As a lead-up to the new season, here at HockeyBroad we'll both be reviewing How Teams Spent Their Summer Vacation, and also profiling one fan from each team's fandom, covering 30 Teams In 30 Days. The teams will be profiled in order determined by their points standing last season, highest to lowest, with the exception of Chicago, which will be profiled last to coincide with the date of their Training Camp Festival.
Team 6 of 30: the Detroit Red Wings
HOW DETROIT SPENT THEIR SUMMER VACATION
It wasn't much of a surprise - Detroit made the playoffs again last spring. They easily swept the Phoenix Coyotes out of the first round, then came head to head against the San Jose Sharks. It actually looked like San Jose would repeat the favor, going up 3-0 over the Wings; but like their historical rivals the Blackhawks did to the Canucks, the Wings surged back to force a game 7 - and for the second year in a row, the Sharks took a bite out Hockeytown, eliminating them in the second round again.
One of hockey's "Original Six" and as iconic as they come, Detroit is a "career" hockey destination. Players go there for a variety of reasons - they want to be under the guidance of respected head coach Mike Babcock; the team's winning history; the dedication the team gives to the players. Whether you love or hate the team, you have to admit that if you're a player, it's an honor to get to play for Detroit - so much so that players will sign long-term contracts to play there when they could've made more money somewhere else.
Players buy into the team systems, and all the Wings do is win, win, win. The Wings have 11 Stanley Cup championships, the most out of any US-based NHL franchise, and are third in the league after Montréal (24) and Toronto (13). The Red Wings have made the playoffs for 25 of the last 27 seasons (including every single season since 1991), making theirs the longest streak of post-season appearances across all sports in North America. (The next longest streak in the NHL? The Sharks, with just 7.)
So it should not be much of a surprise that there was very little turnover in Detroit this summer, and three of the five players leaving the team are heading into retirement (Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Brian Rafalski), and a fourth (Mike Modano) a possibility as well. The last, Ruslan Salei, departed for the KHL.
New to team - listed on current roster/team acquired from: Mike Commodore (CBJ), Ty Conklin (STL), Ian White (SJS)
Players who appeared in games for the team during the 2010-11 season that have been traded or not yet re-signed/(team now signed with): Kris Draper (retired), Mike Modano (retired?), Chris Osgood (retired), Brian Rafalski (retired), Ruslan Salei (KHL)
In fact, the biggest question of Detroit's summer was whether ironman blueliner and team captain Nicklas Lidström, fresh off his 7th Norris Trophy win, would return for one last season. That question was answered in late June when Lidström signed for one more year. He's in such great shape and still playing so well that it's not impossible to think that he could even play another two or three years if he so chose; he's a guaranteed shoo-in for the Hall of Fame the moment he hangs up his skates.
While Detroit may have one of the oldest overall average aged rosters in the NHL, it has intangibles beyond all the things listed above. The bulk of Detroit's players tend to be cultivated within the system, and many have played most if not all of their career for the winged wheel. Detroit's core consists of players like Pavel Datsyuk, Valtteri Fiilppula, Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, and of course, Nicklas Lidström. Those eight players have all been with the team for at least five seasons; a few of them have been with the team for a decade or more. There are men coming into the league now who speak of idolizing these players as they grew up. Datsyuk, 33, is so amazing with the puck that that "dangling like Datsyuk" and "Datsyukian deke" are commonly heard within hockey terminology.
The only question mark on their season - and it's not even a very big one - is in goal. After a stellar rookie year (37-15-10, .924%, 2.26 GAA with 3 SO) Jimmy Howard (.908%, 2.79 GAA, 37-17-5 with 2 SO last season) is the undisputed starter. Detroit brought in Ty Conklin to replace the retiring Chris Osgood. Conklin had a rough season in St. Louis last year - going 8-8-4 with a .881 sv% and 3.22 GAA with 2 SO. Conklin's performance has not been particularly stellar the past few years, but he posted one of his best years the last time he played for Detroit (2008-09). Plus, his main purpose is to be a solid backup to Jimmy Howard, who is likely Detroit's new career goalie. Detroit's defense is such a work of art that goalies behind it don't need to be spectacular, but Howard will only continue to improve. As we saw last season, any depth that the Wings have in goal isn't quite ready to step into the NHL, so as long as Howard and Conklin both manage to stay healthy, the team will be fine.
Detroit has had an undeniable impact on the league as a whole for many years. It is the aim of every team to inspire the kind of dedication and team-first winning attitude that is strongly cultivated year after year by the Red Wings. With so little turnover, and without the injuries that plagued some of their top players last season, Detroit will undoubtably be in line for yet another playoff season in June.
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For the Detroit Red Wings, we talked to Melissa, who posts at The Yost Post (covering Michigan hockey) on AerysSports.com. She has been a Detroit Red Wings fan for 16 years.
Let's talk a bit about your history as a Wings fan.
Ice skating/hockey has always been a part of my life. My dad used to be a ref. When I was in middle school his friend invited us to go to a Red Wings game. He also asked my dad if he was serious wanted to use the ticket for his daughter (me)! Dad said, you don't know my daughter!
Spent years watching the Wings through the good times and bad. Going from the extreme joy of winning the Cup, to the extreme sadness of the car accident on June 13 that ended the hockey career of Vladmir Konstantinov. It's always special going down to the Joe with my dad and having a daddy/daughter night.
Which player that your team signed/acquired this summer are you most excited to see take the ice this season?
Taking into consideration your team's performance last year/recently, and any player/personnel (coaches, GMs, ownership) changes made in the past few months, talk about your team in 2011-2012: How do you think they've improved (or made worse)? What do they need to work on? Discuss anything related to your team's performance for the 2011-12 season, good or bad.
Rafalski retired and so did Osgood and Draper--but they were more forced out than retired. The Wings will have the youngsters in their line up this year and will make the playoffs. I can't see them winning the Stanley Cup though. Not enough depth even with Lidstrom staying for another year. I really think the only reason he stayed was because they all knew they couldn't lose Rafalski and Lidstrom in the same year.
Whether or not you think your team will make the playoffs, where do you predict your team will place within their conference?
What was your favorite moment for your team last season?
Being at the Joe sitting in the 6th row for the game against the penguins. The pens were up 4-0 and Detroit finLly showed up with a minute to go in the second. They played lights out in the 3rd period to tie the game before losing in overtime! My voice was gone from all the yelling/cheering!