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MHH Previews the Lesser 29: Detroit

Welcome to a new installment where we will preview each of the other NHL teams who simply make up the bulk of the league the Avalanche play in. Today, we preview the Detroit Red Wings.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Their head coach: Jeff Blashill. In this spot entirely because of how well he coached the AHL team in Grand Rapids, in particular the work he did in the 13-14 season when almost every NHL player the team had was injured, but the minor leaguers were able to come up and contribute enough to send the team into the playoffs. He’s not Mike Babcock, whose leaving a little over a year ago prompted Blashill’s promotion to the big leagues. He’s not been bad though. The red wings seem to be getting worse, however, so we’ll see if he can prove his worth to the winged wheel.

Their captain: Henrik Zetterberg. Avalanche-killer, annoyingly good, doesn’t regress… Good man to have in charge. I respect Zetterberg as a player, just wish he didn’t wear the sweater of detroit. He’s actually a good person for Gabe Landeskog to model after in terms of leadership. They’ll be working together for Team Sweden in the World Cup next month, and were leaders of the Swedish squad in Sochi during the last Winter Olympics. He can actually serve the Avalanche well, if his leadership is spread to Landy.

Their 15-16 season: It frustratingly resulted in their twenty-fifth straight playoff appearance because the Bruins sucked down the stretch. Once they got to the playoffs, the Lightning kicked them in the teeth literally and figuratively, and their postseason ended with a whimper in a five game defeat to those Bolts of Tampa Bay.

How did they do against the Avs? For the third straight year, each team won in the other team’s arena, with the Avs’ win in detroit coming beyond regulation, and detroit’s win in Colorado coming in regulation. I still don’t know how the Avs won the game at the Joe. The wings outshot the Avs 45 to 21 and it was every bit as ugly as you may remember. The game in Denver came outdoors at Coors Field, which the Avs heartbreakingly lost after Brad Richards scored the game-winner in the final minute of regulation, after the Avs (GUESS WHAT) blew a 3rd period lead.

When do they play the Avs this season? In Denver on March 15th, and in detroit on March 18th. This is a home and home series for both teams.

Will they be good? Yes, but…. I really think this is the year the red wings lose out on that playoff drought. Many good players are on this team, but there are plenty of liabilities on the wings’ roster as well. I just don’t see it this season. Maybe I’m biassed, but I think Tampa, Florida, and Boston will get the three automatic births out of the Atlantic, and detroit just barely misses out on one of the wild cards after the Metropolitan sends five teams into the playoffs.

3 Questions with their SB Nation blog, Winging It In Motown:

-Pavel Datsyuk is back in Mother Russia. First of all, how sad are you about his departure? Second, how difficult will it be to replace him? Datsyuk leaving certainly is sad because he's got more hockey to give, but he wasn't adding to the two cups he won with the Red Wings in this last year and from a strictly hockey sense, his departure was as clear an indication that something in the Wings needed to change anyway. Of course I'm going to miss him taking over games and making defenders look foolish, all NHL fans who know what they're talking about are going to miss that entertainment factor.

In terms of difficulty replacing him, let's just call it impossible. Datsyuk was a core piece of a team that existed close to a decade ago. He was still a very good hockey player at 37 last year on a shell of that former team. Frans Nielsen should be able to come most of the way to replacing what his production had become, but the mythical Datsyuk is irreplaceable and the Red Wings team he was on has passed for now.

-The Red Wings signed or re-signed a bunch of people this offseason. Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott, Drew Miller, Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, Danny DeKeyser, Petr Mrazek… who are you most excited about? Anybody who says they're most excited about Steve Ott should be immediately enrolled in a study on how a body can function without a working brain. Petr Mrazek is a good choice because he's a very good goalie, but we've seen him before. I think Frans Nielsen is the most-interesting choice with the other non-terrible newcomer in Tomas Vanek also being intriguing.

Gun to my head, I'll pick Vanek over Nielsen because if both of them are doing well at the midpoint of the season, at least I won't be subjected to garbage takes about how Vanek won't be as good in five more years.

-Does the playoff streak continue for another year? How come or why not? The why not answer is because the Red Wings weren't very good last year and they've gotten worse on paper since then. The how come answer is because the Atlantic Division is also pretty terrible and the Wings weren't really as bad last year as their end-of-season limp into the playoffs indicated, so them getting worse isn't as bad.

Personally, I think they find a way to sneak in as a wildcard team again and that their first round exit this time is better than last time because this time it will be done on the backs of people whose most-promising days are still in front of them.

Thanks to J.J Fromkansas (I'm not sure if that's actually his last name) for taking the time to answer!