Detroit Red Wings 2015 State of the Team

While things may be slowly changing in the Motor City after the departure of their once tenured bench boss, in the big picture the team is really sticking to their old mantra of developing prospects and adding key veterans to the team. While poised to make another playoff appearance yet again this upcoming season, the Red Wings will have to rely on contributions from their core of youngsters. Here is a breakdown of the state of the Detroit Red Wings organization.

Management:

Everyone who follows hockey even remotely should know about Mike Babcock’s departure as the head coach as the Red Wings, or you my friend must live under a rock. However, Babcock’s signing in Toronto (making him the highest paid NHL coach in history) has opened the door for 41-year old Jeff Blashill to assume the role as bench boss in the Motor City. Blashill was promoted to head coach of the Red Wings after serving three seasons as the head coach of the Grand Rapid Griffins, the Red Wings AHL affiliate. Over those three seasons he maintained a winning percentage of 60.5% of higher, and even led his team to become the Calder Cup Champions back in 2012-2013. I believe it was a good choice promoting Blashill over bringing in an external candidate, as he can leverage his prior relationships with players he helped develop and use this in the big leagues. Speaking of which, in an article by Brendan Savage of MLive.com, players that now play for the Red Wings had nothing but praise for Blashill in regards to his coaching at the AHL level, here is what they said:

“He’s a great coach…Players feel like they can talk to him. He’s somebody who they can trust and feel good. He’s really good with the players. I feel like the players can trust him. He’s a really good coach.” – Tomas Tatar
“I love Blash…He just understands the game really well. He’s a really good guy and you can talk to him and he understands you a person. Great guy, great coach, and I only have great memories of him.” – Tomas Jurco
“I owe a lot to him and it’s been good. He’s a guy I would pretty much do anything for. I trust him and he’s got the respect of the all the guys in Grand Rapids.” – Landon Ferraro 

Aside from Blashill, what more can be said about GM Ken Holland. Since Holland was appointed to his current position in July of 1997, the Red Wings have more wins (821) than any other franchise in the National Hockey League, including 707 regular season wins and 114 playoff victories. As a perennial playoff team, I do not see that trend letting up anytime soon, especially with Holland at the helm.

Grade: A-

Roster:

While the old guard is getting older in Detroit, I see the youth jumping in next season and playing an even bigger role.

Thus far in offseason free agency the Red Wings have made two bold moves bringing in veterans Mike Green and Brad Richards. While Mike Green joins an already crowded defensive corps, I see the signing as a good move. While injuries have plagued the 29-year old defenseman, I think given the fresh start to play a complete season with a new team/coach may pay dividends in the end, as it should with the $6 million price tag he will carry for the next 3 years. I really like the signing of Brad Richards, especially to a 1-year bridge deal with an adequate hit of $3 million. He had a decent showing with the Blackhawks last season registering 37 points in the regular season and chipping in 14 more in the playoffs, and I think he could quickly form a good rapport with long-time Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. Add the fact that it definitely doesn’t hurt for the team to bring in another veteran fresh off a Stanley Cup Champion season to motivate and mentor after-mentioned youngsters Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jarco and Landon Ferraro. While the old guard is getting older in Detroit, I see the youth jumping in next season and playing an even bigger role. Plus, I hear this guy by the name of Gustav Nyquist is quite the offensive powerhouse, just saying.

While the Red Wings will likely turn to Jimmy Howard to start things off come October, they do have quite the young prospect in 23-year old Petr Mrazek in the waiting if injuries should take a hold of the veteran again this season. In Howard’s absence last season, Mrazek filled in admirably in posting a 16-9-2 record, and also got some playoff experience to boot.

Things should get interesting in Detroit come October, and I for one am waiting to see how the mix of veteran players and youth work together for this Red Wings club. If history is any indication, it should be a success.

Grade: A-

Future:

While the Red Wings currently may lack a highly-touted prospect at the goaltender position and finding a forward that possesses size in the system may be difficult, the Red Wings do have a few prospects that will continue to shine bright. The first being Dylan Larkin. In 2014-2015, Larkin was the second-leading scorer for the University Michigan as a freshman. While playing a fast, offensive game, Larkin remains true in setting up teammates like a true center and plays a nice two-way game. I see a good chance of him playing at the pro level before he completes his three remaining years in college. Andreas Athanasiou was sidelined with a jaw injury last season which saw him miss a significant amount of time for the Grand Rapid Griffins. I think the Red Wings organization is looking forward to him lacing up the skates for a full showing this upcoming season to evaluate him further. He possesses the speed and hands to be a legitimate winger in the NHL, but needs more time to develop his defensive game. Tyler Bertuzzi possesses the ability to get under the skin of opposing players, as this must have been a family trait he picked up from his uncle, Todd. Bertuzzi is still a work in progress at the rip age of 20, but plays a gritty game and works the forecheck very well. He will make his living one day based on this as a valuable second-, third-line skater.

The Red Wings seem pretty set already with their 2015-2016 roster heading into October, and, barring a string of injuries, I see all the prospects playing out next season at their respective levels. The Red Wings are excellent at developing talent, which will be a major plus in a few years as the veterans grow older and contemplate hanging up the skates.

Grade: B