Detroit News predictions: Red Wings' season
With the Red Wings opening the NHL season in Tampa Bay Thursday, Detroit News writers make their predictions.
Let’s see, there’s SOL — Same Old Lions. How about SORW — Same Old Red Wings. They’ll be right on the cusp of the playoffs, as they’ve been the last few seasons when qualifying the final day — or weekend. But this time, they’ll miss by a point or two — or four. The playoff streak ends at 25 years.
Prognosticators predicted demise for the Red Wings periodically for 20 years, but never with so much evidence. The rebuild on the fly lags. Pavel Datsyuk plays in Russia. But Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek score, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar improve with more ice time, Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith progress, and Jeff Blashill learns from his first season. Wings squeeze into playoffs.
There are some positive signs, amid all the skepticism. Tomas Tatar’s poised for a bounce-back season, Dylan Larkin will have the puck more as a center, and maybe the revamped power play will start cashing in consistently. But there’ll still be too many mistakes made in front of Petr Mrazek, and not enough firepower at the other end to counter them all. Fifth in the Atlantic, no playoffs.
Of all the recent threats to the Wings playoff streak, this one is the most real. Their stalwarts — Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall — are physically slowing down, and outside of Dylan Larkin, the youngsters haven’t taken over. GM Ken Holland desperately needs to hit with his unspectacular free-agent pickups, notably veteran C Frans Nielsen. The Wings have a shot if G Petr Mrazek returns to star form and Danny DeKeyser can anchor a thin blue line. They’ll scrap to the finish and close down the Joe, but narrowly miss the playoffs for the first time in 26 years.