After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Detroit Red Wings.
The Detroit Red Wings have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons. No other NHL team comes close.
The problem is, they have lost in the first round three years in a row and four times in five years. They lost a cornerstone when Pavel Datsyuk decided to return to Russia. Two remaining core players are getting older: Captain Henrik Zetterberg turns 36 on Oct. 9; defenseman Niklas Kronwall turns 36 on Jan. 12.
The Red Wings are trying to rebuild on the fly as they play their final season at Joe Louis Arena and move to a new rink in 2017-18. They overhauled their coaching staff under Jeff Blashill and signed three free agents. But the roster is in flux.
The challenge: How do you replenish your top-end talent when you haven't drafted in the top 10 since 1991? Can younger players like Dylan Larkin replace older players like Datsyuk, as younger players like Datsyuk once replaced older players like Steve Yzerman?
Can the Red Wings continue to make the playoffs and contend for the Stanley Cup again?
Here is what the Red Wings look like today:
Video: Frans Nielsen on why he signed with the Red Wings
KEY ARRIVALS: Frans Nielsen, C: Signing Nielsen, 32, to a six-year, $31.5 million contract was Plan B after failing to acquire Steven Stamkos, who would have given the Red Wings the type of elite talent they haven't had the chance to land at the top of the draft. Stamkos didn't invite the Red Wings to make a pitch during the interview period and re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning before hitting unrestricted free agency. Nielsen, who played the past 10 seasons with the New York Islanders, gives the Red Wings a chance to maintain the status quo after Datsyuk's departure. He's a two-way forward in the Detroit mold -- he even patterns himself after Zetterberg -- and can help two troubled areas in particular: the power play and shootout. … Thomas Vanek, F: Signing Vanek to a one-year, $2.6 million contract was a low-risk move with potentially high reward. Vanek, 32, was bought out by the Minnesota Wild after career lows of 18 goals and 41 points last season. He should start out by logging third-line minutes at even strength and playing on the No. 1 power play. … Steve Ott, F: The Red Wings want to be harder to play against. Ott adds abrasiveness and comes with little risk on a one-year, $800,000 contract. … John Torchetti, assistant coach: Torchetti replaces Tony Granato as Blashill's veteran assistant. He has a wealth of experience as a coach and assistant at various levels, and has been a coach for three NHL teams previously, including last season, when he led the Wild to a 15-11-1 finish and a playoff berth. He will handle the forwards and the power play. … Doug Houda, assistant coach: Houda will handle the defense and penalty kill. He spent 10 years as an assistant with the Boston Bruins. … Jeff Salajko, goaltending coach: Salajko was promoted from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, where he worked under Blashill for two seasons and tutored Petr Mrazek, now the No. 1 goaltender in Detroit.
Video: DET@FLA: Datsyuk rattles home power-play goal
KEY DEPARTURES: Pavel Datsyuk, C: The "Magic Man" will be missed. He went from the 171st pick of the 1998 NHL Draft to one of the best two-way players in the League, not to mention one of the most entertaining for his "now-you-see-it, now-you-don't" moves. He won the Lady Byng Trophy four times, the Selke Trophy three times and the Stanley Cup twice. The Red Wings wanted him to return for the final season of his contract. Datsyuk turns 38 on July 20, and though he was still their best player some games, he struggled to stay healthy and productive. He had 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) in 66 games last season. Nielsen had 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 81 games for the Islanders. … Brad Richards, F: Richards was a low-risk veteran addition last offseason when he signed a one-year, $3 million contract. There was no high reward, though. He had 10 goals and 18 assists in 68 regular-season games, and one goal in five playoff games, and is an unrestricted free agent. … Kyle Quincey, D: Quincey spent the last four-plus seasons playing steady defense, but is an unrestricted free agent and the Red Wings are looking for an upgrade or opportunities for younger players. … Tony Granato, assistant coach: Hired by former coach Mike Babcock, Granato stayed for Blashill's first season and helped ease the transition. He left to coach at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. … Jim Bedard, goaltending coach: Bedard spent 18 seasons in his role, working with coaches like Babcock and Scotty Bowman, tutoring goaltenders like Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood, and winning the Stanley Cup three times. The Red Wings did not renew his contract as part of the staff shakeup.
Video: DET@STL: Pulkkinen records game winner in overtime
ON THE CUSP: Teemu Pulkkinen, F: He has shown the ability to score for Grand Rapids, with 31 goals in 71 games in 2013-14 and 34 in 46 in 2014-15. He has yet to do so at the NHL level, though, and had shoulder surgery in June. When healthy, Pulkkinen should get a chance to prove belongs with the Red Wings. … Anthony Mantha, F: The 20th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft reached 50 goals in back-to-back seasons with Val d'Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, scoring 57 goals in 57 regular-season games and 24 in 24 playoff games in 2013-14. But his professional career got off to a bad start when he sustained a broken leg during training camp in 2014, and he has spent the past two seasons in the AHL, coming up to the NHL for 10 games last season.
WHAT THEY STILL NEED: The Red Wings are searching for a No. 1 defenseman, but No. 1 defensemen are difficult to acquire. Short of that, they need a top-pair defenseman or at least a top-four defenseman. They don't necessarily need an offensive dynamo, but someone who can defend, make a good first pass and do it consistently. They have a backlog of forwards, and could address this issue via trade. A key will be the health of Kronwall. If he comes back strong from knee problems, he could log a lot of minutes again. If not, he won't.
Video: DET@TBL, Gm2: Larkin goes five-hole to tie game
PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY FOCUS: Datsyuk led the Red Wings in points per game (0.74) by a decent margin in a down season by his standards. Larkin, one of the top rookies in his class last season, needs to translate his 5-on-5 success (second among rookies with 40 even-strength points) to the power play when called upon after Datsyuk's departure. If Larkin seizes his heavier workload and steps forward toward 55-60 points instead of stepping back as a sophomore, he'll outperform his draft position and keep the Red Wings on track. If he doesn't, the Detroit offense could be even less appealing fantasy-wise than it already is.
Henrik Zetterberg - Frans Nielsen - Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Tatar - Dylan Larkin - Justin Abdelkader
Andreas Athanasiou - Darren Helm - Thomas Vanek
Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Riley Sheahan
Danny DeKeyser - Alexey Marchenko
Brendan Smith - Mike Green
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson