 01-02 season, when he finally showed the league why the Wings are so high on him. He's huge and not afraid to hit. He's got a cannon for a shot. His passing is pretty good. And he's better at reading the play on offense and defense. With Lidstrom, Schneider, Woolley and Hatcher on the team, he won't see much power-play time. That's a shame, because this kid could become a force out there.

Matthieu Scheider The Wings paid dearly to pick him up at the deadline. One of the best powerplay quarterbacks in the league, Schneider has a booming slapshot and sees the play well. His defense is suspect at time, but he plays with surprising grit at time. One wonders if he'll be happy as the team's fifth defenseman. If youngster Nik Kronwall develops in the AHL, don't be surprised to see him dealt.

Matthieu Dandenault Turned around a terrible year after being paired with Lidstrom mid-season. Still, as he showed in the playoffs mental gaffes plague this swift-skating converted forwards. Better suited as a third pairing defenseman. Gets lost in his own zone at times of sustained pressure. He's one of the best overtime four on four players on the Wings, with all that speed.

Jason Woolley Signed a two year deal knowing he'd be a spare part. Woolley is soft in his own zone but very dangerous on offense. Few defenseman have a better sense for jumping into the offense. But again, while smart, he's often physically overmatched in the corners and in front of the crease.

Niklas Kronwall After a slow start, this 5-11 defenseman showed the Wings that he was worthy of their late first round pick three years ago. Kronwall is slick. He's got a nice shot. Offensively, he reads the play well. He loves to hit forwards along the boards or, even better, at mid ice. But maybe too much. he's been caught out of position trying to make hits a few times. And he tends to run around too much in his own zone when the offense pours it on. Still. He's ready now. And if he didn't have one of the best defenses in NHL History ahead of him on the depth charts, he'd have a spot on opening night.

CENTERS - B-

Henrik Zetterberg A natural center, Zetterberg played left wing last year when he lead all rookies in points. Zetterberg seems ready to help fill Fedorov's void. Wings observers are very impressed with his two-way game and dogged determination on the puck. Blessed with all that stickhandling and passing skill, Zetterberg never gives up on a play. Still, it remains to be seen if he can make the move to center, where he'll have to be more responsible defensively. He's already shown that he's responsible. But can he make the transition without losing offense? Needs to carry solid play into playoffs.

Pavel Datsyuk Absolute dynamite in the second half after returning from a knee injury. He's one of the game's most exciting players, shifting, twirling and dancing around defenders and generally making people look silly. He still needs to make his game a little more north/south. And he should use his wicked wrist shot a little more often. Defensively, he's underrated. He's a fantastic pocket picker and he works hard. He's been better this year on faceoffs. And he needs to get the puck out of his zone a little quicker. Like Zetterberg, Datsyuk must carry play into playoffs.

Kris Draper With Fedorov gone, Draper's role as a defensive center will expand. He works well with his grind line mates, especially Maltby. Hard worker. Fast. Effective penalty killer. Draper could earn serious Selke consideration this year.

Jiri Hudler He could be the first teenager to earn a full-time role on the wings since Keith Primeau. While blessed with talent, he's a little young and a little weak. Surprisingly, his game is pretty straight forward. He doesn't dance around like Zetterberg and Datsyuk. He goes straight to the net. He needs to be a little more patient before dishing off. Don't expect him to be a rookie of the year candidate this year.

Jason Williams Can't go back to the minors without clearing waivers, so he'd better have a good year or he'll be sitting in the press box. Has shown a little more grit this year. Has a knack around the net, in a Ray Sheppard kind of way. The rest of his game is very average.

LEFT WING B+
Brendan Shanahan Isn't the physical force he once was, but still has a great shot and he'll drop the gloves when the mood strikes him. Scored more than 30 last year despite having little chemistry with Fedorov. With a passer like Zetterberg on his line, he should score more five-on-five goals this year.

Ray Whitney A natural offensive talent with speed, Whitney seems to be a good fit with Datsyuk and Hull. Don't expect the numbers he had in Columbus, where he put up tons of powerplay points, but he'll help the Wings. He can play all three forward positions, which is very nice for a wings team which could see change during the regular season.

Kirk Maltby Always a good defensive player and pest deluxe, Maltby took a big step forward, scoring more goals and becoming more of a leader on the team. Like Draper, expect him to have a bigger role on the team this year.

Boyd Devereaux Despite good speed and solid work ethic, the Devereaux experiment has flopped in Detroit. The kid simply can't stay healthy. And when he is healthy, he can't stay on his skates. He'll rotate in and out of the lineup with Williams and Hudler someone takes a stranglehold on the final two roster spots.


RIGHT WING B-

Tomas Holmstrom No one deserved a 20-goal season more than Tomas Holmstrom. A hard worker who takes a nightly beating, Holmstrom really impressed in Detroit last year. This year, he'll get his powerplay time in front of the net. But he could be skating on the first line with Zetterberg and Shanahan, so don't be surprised to see him match or surpass 20 goals. His skating is still subpar, but it's improved. His passing and stickhandling has also improved.

Brett Hull The Wings have pencilled him in for 30-35 goals. Having Datsyuk and Whitney buzzing around to set up that one-timer should mean he'll have plenty of opportunties this year. Hull had a dismal playoff last year and needs to rebound. It could be his last year in Detroit. He's made noises about wanting to go to Dallas. He's been a good team player in Detroit. If the team falters, it'll be interesting to here what Brett says.

Darren McCarty McCarty will never be the player the Wings hoped. He's never really healthy. And this offseason, he relapsed with substance abuse. Still, he's a heart and soul guy. He signed a 4 year deal with Detroit. He'll retire here.

Steve Yzerman There are whispers in Detroit that he should hang'em up. The pre-season in Detroit has shown that his mobility is no better than last year, when he returned from knee surgery usually done on seniors staving off full-on knee replacement. His turns are wide. His acceleration is gone. He can't seem to plant for a good wrister or slapper. His body isn't playing the same game as his brain.
Still, he's the captain. He's the undispute leader. And he's a smart hockey player who's dedication is unmatched.
That's still good for something.

Coaching C
Dave Lewis needs to step out of Scotty's shadow. Last year, he went with Scotty's lines and lost.
Dave Lewis needs to take control of this veteran team. Last year, he was hired as a players coach and lost.
There's been a lot of talk in Detroit about the new defensive era. But you could have 6 Nik Lidstroms on your defense. If the entire team isn't playing a defensive game, your defense won't look so great.
The Wings simply don't have the personnel to play Devils-style hockey. I'm not sure Lewis could convince the veterans to play that style even if they did.

GM B-
Ken Holland needs to recitify the Cujo situation right away. But he also doesn't want to get ripped off. Holland has been pretty good with free agent signings, but his trading record leaves a lot to be desired. He's also had bad luck with excess goalies, getting nothing for Osgood two years ago.

OUTLOOK B
For the first time in years there are serious questions hounding this team. Can Zetterberg and Datsyuk step up and replace Fedorov's world class talents? Can Hasek regain form? Is this team finally to old and slow? Is Dave Lewis the right man for the job? Can Holland deal Cujo before it becomes a real distraction? Can Yzerman make it through the year?
Still, the Wings have too much talent to go down too easily.
Prediction: 2nd place in the central. 4th in the West. Eliminated in the conference finals.

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