Wings' worries as season nears
Regardless of what happens during their last two preseason games, the Red Wings have played an uneven brand of hockey.
Some of Detroit’s inconsistencies can be attributed to a swollen roster, resulting in a mishmash lineup of inexperienced players laced with proven veterans.
Injuries have played a factor, too, but in reality, they'll allow the Wings to become cap compliant and reach the 23-man roster limit, which will be a temporary solution to a convoluted situation.
That said, when the Wings begin their 88th NHL season Wednesday against Buffalo, these are the three main concerns that should have their fans a bit worried.
1. Daniel Alfredsson’s and Stephen Weiss’s learning curve: It’s not a secret that the Wings have been offensively challenged for the last few seasons. The addition of Alfredsson and Weiss is being viewed by many as the elixir to Detroit’s goal-scoring woes.
Only problem is, Alfredsson's been nursing a tender groin and has hardly played, while Weiss has looked lost.
The Wings were counting on Weiss to gel with Johan Franzen, but the Mule has been slow getting out of the starting gate, which has hampered any chemistry between the two.
Eventually, Alfredsson’s groin will come around and Weiss will get comfortable with his new surroundings, but it could take a dozen or so games, meaning that the Red Wings' Eastern Conference debut could begin slowly.
2. Depth on defense: Detroit’s young defense was a pleasant surprise last season, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t pick up where it left off in May.
Danny DeKeyser, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff should keep improving. But what really needs to happen is, veteran stalwarts Nik Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, and Kyle Quincey must remain healthy.
If any blue-liner goes down, Detroit’s backup plan is a handful of several talented, but untested rookies in Grand Rapids.
One of the major drawbacks of having so many forwards on the roster is, the Wings haven't been able to add a veteran defenseman yet.
Attrition through injuries, trades, etc. will eventually allow Detroit to add a veteran defenseman sometime during the season.
3. Backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson: The Monster has been a major dud in Detroit. He was hurt for large portions of last season, and is again on the shelf with a groin strain to begin this season.
It’s imperative that Gustavsson heals soon. Jimmy Howard is only human, and with three back-to-back games in the first five weeks of the season, workhorse Howard will need some time off.
Rookie goalie Petr Mrazek needs to play and continue to develop in Grand Rapids, so serving as Howard’s backup limits his playing time significantly.
Gustavsson also needs to show that he belongs in the NHL. The Wings will give him every opportunity to prove his worth, but there's an omnipresent feeling that he needs to step it up soon.
With an astute management team, an excellent coach and a competitive determination unequaled by most pro teams, Detroit will ultimately be fine; however, the "real" Red Wings will take longer to arrive than originally anticipated.