With the Red Wings opening their season Thursday, Detroit News staffers make their season predictions.
These aren't the Red Wings of old. They can't overpower teams with superstar talent, with Hall of Famers skating on the fourth line. But if they stay healthy, which they couldn't do last season, they should be a playoff team. Barely. Expect them to sneak in and lose in the first round.
A healthier group of veterans and the continuing development of a young roster leads to better play, but about the same finish: fourth in the Atlantic Division, seventh in the conference. Hopes spring eternal in the playoffs, only to be dashed in the conference semifinals.
The Red Wings didn't change much, but one thing has to change — Jimmy Howard has to be good for a full season, not in occasional bursts. This team should be better just by the maturation of young players such as Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan. As always, health will be an issue, but the Wings are due for a low-injury season, aren't they? The Wings will finish third in the Atlantic Division and lose in the second round.
If Mike Babcock finally gets this team playing with the pace he wants — and with all those young legs he should — the Wings will make the playoffs again. But the defense still needs some help via trade to get past the second round.
Stanley Cup odds
San Jose, Anaheim
Nashville, St. Louis
Los Angeles, Montreal
N.Y. Rangers, Boston, Calgary