Grand Rapids Griffins’ Calder Cup Championship Means Bright Future for Detroit Red Wings

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Grand Rapids Griffins’ Calder Cup Championship Means Bright Future for Detroit Red Wings
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The Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, won their first Calder Cup in …

COMMENTARY | After failing to clinch at home twice, the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, the Grand Rapids Griffins, beat the Syracuse Crunch 5-2 on Tuesday, June 18 to win the series 4-2 and win its first Calder Cup in franchise history.

Tomas Tatar, who played 18 games with the Red Wings this season, won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the series MVP with 16 goals and 21 points in the playoffs.

Tatar and a number of other Griffins made their case for why they should have a bigger role with the Red Wings in the 2013-14 season.

While your minor league hockey team winning a championship is great for business, it obviously doesn't mean the Red Wings are a lock for a Stanley Cup next year.

Look at the Washington Capitals. Their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, won the Calder Cup three out of five years from the 2005-06 season to the 2009-10 season. However since 2007-08, the Capitals have yet to get past the Eastern Conference semifinals.

With that being said, this championship trophy only affirms the Red Wings have a talented group of young guys being bred in their farm system.

Tatar certainly made his case for being on the Red Wings next year. He led the team in scoring during the playoffs, won the playoff MVP award and already has NHL experience. Tatar has spent the past four seasons in Grand Rapids and is finally starting to hit his stride as a player.

The Red Wings could have used him during their own playoff run, but didn't have the room to put him on the active roster.

The other guys who could spend significant time with the Red Wings are Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco.

Nyquist, Andersson and DeKeyser already have spent significant time with the Red Wings, while Sheahan and Jurco have limited experience and no experience, respectively.

We all know how Red Wings general manager Ken Holland likes to "over-ripe" his prospects, but we also saw the younger guys flourish this season when injuries forced Holland to make some call ups.

There will be growing pains no doubt as there is when any player moves up to a higher league, but the Red Wings have a solid core of veterans who can help make the transition easier for the younger guys.

I think goalie Petr Mrazek could get some playing time next season with the Red Wings as well, especially if Jonas Gustavsson struggles or can't stay healthy. Jimmy Howard is the starter and won't face any pressure from Mrazek for the starting job, but Mrazek could make a case for being the backup in the coming years.

Couple that with the recent contract extension of Pavel Datsyuk and the return of Darren Helm, and Red Wings fans have a lot to look forward to in the coming years.

Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can find Tom on Twitter @tom_mitsos.

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