August 14, 2010 at 1:00 am

Ted Kulfan: Red Wings

It's too early to talk about Wings winning Stanley Cup

The Wings' success might hinge on Jimmy Howard avoiding the sophomore jinx. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)

Detroit -- It's understandable. It's mid-August, training camp is approaching, and Red Wings fans are dying for the season to begin.

Add the signing of hometown hero Mike Modano, and suddenly they're overly giddy, already talking Stanley Cup, excited about another parade down Woodward. The addition of Modano and defensive force Ruslan Salei, the return of Jiri Hudler, Jimmy Howard being a year older -- it all adds up to instant success in fans' minds.

I like the Wings' roster; it might be as deep and flexible as it was two or three seasons ago. But there are questions and concerns.

Those fans expecting to see the Mike Modano of 10 or 15 years ago are going to be disappointed. He's 40, and his production declined in Dallas the past few seasons. Will Modano turn it around in Detroit?

Howard, too, has to conquer the peculiar sophomore jinx of NHL goalies. In recent seasons Steve Mason (Columbus), Carey Price (Montreal), Pascal Leclaire (Ottawa) and Cam Ward (Carolina) looked all-world their rookie seasons then inexplicably faltered in their second seasons. Will the league catch up with Howard?

Injuries were devastating for the Wings last season, and it's hard to imagine the bad luck lasting another year. But with eight players over the age 35, there's concern.

And along with the Wings, teams such as Vancouver (adding defenseman Dan Hamhuis and forward Manny Malhotra) and San Jose (Jamal Mayers) have made shrewd moves that should bolster their play.

Without a doubt, Chicago appears weakened with the loss of eight players off last season's Stanley Cup winner. But the Blackhawks' core still is there, as is a San Jose roster that overcame a huge mental block last spring by finally defeating the Wings in the playoffs and reaching the Western Conference finals.

The Wings will be a factor this season. There's too much talent not to be successful.

But let's hold off on the Stanley Cup talk in August.

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