LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Detroit — Many around the NHL seem to think the Red Wings' playoff streak — at 25 years and counting — might just be in jeopardy this season.

Former Wings goalie Chris Osgood, currently an analyst on Fox Sports Detroit, isn't so sure.

"I think it's the same as last year -- it's a wide range of expectations," Osgood said recently, ahead of his induction into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. "They still have a lot to give.

"I'm predicting a better year than people think they're gonna have."

The Red Wings, struggling to strike the right balance between veteran players and kids, extended their NHL-best playoff streak on the final day of the regular season earlier this year, despite losing their finale.

They backed in, you could say.

Detroit then had a busy off-season, if not a spectacular one, signing free-agent forward Frans Nielsen (six years, $31.5 million) after top target Steven Stamkos returned to the Tampa Bay Lightning. They also added Thomas Vanek (one year, $2.6 million) and Steve Ott (one year, $800,000).

The biggest move, no question, was the loss of Pavel Datsyuk, who wanted to head home to Russia.

General manager Ken Holland was able to trade his rights on draft night to save some cap space.

"They're gonna miss that dynamic play from Pavel Datsyuk," Osgood said. "He's like a baseball team losing their home-run hitter. They're gonna miss his ability. He's a game-changer in tight games to break the game open. They're gonna have to find somebody, somehow, maybe by committee."

Osgood said Anthony Mantha, 22, who had two goals and an assist in 10 games last season, could be that guy.

"When he touches the puck," said Osgood, "he can score. Lots of potential."

Dylan Larkin, 20, of course, is the most obvious candidate to shoulder more of the load, after his breakthrough rookie season.

Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader all regressed, by some measure, from 2014-15 to last season.

Then there's Henrik Zetterberg, 35, who still had 50 points last season, including 13 goals.

Osgood said there's still plenty left in that tank, but that coach Jeff Blashill might need to be more careful with his minutes.

"Hank's played a ton of minutes," Osgood said. "He plays hard minutes. He prides himself in killing penalties and doing the hard work.

"To see him at this level, maybe I'd like to see his minutes go down just a bit, rest him at times in the season, keep him healthy, keep him ready to go, because he's still a very good, productive player."

Among other youngsters who could take that next step, Osgood said he's looking at left wing Tyler Bertuzzi and defensemen Ryan Sproul and Xavier Oullett. The Red Wings this week are participating in the annual NHL prospects' tournament in Traverse City.

The Red Wings open the season Thursday, Oct. 13, at Tampa Bay, which eliminated Detroit in the first round of the playoffs in five games.

The first game at Joe Louis Arena, in its final season, is Monday, Oct. 17, against Ottawa.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE