Detroit — The NFL season began for real over the weekend, so you know hockey can’t be far behind.
The Red Wings open training camp later this week: physicals Thursday, followed by first on-ice workout the next day, and the first exhibition game — believe it or not — is Sept. 17 against Chicago.
For the Wings to prove numerous analysts who are predicting another playoff-less season wrong, there will need to be some big individual seasons.
There are many Wings who fall into that category.
Here are five who are capable of rebound seasons in 2019-20:
After enduring his worst professional season, Abdelkader has nowhere to go but up.
Abdelkader only had 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 71 games, with a minus-14 rating. Whether statistically or from a physical standpoint, Abdelkader simply had little impact last season.
Now 32, and with younger forwards being moved into the lineup, it’s fair to wonder whether Abdelkader can rebound sufficiently.
But Abdelkader said last month he’s worked on his speed and quickness this summer, attempting to adjust to today’s ever-increasingly fast game. There appears determination on Abdelkader’s part to succeed in whatever role being presented him.
The Wings need Abdelkader to return to at least a 10- to 15-goal form.
With Abdelkader’s seven-year contract with a $4.25 million salary cap hit not ending until after the 2022-23 season, there’s a long way to the finish line.
The Wings signed Bernier as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018 to alleviate the heavy workload of Jimmy Howard.
But Bernier simply didn’t provide the consistent goaltending the Wings expected, or need.
Bernier had an 9-18-5 record, with a 3.16 goals-against average and .904 save percentage. The goals-against and save percentages were career-worst marks.
Now in his second season with the Wings, and seemingly being more comfortable in his surroundings and with teammates, Bernier should be poised for better results.
With a busy schedule early, Bernier will get plenty of work, and plenty of chances, to get off to a good start — something that didn’t happen last year.
Green was playing some of the best all-around hockey of his four years with the Wings before a foot injury and a virus — which slowed Green in training camp — forced him out of the lineup.
Green only wound up playing 43 games, with 26 points (five goals, 21 assists) and a minus-1 rating.
All indications heading into training camp are Green is healthy and will be ready to take part. Green remains one of the Wings’ best offensive defensemen, particularly dangerous on the power play.
In the final year of his contract, making $5.3 million this season, Green could prove to be a valuable trade chip at the deadline if he’s playing effectively.
Nielsen had 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) in 72 games last season, with a minus-7 rating.
Now 35, Nielsen is probably best suited to a third-line role. But it appears Nielsen could be slotted to be the second-line center this season, possibly playing with Andreas Athanasiou on one of his wings.
If that’s the way it shakes out, Nielsen has a big opportunity to improve on his offensive numbers. Given his instincts and passing ability, there’s reason to believe Nielsen can still be a 40- to 50-point producer, while playing steady defense.
Last year’s first-round pick is on this list mainly because of the large upside that likely still exists for Zadina.
After not making the Wings out of camp, Zadina had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 59 games with Grand Rapids, with a minus-17 rating (he had one assist in five playoff games, with minus-3).
Zadina had three points (one goal, two assists) in nine games with the Wings, and a minus-5.
At age 19, Zadina went through a professional baptism to be sure, learning about the jump from junior hockey to the pro level.
Given his talent, and another year adjusting to the pro game, Zadina should improve his offensive numbers this season.
Now, whether that’ll be in Detroit the entire season remains to be seen. It wouldn’t be shocking, giving the Wings’ depth at the wings, to see Zadina begin the season again in Grand Rapids.
But Zadina should rebound this season, putting up larger offensive numbers in his second pro season.