Detroit Red Wings, 2013-14 (Puck Daddy Gold Medal Preview)

Puck Daddy

(Ed. Note: It’s an Olympic year in the NHL. So, naturally, we decided to use the trappings of the Winter Games to preview all 30 teams for the 2013-14 NHL season. Who takes the gold? Who falls on their triple-axel? Read on and find out!)

So much for that “transition year.”

The retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, and the Detroit Red Wings’ whiff on signing Ryan Suter, seemed to portend a season in which the Wings wouldn’t be a factor in the Western Conference. For a while, it looked like they wouldn’t be: The Red Wings hung near the bubble in the West before placing seventh with 56 points, one ahead of both the Wild and the Blue Jackets.

The Red Wings eliminated the Anaheim Ducks in an epic seven-game series and then pushed the Chicago Blackhawks to seven games in the semifinals. For their last run in the Western Conference, it was memorable one.

What can we expect from the Wings in the Atlantic Division? Glad you asked.

Hi Jamie McGinn. Bye Jamie McGinn.

The Red Wings had a quiet offseason.

Just kidding, they shocked the [expletive] world, as Ottawa's loss was their gain.

Daniel Alfredsson came to an impasse with the Ottawa Senators on a new contract, and decided that the Red Wings were his best shot at earning a Stanley Cup ring. Oh, and now they’re division rivals, too. It’s quite wonderful.

Detroit let Valtteri Filppula slip to Steve Yzerman’s Tampa Bay Lightning for five years and $25 million, but signed Stephen Weiss of the Panthers to a 5-year, $24.5 million contract. Bargain!

The Red Wings let Ian White, Damien Brunner and Dan Cleary (to the Flyers) skate away from last year’s squad. Carlo Colaiacovo took a buyout and miraculously wasn’t injured taking it.

Forward: Pavel Dtasyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for better than point-per-game players for the Wings in the regular season, and remain two of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. Datsyuk earned another Selke nomination, though he lost the best defensive forward prize to Jonathan Toews.

Alfredsson could join them on the top line. The former Sens captain had a down year offensively, but still has plenty left in the tank. If it’s not Alfredsson on the top line, it could be Justin Abdelkader getting the Damien Brunner points skating with the Wings’ stars.

Weiss will anchor the second line, finally sprung from the Panthers after 11 seasons. Johan Franzen – who had 14 goals in 41 games – will be on his wing. Mule’n Weiss! It’s the best German beer never brewed.

Gustav Nyquist and Todd Bertuzzi figure to play on the third line with Darren Helm, assuming Helm actually does play: He has a wonky back and was limited to one game last season.

Drew Miller, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, Mikael Samuelsson, Cory Emmerton, Patrick Eaves and Jordin Tootoo are all jockeying for ice time. In Tootoo’s case, he’s going to have to win a job.

Offensive wizard Tomas Jurco is still percolating in the AHL, while former European pros Calle Jarnkrok and Teemu Pulkkinen are looking for their shots.

Defense: Niklas Kronwall inherited the mantle as the Red Wings’ top defenseman, leading all Detroit blueliners with 29 points and bringing his usual physical game (though he was a minus-5). He partnered well with Jonathan Ericsson, whose play in the D-zone gave Kronwall ample opportunity to join the rush.

Kyle Quincey is entering a contract year, and needs to be better than last season’s effort. It’s expected he’ll be paired with Brendan Smith, who might be seen wearing a “WWNLD?” bracelet.

The third pairing could once again be comprised of Jakub Kindl, who is entering the first year of his new contract, and young Danny DeKeyser, who looked great in limited time last season. Brian Lashoff is also in the mix.

Goalies: Jimmy Howard begins his six-year $31.75 million contract and is playing for U.S. Olympic ice time in the first three months of the season. Last season was a revelation for J-Ho, as he managed to maintain stellar stats behind a defense in transition. He’s a workhorse and as steady – if unspectacular – as they come. Jonas Gustavsson remains the monster at the end of the bench, with Petr Mrazek waiting for his shot.

Mike Babcock is back behind the Canadian Olympic bench because he’s one of the smartest men in hockey, from understanding the psychology of his players to managing his lines expertly. His first season post-Lidstrom had its challenges, but he led the Red Wings back to the postseason.

Ken Holland had to decide whether to go all-in or hold back last season with a veteran team, and it looks like he made the right call. Weiss and Alfredsson arguably make this a better team than the Wings had in 2013, and he didn’t have to surrender any prospects or picks to get them. One of the NHL’s best GMs, and without question the most innovative thinker in that group.

Yo. Throw. Dem. Wings. Up!

Pavel Datsyuk. The KHL coveted him, but he re-signed with Detroit for three years. From his highlight reel moves to his defensive domination, Datsyuk is made of magic.

The Red Wings braintrust. Babcock is one of the NHL’s elite coaches, if not it’s best. Holland is reloading the team without sacrificing the future. Sure, there might be some concern about the front office after Jim Nill bolted for Dallas, but the Wings remain in good hands.

Jimmy Howard. Rumors that he’d be exposed post-Lidstrom were greatly exaggerated.

The pitfalls on defense. Brendan Smith was a liability in the playoffs, Kyle Quincey can be inconsistent and one hopes that DeKeyser doesn’t regress at all in Year 2.

The Detroit Red Wings will be in the top four in the Atlantic Division, battling the Boston Bruins for the top spot. Finally, a geographically friendly schedule for the veteran team – let’s see what the Winged Wheel is able to accomplish in the East. And remember: The better the Wings do, the more we'll have to hear about how they're the heart and soul of a city in despair, trying to lift up Detroit with their championship aspirations. Act accordingly.

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