Many questions about Red Wings will be answered soon
Detroit — For the Red Wings, it’s time to get back to work.
They’ll hold practice Thursday, working to get eight days of rust knocked off, and quickly turn around to play Friday against Toronto.
With the conclusion of this “bye” week, it’s full speed ahead to the finish line.
The Wings have 31 games remaining and with 45 points sit 28th in the league overall standings — only two points off the league cellar-dweller Ottawa (43 points).
Many fans will want to see the Wings collapse further, finish with the worst record, and have the best odds to select forward Jack Hughes (USA National Development Team) in the Entry Draft.
Other fans … well, no, judging by social media, most all want to see the Wings lose and get the best odds.
But there are many other items that will be worth watching in these final two months and a week.
Here are 10 things to keep an eye on with the Red Wings:
Question: Who will remain here after the trade deadline?
Answer: That’ll get here quick, on Feb. 25, and judging by general manager Ken Holland’s comments last week, maybe the Wings aren’t going to be as active as most analysts anticipated.
Holland envisions this roster contending for a playoff spot next season, with the young players on this team being one year older and more productive.
With that in mind, unrestricted free agents such as goaltender Jimmy Howard, forward Gustav Nyquist and defenseman Nick Jensen could be re-signed to solidify the lineup.
There likely will be more teams selling, rather than buying, which could make the potential returns in trades rather meager. But, particularly for players like Nyquist and Jensen — goaltenders like Howard don’t have much of a market unless there’s an injury on a contending team — there could be growing interest right before the deadline.
Q. How will players like Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek and Michael Rasmussen finish this season?
A. Cholowski was a healthy scratch the last two games before the break, losing his spot in the lineup to Hronek.
Incidentally, it was Hronek who was sent back to Grand Rapids during the break to play and remain sharp.
Will Hronek be recalled once the NHL schedule resumes? And will it mean a trip to Grand Rapids for Cholowski?
The grind of the NHL appeared to catch up to Cholowski, whose effectiveness and confidence waned in recent weeks.
Rasmussen has been nursing a hamstring injury before the break, and hadn’t played since Jan. 4.
A good, positive finish by all three young players would give them, and the Wings, a lift heading into the summer.
Q. What does general manager Kenny Holland’s future look like?
A. With one year left on his contract, it surely doesn’t appear Holland is going anywhere, especially the way he’s planning for next season.
Ownership certainly appears comfortable with the path the Wings are on.
But there is the likelihood Steve Yzerman will become available July 1 after his contract with Tampa expires. Nearly every NHL analyst believes Yzerman will return to the organization he starred for as a player, to become a valuable member of the front office.
What role would there be for Yzerman? And what it does it mean for Holland? Stay tuned.
Q. What is coach Jeff Blashill’s future?
A. Blashill is in the final year of his contract. Blashill and Holland are expected to discuss the future soon.
Though the Wings’ record is poor, the development of the young players, and the team’s work ethic and competitiveness, are major factors on Blashill’s side.
But the final two months will offer a final determination.
Q. Will Filip Zadina make his NHL debut?
A. Zadina has shown glimpses of his potential in Grand Rapids, after being drafted No. 6 overall by the Wings last summer, but the adjustment period from junior to pro hockey is hardly complete.
The Wings could bring Zadina up for up to nine games — any more and his entry-level contract kicks in — but whether he’s done enough to earn that promotion is debatable.
If the Wings are suddenly hit with injuries, it would be an easy call. But, otherwise, it will be interesting to see whether Zadina gets that promotion.
Q. Can Dylan Larkin finish the season a point-per-game player?
A. The point-per-game statistic is always a good indication of an outstanding offensive season.
Larkin has 48 points in 51 games, and certainly has played well enough, and consistently enough, to give himself a chance for that type of season.
Larkin seems to be gaining chemistry with linemates Gustav Nyquist and Tyler Bertuzzi, which would only increase his chances of offensive success.
Q. Can Andreas Athanasiou reach 30 goals?
A. Thirty goals seemed almost like a lock, but going without a goal in seven of his last eight games has made the milestone a little more difficult to achieve.
Athanasiou has a tendency to go through these types of slumps, and maybe there is an upturn coming.
Considering the consistency he’s shown this season, getting to 30 goals would be a worthy accomplishment for Athanasiou.
Q. Is this the end for Niklas Kronwall?
A. An unrestricted free agent on July 1, Kronwall, 38, has all but confirmed this is his final season.
But, while preparing for the exit, Kronwall has put together one of his better seasons from a defensive and physical standpoint, in recent years.
Is that enough to convince Kronwall to play one more season?
Q. Can Anthony Mantha finish strongly?
A. A hand injury knocked Mantha out of the lineup for six weeks, and wounded his opportunity for 30 goals.
At this point, a 20-25 goal season, with the continued overall development Mantha showed in many games before the break — his passing has been noteworthy — would be a positive step forward.
Q. Will the Red Wings finish with the NHL’s worst record?
A. Much depends on what Ottawa does with forwards Mark Stone and Matt Duchene, both potential unrestricted free agents.
If the Senators trade both before Feb. 25, the Senators become, basically, a minor-league team and will easily finish with the worst record.
Los Angeles, too, will lose quite a bit.
I see the Red Wings finishing about where they are now, overall, about five spots from the bottom.
Michael Rasmussen was assigned to Grand Rapids Wednesday for a conditioning stint.
Rasmussen last played on Jan. 4 due to a nagging hamstring injury. In 41 games this season the rookie forward had six goals and seven assists with 19 penalty minutes.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, a conditioning period cannot last for more than two weeks.