Hockeytown and Friends: A Quick Recap of the 2013 Detroit Red Wings
So you said the playoff streak would end, right? Guess again.
This year’s season in Hockeytown was indeed a time of re-tooling the roster top to bottom. With the loss of hall of fame defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, team captain, to retirement, and net mouth man Tomas Holmstrom, also to retirement, the Red Wings lost two gigantic cogs in their team, officially catapulting them into rebuilding mode. Here are some distinct highlights and/or concepts from this year’s “trial” season in Motown:
- First step in rebuilding: naming a new captain. Rock and Roll Part 2 was in full swing as Henrik Zetterberg was introduced as the new team captain on July 1, 2012.
- He wouldn’t play his first game with the “C” on his jersey until this past January. Lockouts suck.
- Plenty of fans and writers alike were very scared about a roster going from old to young in such little time, and whether or not leadership could do it. The fact of the matter is that Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and the coaching staff took the team onto their backs, leading a way through a long and bumpy journey through the season.
- This was the youngest Red Wings roster in a while, clocking in just above 27 years of age on average. It worked out well and proved overall why the best coach in the NHL is behind the Red Wings bench on a nightly basis and has been for years. Mike Babcock coached a very raw team to a 24-16-8 record in a 48 game shortened season (let’s forget the lockout, shall we?) worth 56 points, enough to earn the 7th spot in the Western Conference Playoffs.
- The Red Wings had no help whatsoever on the injury front, forcing players to jump into action after no time to prepare. Some performed well (Joakim Andersson), others not so much (Brendan Smith).
- Give credit where credit is due. The Red Wings would be lost in outer space (or Philadelphia) had it not been for the hard knock and solid play of Jimmy Howard, who played in all but six games this season, and it is very fortunate that the Wings have this man locked up to a long term deal that will secure the future between the pipes for quite some time.
- For a team that wasn’t supposed to make their playoffs, the AHL affiliate of the Red Wings, the Grand Rapids Griffins, played through many obstacles, including tornadoes, and eventually went on to win their first championship in team history, the Calder Cup, marking the first major hockey championship trophy to reach the city in its history.
- We can also welcome some new hot shot prospects to the Winged Wheel Nation, like Martin Frk of the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL). The line mate of first overall ranked Nathan MacKinnon and third overall Jonathan Drouin (ISS) in Halifax, scored 35 goals and tallied 14 assists in 56 games played. On top of that, Andreas Athanasiou was welcomed at 110th overall in 2012, however he produced quite a bit of hype in the CHL thanks to his speed and versatility. Detroit is quickly becoming a faster skating squad (yet again).
- Petr Mrazek is quickly becoming eye candy in goal for the Griffins, backstopping them to the Calder Cup after starting this year’s season in Toledo in the ECHL. The Czech goaltender is often times compared to Dominik Hasek in terms of his ability to make athletic saves, his mobility in the crease, as well as his “fiery” passion on the ice.
- The Red Wings sold out the Joe. Every night. Again.
- Mike Ilitch and the city of Detroit unveiled last week a concept for a new downtown arena which will house the Red Wings as well as quite a bit of retail space. The project carries a hefty price tag of about $650 million dollars. Will ticket prices go up? Absolutely. Will fans stop going to the games? In Detroit? Is that even a question?
- Gustav Nyquist is good.
- Jim Nill, former assistant GM to Ken Holland, finally spread his own wings and flew down to Dallas, becoming the new GM of the Stars. We wish him well, as long as he stays out of the crease.
- Pavel Datsyuk will be a Detroit Red Wing until at least age 38, signing a three year extension priced at around $7.5 million per year.
- Guess who is facing Pavel Datsyuk in the finals for TSN’s “Play of the Year.” Pavel Datsyuk. Seriously.
- The Red Wings will pick 18th overall in New Jersey at the 2013 NHL Draft; not that they’re bad at drafting in later rounds, or anything.
- The 2013 NHL Winter Classic will become the 2014 NHL Winter Classic against the Maple Leafs at The Big House in Ann Arbor. Over 100,000 fans will be watching a single hockey game at once in sub zero temperatures. (If all go as planned, I will be one of them).
The Red Wings, despite all claims against them, are still a very good team. Rather than over analyzing it, Mike Babcock took a bunch of kids nearly to the Western Conference Finals, and they were actually one goal away from doing so, losing in overtime in game seven to Chicago. To top it all off, Jeff Blashill (Griffins boss man) lead his young team through the AHL playoffs to a championship. The organization has a very bright future, and this season was used largely as an experiment.
Expect big things from this organization in the future.