The forever historic franchise and hockey identity of the Detroit Red Wings comes into the 2016-17 NHL Season with somewhat of a bittersweet aura. Their cornerstone piece and revolutionary 1998 draft pick steal Pavel Datsyuk, has departed for his motherland Russia and although the team made some transactions in an attempt to replace the ‘Magic Man’, this upcoming season will prove whether or not they accomplish that goal.
With Detroit entering their last season at Joe Louis Arena and looking to extend their otherworldly and historic playoff streak to 26 years. The 2016-17 season may be their toughest task yet to reach the postseason once again. With a plethora of additions and subtractions, let’s look at how this season’s line combinations may play out.
Lines will be presented as: LW-C-RW
Top Line: Henrik Zetterberg – Dylan Larkin – Gustav Nyquist
With Dylan Larkin coming into his second year in the league after an incredible breakout rookie campaign, the Wings are going to be calling on him to take over the role of Datsyuk and play center this year. A tall task ahead as the defensive side of the puck can be hard for a young player to learn (Larkin just turned 20 this past July), however Larkin at the top is the most logical. Guiding Larkin on the top-line will be captain Henrik Zetterberg, and on the opposite side will be 2008 4th-rounder Gustav Nyquist. With the combination of a 20 year-old, a 27 year-old, and a 36 year-old, this is the perfect top-line the Wings can roll out.
Second Line: Justin Abdelkader – Frans Nielsen – Tomas Tatar
Frans Nielsen comes in as one of the Wings offseason acquisitions and should slip right in as the second-line center. At left wing will be gritty Justin Abdelkader, a 27-year old who does a bit of everything, whether it’s contributing with his goals, assists, and fights Tomas Tatar a nifty and speedy right winger has a knack for the puck, that in itself makes Detroit’s second-line an effective one.
Third Line: Thomas Vanek – Darren Helm – Riley Sheahan
Darren Helm’s incredible abilities on the defensive side, plus the godly speed he brings on the ice may limit his playing time this year. However, this actually might be the key to keeping him finally healthy for once. Helm played a career-high 77 games last season while averaging just over 15 minutes per game on the ice. To me, that seems to be a great way to limit his chance of getting injured. However, with the Wings being bit by the injury bug every single season, Helm could find himself climbing up the ranks.
Thomas Vanek sort of gets snubbed here as the Wings dished out $2.6 milloin to the former 5th overall pick in 2003. But as stated previously, an injury will climb him up the depth chart. Vanek is still very effective as a player and this role alongside Riley Sheahan could turn into a very nice third-line compared to league caliber. Sheahan still has all the skills necessary to be a power forward type player, as he possesses excellent shooting and playmaking ability, while still showing off on defensive side. Although he may never solidify himself as a top six forward on the Wings, his role is widely appreciated.
Fourth Line: Drew Miller – Luke Glendening – Andreas Athanasiou
Luke Glendening has shown he is able to anchor the second or third line on this team. But with everyone healthy and fresh, no such thing aligns itself here early in October. Being able to have wingers like Drew Miller and young gun Andreas Athanasiou, the Red Wings fourth-line comes in with a perfect balance of grit, speed, and skill. Glendening and Miller are very good on the defensive side of the ice and have proved themselves as penalty-killing specialists. This alone garners Athanasiou limited ice time for he needs to eventually crack the top six on Detroit if he wants to be a future star.
First Pairing: Jonathan Ericsson – Danny DeKeyser
While none of the Red Wings pairings catch your attention, especially when Niklas Kronwall is going to start the season on the IR, Detroit needs to roll with their two best guys that they have. The former NCAA star Danny DeKeyser and the big Jonathan Ericsson must lead the blue line in ice-time to start the year.
Second Pairing: Xavier Ouellet – Mike Green
Mike Green never carried on his scoring touch when he became a member of the Red Wings, but he is still a veteran and caneat up ice-time for Detroit. The former first-rounder in Green mixed with the young Ouellet can prove to be one of the most mobile pairings in the league and are going to be able to move the puck extremely well.
Third Pairing: Brendan Smith – Alexey Marchenko
Although Brendan Smith is only 27 years old, he is most suited on this pairing to be a mentor to Alexey Marchenko. Although they are only four years apart, the NHL experience gap is extremely noticeable (Smith’s 258 games, to Marchenko’s 80). Smith is going to be cracking the top 4 on the defensive side eventually this season, especially when Kronwall comes back and Ouellet and Marchenko are pushed back. With that said, this pairing provides Detroit with some ‘stay-at-home’ guys with limited ice-time.
Goalie: Petr Mrazek – Jimmy Howard – Edward Pasquale
Mrazek over the past two seasons has proved to be the least shakiest of goal-tenders. The Wings need Mrazek to show consistency and reliability once again this year, something that Jimmy Howard simply hasn’t shown the past several years. Neither of these goalies lack skill, but one does lack confidence. Mrazek could steal the starting job, run away with it and we could see Jimmy Howard finally traded away for a blue-line bolster.
D – Ryan Sproul
RW – Steve Ott
Projected Inactive List:
D – Niklas Kronwall (knee)
RW – Tomas Jurco (back)
RW – Johan Franzen (concussion, long-term IR)
LW – Joe Vitale (concussion)
Next-Up AHL Players
- C – Anthony Mantha
- C – Dominic Turgeon
- LW – Tyler Bertuzzi
- LW – Evgeny Svechnikov
- RW – Eric Tangradi
- RW – Mitch Callahan
- D – Brian Lashoff
- D – Joe Hicketts
- D – Nick Jensen
- G – Jake Paterson
- G – Jared Coreau