(The 2014-15 NHL season is nearly upon us, and attempting to handicap the winners and losers can sometimes leave us speechless. So we decided to break down all 30 teams with the next best thing to words: Emojis!)
Last Season In Emojis
Last Season, In Summary
It was dicey at times, but in the end the Detroit Red Wings managed to keep their playoff streak alive for a 23rd consecutive season, the longest among the four major sports leagues. They grabbed the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to a 39-28-15 (93 pts.) record, taking 13 of the final 20 points available to them.
Detroit didn’t just make the playoffs, they basically survived a regular season where they were second in the NHL in man-games lost (412). Only seven skaters reached the 70-game mark, with the likes of captain Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk dressing for just 45 of them.
In the postseason, the Red Wings were knocked out in the first round for the second time in three seasons, this one coming in five games to the Boston Bruins.
Entering 2014-15, the Red Wings face questions about the future of their head coach, the health of their older stars and if they’re good enough to be playing playoff hockey for a 24th straight spring.
Last Season’s Definitive Highlight
Oh, Gustav, you so fine, you so fine you blow my mind. Hey, Gustav!
There wasn’t much turnover in HockeyTown during the summer. General manager Ken Holland tried to lure a free agent defenseman to town, but had no luck. The only blueliners he managed to sign were his own: Kyle Quincey (two years, $8.5 million) and Danny DeKeyser (two years, $4.375 million).
The only new faces coming in are Kevin Porter and Andy Miele, who will spend most of their time in Grand Rapids of the AHL. Leaving HockeyTown were David Legwand, a trade deadline day pick who signed in Ottawa; Cory Emmerton, who took his talents to the KHL; and Jordin Tootoo, who was bought out in June and is in camp with the Devils on a tryout.
After playing only 30 games in two season, Mikael Samuelsson signed in Sweden. Todd Bertuzzi won’t be coming back. And finally, Daniel Alfredsson remains unsigned and uncertain if he’ll play again as he battles through a back injury.
Playing his first season in Detroit, Alfredsson led all forwards with 49 points. That goes to show you how much injuries affected the offense.
The Red Wings finished middle of the pack in goals per game (2.65), with eight players reaching double digits. Gustav Nyquist led the team with 28 goals after netting 21 in the final 34 games of the season. His unreal streak earned him a second- and two fourth-place votes for the Hart Trophy. How hard will the regression monster bite him in 2014-15?
Nyquist picked up the pace in the absence of Detroit’s two offensive leaders in Zetterberg (16 goals, 48 points) and Datsyuk (17 goals, 37 points). After missing half the year, the vets are healthy, and if they can stay that way that bodes well for the offense. Another forward who was hampered by injury was Johan Franzen (16 goals, 41 points), who was limited to 54 games.
One positive from the injuries was that it gave ice time to younger players to develop, like Nyquist. Also benefiting was Tomas Tatar, who netted 19 goals and 39 points in his first full NHL season.
Hoping to put his injury history behind him is Stephen Weiss, who experienced a first year in Detroit to forget. Groin issues limited him to 26 games after signing a five-year, $24.9 million deal last summer. He’s only two seasons removed from a 20-goal, 57-point campaign.
Holland was unable to improve his blue line in the summer, so the unit returns the same. Niklas Kronwall was tied with Alfredsson for the team lead in points with 49 and is among the league’s best at the position. He put up a solid year despite not having his partner, Jonathan Ericsson (21:14 TOI) for almost half the season.
DeKeyser and Brendan Smith (5 goals, 19 points) are still developing into potential top-four blue liners. While Quincey was only brought back because of Holland’s lack of success in finding an upgrade.
After posting solid numbers in 2013, Jimmy Howard took a step back in last season, posting his lowest even strength save percentage since 2010-11 (.919). Back for another season, Jonas Gustavsson provided adequate coverage when Babcock needed to give Howard a night off. He’s just keeping the crease warm for when 22-year old Petr Mrazek is ready.
Probable Text Conversation Within Organization
Having your top-end players in and out of the lineup for most of the season will hurt your power play unit. The man advantage group finished with a 17.7-percent success rate, led by Franzen’s seven goals and Kronwall’s 25 power play points. The penalty kill was improved from 2013-14 and killed 83-percent of power plays faced. They were next-to-last in shorthanded goals with three, two of which came off the stick from Darren Helm.
GM and Coach
Ken Holland inked a four-year extension, so all eyes will now be focused on Mike Babcock and his future. The two are expected to talk in September, but if no extension is signed, that will fuel more media speculation about the head coach’s future. But it’s a well-oiled machine in Detroit, so even if an extension isn’t signed right away, it’s hard to see that acting as a distraction for a veteran group.
And Now, A Blooper
Watch Superfan No. 9 here bite it as he tries to videobomb this TV reporter.
The Potential Best Thing About This Team
The Red Wings find themselves on the good end of the man-games lost list and Howard bounces back from a so-so season.
The Potential Worst Thing About This Team
Detroit find themselves in the top five of man games lost again and the burden to carry the offense is too great for the likes of Zetterberg, Franzen and Datsyuk.
Single Emoji Prediction
Prediction: The lack of any turnover and upgrades in areas of need (see: defense) will hurt the Red Wings early on. Holland will sure to be keeping an eye on the trade market and make a move if he can, but too many other teams in the East improved, giving Detroit a tall task to make it 24 straight years in the postseason.