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Season 5 Preview - Detroit Red Wings Written by habsfan93 - November 30th, -0001

At the start of Season 4, Detroit GM hgimn stated that if he didn't make the playoffs, he planned to resign as GM, as missing the playoffs for 3 straight years would not be acceptable to any franchise. Well, the Red Wings nabbed the 8th spot, and moved on in April, giving GM hgimn the confidence he needed to continue his work with the team. There have been no such statements this year, but the Red Wings playoffs hopes remain the same. Very little changes have been made to the core of this team, so the hope is that continued improvement will lead them further than it ever has.

Offence

Mariusz Czerkawski lit the lamp for the Red Wings for 4 straight seasons, always finishing in the top 3 in team scoring. However, this summer, like several other players, Czerkawski decided to call it quits and return home to his native land to settle in for the end of his career. The key to the Red Wings success may lie in their ability to replace his 70 points over the course of a year. Mats Sundin has remained as this team's undeniable leader. He signed a 2-year deal early in the summer, but rumours are swirling that he will retire after only one season. Nevertheless, he is expected to put up a point a game, and anything less would be a disappoitment. Daniel Cleary stepped out of the shadows last season scoring 67 points in his first full CMHL season. He was rewarded with a 4 year contract this summer, and the hope is that he will improve on those numbers. He's already got 5 points in the first 4 games of the season, so things are looking good. The offence to replace Czerkawski is widely expected to come from Johan Franzen, who spent the year in the minors last season refining his game, and now looks ready to show the CMHL world what he can do.

Supporting these three will be three more players looking for bigger than ever years in Matthew Lombardi, Mikael Samuelsson, and Jason Williams. Lombardi had a career year last year and could top it here again. Ditto for Samuelsson. Jason Williams was an ICHF All-Star last season and finally appears ready to make the move to the big show after 3 disappointing seasons with Detroit early on. One player who has started the season slow but may be a year away still from CMHL stardom is Nigel Dawes. After putting up 43 points in Season 3, GM hgimn responded by sending him to the farm team for Season 4. This could either have permanently dashed his confidence or given him a renewed mission. Only time will tell.

Defense

Detroit's defensive core can be succintly described as lacking defense and possessing a wealth of offence. Sergei Gonchar, Marek Zidlicky and rookie Mike Green are three of the best offensive defensemen in the league and all three of them lead the Detroit back-end. Don't be surprised if Mike Green is on your Calder ballot next June. After skirting around the minors for four years, big things are expected this season from the big man. Beyond these three, the supporting cast of David Tanabe, Joel Bouchard and Bryan Muir is steady but unimpressive. An improvement here could see the Red Wings win a few more games this season.

Goaltending

Detroit was home to one of the CMHL's most hottly contested goaltending battles. Both Ilya Bryzgalov and Vesa Toskala showed flashes last year of possessing the capability to be a #1 goalie in the league. But GM hgimn, after only a few games of the season, quickly dispelled any notion of a goalie battle by trading Toskala for younger goalie Jimmy Howard. In doing this, GM hgimn has officially handed the reigns to Bryzgalov to be the #1 in Detroit, with Howard backing him up.

Prospects

Detroit has several players graduating this year from the farm to the pros, and as a result, their prospect base has been left in stable, but unimpressive condition. This is unsurprising given that in his CMHL career, GM hgimn has made all of one, yes you read that right, one, 1st round pick. One first rounder in 5 drafts. The team has done a surprisingly good job at ensuring a stable flux of players, but with no blue-chip prospects in the system, that luck could change quickly.

Playoffs

The playoffs are absolutely not out of the question for the Red Wings. But to get there, they will need several things to go their way. They're going to need top-notch performances from their top 6 forwards, most of which will be going for career-best numbers. They're going to need some real defensive awareness from their back-end, which is among the offensive best. And finally, they're going to need one of their netminders to separate himself and play above his capabilities. If most of these things can come together, then the Red Wings will be playing post-season hockey.

Quick Hits

Best Bargain: Most of the Team – Sundin and Gonchar are the only players on this team commanding more than 3 million. Most of their players are guys that are trying to break out from the pack and turn themselves into stars, and their doing so at a bargain basement rate.
Overpaid: Joel Bouchard –  Bouchard garnered 2.75 million in the offseason as a UFA, which is way more than he's worth. Maybe GM hgimn thought he was getting Pierre-Marc? I don't think so, but whoever Bouchard's agent is, give that man a raise!
Breakout Player: Johan Franzen - 35 goals are not out of the question for Franzen as The Mule shows that he can score goals when they count. The Red Wings will need him to hit that level in order to compete this year.
Overrated: Bryan Muir - Muir doesn't bring much to the table other than a big frame. He shouldn't be in the top 6 of any CMHL team, but he managed to crack the Red Wings roster ahead of a guy like Stephane Robidas who is probably the better player of the two.

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