Fans attending Red Wings games will see plenty of new stuff at the new Little Caesars Arena. What they won’t see is a lot of new faces on the team.
This year’s roster is mostly the same as last year’s, when the Wings failed to qualify for the National Hockey League playoffs for the first time since 1990. Over the summer, the team bolstered its defense by signing free agent Trevor Daley to a three-year contract. But Helene St. James, who covers the Wings for the Detroit Free Press, says the defense still hasn’t recovered from Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement in 2012.
“They don’t have a number one defenseman, and teams that win in the playoffs have a good defense,” St. James says.
They also have good goaltending, something that was also a problem last season. Petr Mrazek lost his job as the Wings’ starting goalie last season due to inconsistent play. He allowed a little more than three goals per game last season, sharing time in the net with Jimmy Howard and Jared Coreau. St. James says Mrazek showed signs of maturity in training camp.
“It seems like he’s taking every bad thing that happened last year and learned from it,” she says. “He’s cut his body fat down and spending more time on the ice, watching video.”
St. James says the Red Wings could return to the playoffs if Mrazek and Howard do their jobs, and if young players who underachieved last season play up to their potential. For example, Dylan Larkin. As a 19-year-old rookie two years ago, Larkin had 45 points (23 goals, 22 assists) and a plus-minus rating of +11. Last season, he dropped to 32 points (17g/15a) and -28.
“He had a great showing at the (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Championships for the U.S., and to me he looks very confident, and so does Anthony Mantha,” St. James says. “If those two young guys can really take on bigger roles, then they could be in better shape than expected.
The Red Wings open the 2017-18 season against the Minnesota Wild at Little Caesars Arena on October 5.
Click on the audio player to hear the conversation with WDET’s Pat Batcheller.