For the first time in a long time, the Detroit Red Wings are a team at a crossroads.
The Red Wings, who have made the playoffs an NHL-record 21 straight seasons, appear to have enough talent to still be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. However, for the first time in 20 seasons they do not have Nicklas Lidstrom, the player coach Mike Babcock referred to as "a security blanket, a guy that just makes you feel good."
They've got high-end talent, a good core of players still in their mid-to-late 20s, and a solid prospect pool. However, there are more questions about the Red Wings entering this season than there have been in a long time.
Here are six that need to be answered for Detroit to stay a dominant team in 2012-13:
Provided there's no lockout, I expect the Canes to contend for the Cup next year and Minny to be a greatly improved playoff team. Philly fudged up big time and I don't think Giroux alone will take them farther than he did last season, if that.
A lot of people are wondering about us but like many in the Red Wing Nation, I think we'll do better than expected. I expect Nyquist, Smith and perhaps Brunner and Kindl to respond well to the challenge facing them and become worthy of the Red Wings starting lineup. I expect Ericsson and Quincey to step up defensively, especially with blocking shots during PKs, while Hank and Pavel score more than they have been as Val continues to emerge as a 70+ scorer. Expecting ZERO from Fanzen. He is 32 and hasn't had that "breakout" season yet, and probably never will (Kenny should've signed Hossa instead). In hindsight, I'm glad he didn't overpay for players not worth what they're getting paid by other teams after this year's FA market. Not making a serious move on Weber on the other hand was pretty dumb. "The Wings don't poach" mindset should've been reconsidered in light of the fact that we no longer have the greatest pure defenseman in the history of the game (Orr was better offensively), and needed him BADLY.
Anyway, the addition of Sammy helps our O, Tootoo adds enough spark and grit to make Helmer's checking line the best in the league, and Jonas will back Howard up to provide one of the best goaltending tandems.
We've always depended on our formidable farm system to polish diamonds in the rough and create a pipeline second to none. I expect that tradition to continue and be pleasantly surprised by some of the Griffins stepping up and grabbing this opportunity with both hands. Besides, we have plenty of cash to improve our team before the next playoffs start.