July 2, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Red Wings GM Ken Holland's wish list: Health, growth

Defenseman Niklas Kronwall led the Red Wings in assists last season with 41. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)

Detroit — Every season, NHL rosters undergo some sort of makeover.

For 2014-15 version of the Red Wings, however, may have a very familiar feel.

The names and faces that filled the 2013-14 roster will pretty much be the same.

That’s what happens when unrestricted free agents like goaltender Jonas Gustavsson and defenseman Kyle Quincey are brought back and the free-agent market proves to be a bust.

So, unless general manager Ken Holland decides to part with some young talent in a trade — which he says he won’t — the programs from the end of last season might just suffice for next season.

But Holland is banking on a healthy team that continues to have its young talent grow. If that happens, he believes his team can be closer to the top of the Atlantic Division rather than scrapping for a wild card.

“We need to get some of these guys healthy,” Holland said. “The reports (this summer) have been good.”

The Red Wings lost 418 man-games to injuries last season, with forwards Pavel Datsyuk (played 45 games) and Henrik Zetterberg (45 games) missing nearly half a season.

Here’s a look at how the roster shapes up.

Goaltending

Jimmy Howard is the starter and Gustavsson the backup — with Petr Mrazek a phone call away in Grand Rapids.

Howard will be looking to rebound from a sub-par season — 21-19-11 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.

Getting Gustavsson re-signed for another season was a mild priority. He was 16-5-4 with 2.63 GAA, .907 SVS, and saved the Red Wings filling in for Howard.

But the issue with Gustavsson remains his troublesome groin injuries, which limited his availability. He needs to play approximately 25 games to give Howard a breather.

The plan for Mrazek is to play one more season in Grand Rapids before likely taking over for Gustavsson in 2015-16.

Defensemen

The starting lines include Niklas Kronwall-Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey-Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith-Jakub Kindl (or Brian Lashoff).

In an ideal world, coach Mike Babcock would love to have a left-righty on each line playing on their natural side. The Red Wings were all left-handed last season.

The good news? DeKeyser will continue his growth into an elite top-four defenseman, and Smith played well late.

And, re-signing Quincey, a defensive defenseman and able penalty killer, was needed after the free-agency bust.

Don’t be surprised to see a right-hander — Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet — play early, jumping past Kindl and/or Lashoff on the depth chart.

Forwards

The lines are Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Johan Franzen, Justin Abdelkader-Stephen Weiss-Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar-Riley Sheahan-Tomas Jurco and Drew Miller-Darren Helm-Luke Glendening. Joakim Andersson and Landon Ferraro will fill in as needed.

The likely return of 18-goal scorer Daniel Alfredsson, 41, who will decide his future in late August, will be a plus.

Again, the key for this position is health. At the trade deadline Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Helm, Weiss and Andersson were hurt.

Datsyuk, who will be 36 on July 20, and Zetterberg, 34 in October, are key to this group, but so is Helm, who was limited to 42 games but scored 12 goals.

As for Weiss, he was signed last summer to be the second-line center to allow Babcock to play Datsyuk and Zetterberg together.

Weiss never got on track, struggled, then saw his season end with a sports hernia. The Red Wings need his 50-60 points.

The Red Wings also need a rebound season from Franzen, who had 16 goals in an injury-marred season.

And just as important is the continued development of young forwards Nyquist (28 goals, 57 games), Tatar (19 goals), Sheahan and Jurco.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com
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