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October 1, 2013 | 8:43am ET
2013-14 Season Preview: Detroit
By David Brown, TheFourthPeriod.com

The Detroit Red Wings are no longer in the Western Conference. They head out east and made the biggest splash in free agency when they went out and grabbed long time Ottawa Senators captain, Daniel Alfredsson. That should be a decent rivalry.

On top of the Alfredsson signing, the Wings also managed to sign Stephen Weiss and resign Dan Cleary, Drew Miller, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist and some guy named Pavel Datsyuk.

Detroit will be entering their second season removed from captain and future hall of famer, Niklas Lidstrom’s retirement. Last year many experts believe their defense would flounder in front of Jimmy Howard, but they remained top-five in team defense and gave up the fewest five on five goals in the league.

This season they will continue to rely on Howard in goal and look for more scoring with the additions of Weiss and Alfredsson. The Wings ranked 27th in five on five goals scored last season and 15th in power play goals, Alfredsson and Weiss should help this season.

The Red Wings continue to make the playoffs year after year, even when they lose hall of fame players. We will see if the move to the Eastern Conference changes anything.

FORWARDS

The Wings have a few more future hall of fame players on the squad, Alfredsson, Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Alfredsson is still looking for his first Stanley Cup at 40 years old.

Weiss and Alfredsson will join forces on the Wings’ second line with Johan Franzen. If that line can click, Datsyuk and Zetterberg continue to dominate on their top line. The Wings have depth in their bottom two lines that don’t get the hype, led by 24-year old’s Joakim Anderson and Gustav Nyquist.

“It is like the Swedish national team over there,” said Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson after a preseason game against Detroit.

A sneaky difference maker will be Darren Helm after playing just one game last season. His speed and penalty killing ability is highly underrated for the Wings.

Key Losses: Damien Brunner, Valtteri Filppula
Key Additions: Alfredsson, Weiss

Top 3 Forwards to Watch

Daniel Alfredsson: 40 years old and no longer the captain of the Ottawa Senators will be a new experience for the Swedish forward. He will dominate on the power play and adds more leadership to a team that is always filled with Cup hungry veterans.

Pavel Datsyuk: He’s one of the most entertaining players in the NHL.

Tomas Tatar: The 22-year old won last year’s Calder Cup postseason MVP and will enter his rookie season with the Red Wings if he can crack the lineup.

DEFENSEMEN

The Wings have a very young defensive core other than Niklas Kronwall. And now they enter a higher scoring conference moving from West to East. Kindl, Smith and Dan DeKeyser gained a ton of experience last season, and almost took down the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs.

They are not worried about depth on the blue line, but they do not want to rely on Jimmy Howard on a nightly basis and have him worn down come playoff time. It’ll be considered a weakness for a few years as everybody gets over the departure of Lidstrom. That was 25-plus minutes of perfect hockey every night to replace.

Key Losses: Ian White
Key Additions: --

Top 3 Defensemen to Watch

Niklas Kronwall: Kronwall had a nice season last year and continues to grow as a leader on their back end. Kronwall’d will continue to be a YouTube sensation this season.

Jakub Kindl: Kindl led the Wings in playoff’s plus-minus last season and power play points for a defenseman. He will continue to flourish defensively and the offensive statistics shouldn’t be too far behind.

Brendan Smith: Smith enters his first full season with the Wings at 24 years old. He will get a lot of ice time and be relied upon immensely this season.

GOALTENDING

Jimmy Howard finished top-10 in goals against and save percentage last season. He used to be considered the weakness of the Detroit franchise, but now he is relied upon with their youthful blue line.

Howard was tied for NHL most five shutouts last season and will start over 60 games this season if he stays healthy. If he can have a career year, he will definitely be in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Detroit was tied for the fifth most powerplay goals last season and that was without Alfredsson. Their powerplay will be deadly this season and could give them the scoring boost they need to compete with the top teams in the East.

The Wings gave up the 12th most powerplay goals in the league last year, due in large part to the injury problems of Helm. They will certainly welcome back a healthier Helm this season if he can recover from his back problems.

PREDICTION

5th in East, 3rd in Atlantic

Detroit's veterans will have to stay healthy this season for them to reach their full potential. Their new conference is filled with offensively gifted teams. Their old conference was accustomed to losing to the Red Wings for so many years. Now they have to bring that aura to the East.

The Wings had their biggest summer splash in years as they look to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since they lost their rematch to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

David Brown is the Minnesota Correspondent for The Fourth Period.


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