One week from today, the puck will drop on the Detroit Red Wings 2013-14 season.
Even though this is my second year of writing for Red Wings 101, this is technically my first full 82-game NHL season (last season was lockout shortened).
On some of my predictions last season, I took a leap of faith and looked like an idiot at season's end, but hey, it comes with the territory.
We will begin with our Red Wings predictions, and then follow up with some NHL picks. Please note the disclaimer in the headline of this article.
- The Red Wings will finish with 100 points, which will be good for second in the Atlantic Division, and fourth in the Eastern Conference. At first glance, it might appear that the Wings will have to adjust to the Eastern Conference. However, as Ken Daniels noted in a recent preseason game, the East has to adjust to the Red Wings. The Atlantic Division is the toughest of all four divisions, but the Wings have enough pieces in place to challenge the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals for the top spot in the East.
- Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will both surpass the 30-goal mark. I don't forsee either player getting into the races for Art Ross Trophy or Rocket Richard trophy (more on that later). But now that both players are going to be together on the same line most of the time, both will see a rise in their scoring from the last few seasons. Datsyuk last topped 30 goals in 2008-09, while Zetterberg topped the mark in the same year. Speaking of scoring…
- At least five more Red Wings will top 20 goals. Like I said, the Wings don't have anyone who will contend for the Ross or Richard Trophies, but that will mostly be due to balanced scoring. Candidates to top 20 goals include Daniel Alfredsson, Justin Abdelkader, Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss, and Gustav Nyquist.
- Weiss will reach a career number in terms of points. Mike Babcock said that he expects Weiss to top 60 points this season, which he should be able to do with better talent around him than he had in Florida.
- Niklas Kronwall will get some serious consideration for Norris Trophy. Kronwall was in the conversation for the NHL's best defenseman for most of the season, which wasn't bad given that he had to replace Nick Lidstrom. Now that he has had plenty of time to adjust to being the top defenseman on the Wings, he will be able to make a stronger case for Norris.
- Danny DeKeyser will be paired with Kronwall by season's end. Before anyone starts blasting me with hate mail, this is NOT meant to degrade Jonathan Ericsson. While Ericsson has played well with Kronwall, the fact that DeKeyser has a higher ceiling will result in Babcock pairing him with Kronwall to make a better shutdown pair. DeKeyser will also warrant consideration for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, and it wouldn't come as a shock if he draws a little Norris love.
- Jimmy Howard will be a finalist for Vezina Trophy. I know I whiffed on this one last season, but given his performance during the regular season (21-13-7, 2.13 GAA, .923 save percentage) where he was tied for first in the NHL with five shutouts, he will make a big jump this season. It also helps that he has been getting serious consideration to start for Team USA at the 2014 Olympics.
- At least one Red Wing will wind up in Brendan Shanahan's doghouse. I got ripped for saying that Kronwall would get a love note from Shanny for a questionable hit. This season I won't be as specific as to who will get Shanabanned, but the most likely candidate will be Franzen for losing his cool and breaking a rule that will result in a fine or suspension. Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey, and Abdlkader could also be considered as they all have rap sheets.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs will become the biggest rival to the Wings. These two teams had a fierce rivalry from the 1940s until the 1960s. Now that they are back in the same division, the rivalry will be renewed as Leafs coach Randy Carlyle has been less than popular in Detroit from his time with the Anaheim Ducks, and his love for physical play. This rivalry won't match the intensity of the one with the Blackhawks or have the venom of the rivalry with the Avalanche from the 1990s, but it will still be a must-see.
Now to move on to my other NHL predictions
- Atlantic Division
- Metropolitan Division
- New York Islanders
- Central Division
- St. Louis
- Pacific Division
- Los Angeles
- San Jose
- East Champ: Boston
- West Champ: Los Angeles
- Stanley Cup Winner: Boston
- Hart Trophy (MVP): John Tavares (Islanders)
- Art Ross (Scoring): Evgeni Malikin (Penguins)
- Rocket Richard (Goals): Patrick Kane (Blackhawks)
- Norris (Defenseman): Erik Karlsson (Senators)
- Calder (Rookie): Nathan MacKinnon (Avalanche)
- Selke (Defensive Forward): Patrice Bergeron (Bruins)
- Vezina (Goalie): Antti Niemi (Sharks)
- Jack Adams (Coach of the Year): Mike Babcock (Red Wings)
CLOSING THOUGHTS: The biggest question surrounding the Red Wings this season is are they a cup contender? My answer, Yes, but being in the toughest division will be a tough hurdle to overcome. With the playoff format starting with divisional play in the first two rounds, the Wings will likely have to go through Boston to get to the East finals, where they could face the Penguins. Possible candidates for them to face in the Cup finals include, but are not limited to, the Blackhawks, Kings, Blues, and Sharks.
You can count on the Wings making the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season, but bringing home a 12th Stanley Cup will be a lot tougher despite less travel.
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