Detroit — Hockey in the air?
We’re getting there.
Four weeks from today, the Red Wings hit the ice at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City for the start of training camp.
Talk of moving into Little Caesars Arena, missing the playoffs for the first time after 25 consecutive seasons, and the long regular season ahead will dominate discussion.
The signing of free agent defenseman Trevor Daley sparked hope for many fans, but many remain unsure about the direction and future of this team.
Probably for good reason, considering it’s a roster that’ll look similar to the one that missed the playoffs last season.
There are questions and issues with this team. Here are 10 things folks are talking about:
1) How will the Red Wings get salary cap compliant?
The Red Wings are about $2.5 million over the $75 million salary cap ceiling.
They’ll get help ($3.9 million) after placing Johan Franzen (concussion) on long-term injured reserve.
But that still doesn’t give them much (approximately $1.5 million) to re-sign restricted free agent Andreas Athanasiou and leave a little cushion for Grand Rapids players in case someone goes on short-term injured reserve.
They might get help in the sense defenseman Ryan Sproul (knee) might be placed on the injured list because he might not be ready to start the season.
If not, someone will have to be waived or traded and it could be the inconsistent Sproul.
Tomas Tatar (shoulder), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) and Luke Glendening (ankle) are likely ready to start the season after surgeries.
2) Andreas Athanasiou is still unsigned.
Athanasiou will get signed — he doesn’t have much leverage as an restricted free agent — but how much (and the term) will be interesting.
With the Red Wings’ salary cap as tight it is, every dollar counts. Athanasiou will likely come in around $2 million, which makes the Red Wings’ situation stickier.
3) Who will be the starting goaltender?
If everyone is healthy, and there are no major performance issues during the exhibition season, you have to expect Jimmy Howard to be the starting goaltender Oct. 5 against Minnesota.
Really, who would have thought two summers ago, with the Red Wings moving into Little Caesars Arena, Howard would be No. 1 with Petr Mrazek in reserve?
But give credit to Howard’s perseverance. He’s clearly been the better goaltender for the last 18 months.
4) How will the logjam on defense shake out?
There are eight defensemen — Daley, Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green, Nick Jensen, Niklas Kronwall, Xavier Ouellet and Sproul.
Ericsson and Kronwall — who has persistent knee issues — are likely to start the season, although Kronwall will be monitored.
It’s likely Ouellet is the seventh, or extra, defensemen at this point, but with Kronwall’s knee, it’ll be interesting to see how much Kronwall will play.
5) Will there be a spot for Tyler Bertuzzi or Evgeny Svechnikov?
Depending on how the salary-cap situation evolves, there might be a spot for Bertuzzi, but it’s far from certain.
Luke Witkowski can play either forward or defense, which is a huge plus given the current salary cap crisis.
If the Red Wings keep only 22 players, and all eight defensemen are healthy, there isn’t any room for Bertuzzi (unless a forward is injured).
As for Svechnikov, he’s an exciting prospect, but he’s not quite ready for the NHL.
6) What is goaltender Jared Coreau’s future with the Red Wings?
The Red Wings aren’t going to keep three goalies, so Coreau will be exposed in the waiver draft, but it’s unlikely anyone will claim Coreau.
He’s good insurance to have in Grand Rapids, and projects to be a solid No. 2 in the NHL.
7) Will Dylan Larkin be closer to the rookie Larkin, or the sophomore Larkin?
The Red Wings are banking on the final 30, or so, games last season when Larkin played his best hockey and looked the player many projected he would be all season.
Maybe the expectations, and difficulty of playing center early last season, were asking too much of Larkin.
8) Can Henrik Zetterberg duplicate last season’s performance?
Let’s put it this way. If Zetterberg is again the team’s leading point-getter, that’s probably not a good thing and a clear sign some of the younger players expected to be cornerstones of the futures simply aren’t coming along.
Zetterberg will turn 37 the first Monday of the regular season. If he were to post 68 points, 51 assists, a plus-15 plus-minus rating, and play all 82 games, it would be shocking.
9) What can the Red Wings expect from Riley Sheahan?
Sheahan is still on the roster, though he was left unprotected in the expansion draft — Vegas chose Tomas Nosek instead.
Sheahan only scored two goals last season — in the final game of the regular season.
You have to believe Sheahan will return to his norm, a goal-scoring season somewhere in the 10-15 range, which the Red Wings would enjoy seeing.
10) Is this a playoff team?
The Hockey News predicts the Red Wings to finish last — yes, last, in the Atlantic Division.
On paper, given how teams changed this offseason, it’s difficult to challenge that prediction.