Story by Charlie Crowley, The Saint Reporter
Photo Courtesy of Sarah A Photography
October is a month that many people look forward to: pumpkin scented and flavored everything returns, the MLB playoffs begin, and the ice has finally settled for a new NHL season to begin. Seeing that this is the Mitten State, all attention turns toward Joe Louis Arena as the Detroit Red Wings prepare for another run at the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But before we get to that, let’s take a look at what this year’s team has to offer.
After an early seven game exit at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning last year in the playoffs, the Wings are looking to rebound with many old faces but a few new faces. The most notable new face is that of Jeff Blashill, who takes over as head coach of the Wings after three years at the helm for the Grand Rapids Griffins. With Mike Babcock saying goodbye to Motown after 10 years to accept the head coaching position for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Blashill will be tasked with continuing the playoff streak and bringing the Wings back to the top. Blashill will use his previous successes – he coached Grand Rapids to an AHL championship in 2012-13 – along with the familiarity of his players, many of whom he coached before their call up to the big club, to put Detroit back in the Cup Final.
From a player perspective, the Wings had two notable signings in the offseason in Mike Green and Brad Richards. Green, a defenseman, is an offensive defenseman with a knack for the net, including 31 goals in 2008-09, 18 of which came on the powerplay. Though he has not played a full 82 game season since the 2007-08 campaign, he has still been effective, including 45 points (10 goals, 35 assists) last season. Also signed this summer was free agent Brad Richards. Richards, 35, is a proven winner with two Stanley Cups on his resume, including Conn Smythe recipient in 2004 as playoff MVP. He has over 1,000 games played in his career, and is a solid center who can commandeer the second line while also playing on the man advantage. Both players will be relied on to produce immediately for the Wings.
The biggest question thus far through the preseason, though, is if Dylan Larkin can make the club. Larkin, a 19 year old, has impressed Red Wings brass with his pristine hockey IQ and overall talent, but his age comes into question. The Wings pride themselves on building players through their minor league system to mature and develop them (see: Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Niklas Kronwall). Anthony Mantha had a chance to do it last year until he broke his leg and was sidelined for a few months, but Larkin has an extremely strong chance if Detroit is willing to take the risk on the kid. He may get sent down to Grand Rapids, but if he keeps playing like he has been, it will be a tough decision to make.
With the regular season just over a week away, hockey fans across the nation are chomping at the bit for the season to start. Detroit fans should be excited with their core players returning and fresh faces ready to help get the Wings back to the top.