Detroit – The preseason solved many issues for the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings, but they will still open the regular season Saturday night with some big unanswered questions.
We’ll tackle 1 of them here.
►1. Will the Red Wings contend for the playoffs?
Simply put, when you stack this roster against the majority of teams in the Eastern Conference, the Red Wings are lacking. There isn’t enough talent to compete consistently.
Maybe there’s a chance to be a touch better than last season (74 points) – maybe. But even that is doubtful because of the lack of depth.
If there are injuries to any key players (Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou are bothered with ailments currently) for any length of time, this could really get ugly.
Playoffs? No. That’s way too much to expect right now with this roster.
►2. Will Red Wings fans see Evgeny Svechnikov, Michael Rasmussen, Moritz Seider, Joe Veleno or Filip Zadina this season?
For sure if they travel to Grand Rapids. Let’s face it, the Griffins could be more interesting than the Wings this season.
It’s not every season you have so many first-round picks from one organization playing on the same team.
And because of the importance they have in this organization going forward, their development is going to be monitored closely.
There is an excellent chance most of those players will see some time in the NHL this season, to further their development, or due to injuries on the Wings’ roster.
Maybe just not as much time in the NHL as some fans would like.
►3. Can the No. 1 line of Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha be dominant?
They’ll be good, but to expect them to be as formidable as they were the final month of last season would be doubtful.
This line got on a dominant roll and took advantage of favorable matchups to pile on points.
This has the potential to be a difficult line to contend with, but they still have plenty to prove, to show they can consistently be an offensive force, and do it against a variety of teams and other top lines.
►4. Will Dylan Larkin be an 80- or even 90-point player?
Larkin reached a career-high 32 goals and 73 points last season, as he took a major step toward becoming one of the better two-way centers in the NHL. His defensive work was significantly better.
There’s a good chance for 80, though even that would taking another big step upward. Ninety, on this roster, doesn’t seem possible.
Points aside, it will be interesting to see how Larkin provides leadership during a season that very well may go without another visit to the playoffs – something that would surely disappoint him.
►5. Who will provide secondary scoring?
That is one of the reasons this could be another dreary season.
After Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha – and Andreas Athansiou on the second line – there aren’t many proven NHL point-producers.
Even with Athanasiou, can Taro Hirose and Valterri Filppula or Frans Nielsen, be on a dependable, imposing second line?
When you look at this roster, lack of offense is a big red flag.
►6. Is Anthony Mantha finally going to have a 30-goal season?
Mantha appeared to be on his way to that milestone last season but a month-long stay on the injured list derailed that.
If Mantha can stay healthy – and that’s been a nagging problem in his short career – and stays motivated and consistent, and plays with Larkin the majority of the season, you have to think, yes.
All signs point to Mantha having a career-best season.
►7. Who is primed for a breakthrough season?
How about Dennis Cholowski?
The fact Cholowski worked his way onto the opening night roster, given the fact he was penciled to be headed back to Grand Rapids at the start of camp, is a credit to his work ethic over the summer and overall development.
His defensive work has gotten better, and he’s always looked comfortable on the power play. Not being thrown into an impossible situation, as he was at the start last season, Cholowski should have a good opportunity to succeed this season.
►8. Who is Adam Erne?
There weren’t major headlines when the Wings acquired Erne in a trade with Tampa late in the summer, but this could turn out to be a shrewd acquisition.
Erne looked like an effective net-front presence during the preseason. He also looked like an agitator – an ingredient this Wings’ lineup lacks.
►9. Will Jimmy Howard be traded this season?
It seems likely.
Injuries are unpredictable and always a factor at the trade deadlines, but there are a few teams around the NHL, maybe a few more than usual, that have shaky goaltending situations.
Howard’s preference is to stay with the organization. How prospect Filip Larsson looks in Grand Rapids during the first half of the season could also be a factor.
►10. The Red Wings had 79, 73 and 74 points the last three seasons while missing the playoffs. How many will they have this season?
They’ll slide a few more points from last season’s 74 and finish with 71.