Now that the NHL lockout is finally over, here’s what the 2013 Detroit Red Wings will probably look like: FORWARDS
First Line: Todd Bertuzzi – Pavel Datsyuk – Johan Franzen
Second Line: Valtteri Filppula – Henrik Zetterberg – Damien Brunner
Third Line: Daniel Cleary – Darren Helm – Mikael Samuelsson
Fourth Line: Drew Miller – Justin Abdelkader – Jordin Tootoo
Spares: Gustav Nyquist, Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak Injured Reserve: Patrick Eaves
In order for Nyquist to make the Red Wings, he’ll have to show that he’s ready for duty on one of their top two lines. If he can’t do that, he’ll be kept in Grand Rapids, where he’ll be the Griffins’ top forward.
Brunner — who signed a one-year entry-level contract with the Wings in the offseason — has excelled with Zetterberg in the Swiss league and will be given every opportunity to duplicate that success with the Wings.
Whomever of the threesome of Bertuzzi, Samuelsson or Cleary has a hot hand (scores goals) will receive the most ice time and play on the top two lines. If Franzen starts slowly, he’ll also fall into this category.
In short, the Wings will go with their veteran forwards to start the season. However, if they get off to a slow start, they won’t hesitate to give their youngsters — Nyquist, Mursak or top minor-league prospects — a shot.
Also, on a sad note, Tomas Holmstrom is expected to announce his retirement.
Top Pair: Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Second Pair: Brendan Smith – Kyle Quincey
Third Pair: Carlo Colaiacovo – Ian White Spare(s): Jakub Kindl
In the last two seasons, Detroit has lost half of their top six defensemen: Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart and Nick Lidstrom. What was once a strength for the Red Wings is now a huge question mark.
As far as pairings go, it might take the Wings several games to find ones they’re comfortable with.
One thing that’s a must: Brendan Smith needs to see plenty of ice time in every situation because he should be the Wings’ top defenseman in a couple of years.
The only other certainty is that Kronwall is the Wings’ top defenseman now. Ericsson must continue to improve, and Quincey has to be significantly better than he was a year ago.
Colaiacovo and White have lacked consistency in the past, and Kindl must show Detroit’s management that he belongs in the NHL.
Overall, the defense is on a shorter leash than the forward corps. It would be shocking if the Wings don’t try to upgrade their defense through a trade.
Starter: Jimmy Howard
Backup: Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson
This will be a gigantic year for Howard. He must prove once and for all that he’s the long-term solution in net for Detroit.
Gustavsson should push Howard for playing time and could get up to 20 starts in a 48-game schedule.
Between the pipes should not be a major concern for the Red Wings. But Howard and Gustavsson should be looking over their shoulder because 20-year-old rookie Petr Mrazek is tearing it up in Grand Rapids.