The Detroit News offered up some insight today into what sports writers from around the league think about the Detroit Red Wings and their chances coming into the new season. The claims were mostly positive with many wondering how the Wings continue to thrive and show such incredible consistency. The retractors, however, continued to use the same line that the Wings have been dealing with for years.
They are too old.
Most of the writers agreed that the Wings are definitely a playoff contender, although there were mixed feelings whether the Wings or the Blackhawks would lead the Central division this year. But for three out of nine writers, age was a significant concern while advanced age was mentioned by six of the nine writers.
Yes, the Wings are getting older. But consider the following:
- Sure, Nicklas Lidstrom is 41 years old, which is almost ancient in hockey years, but he is also coming off of a bounce-back, Norris Trophy-winning season and shows no signs of slowing down. Even in a off-year Lidstrom is still better than a vast majority of NHL defenseman. Injuries have never been much of a concern thanks to a smart style of play that relies on good positioning and solid stick work. Age certainly isn’t a concern for the mighty Nick Lidstrom.
- At 36-years-old, Todd Bertuzzi certainly isn’t the offensive threat he once was with the Vancouver Canucks, but he has been incredibly consistent the last several years – especially with the Wings. Bertuzzi chipped in 45 points last season, one better than his 44 the season before. Sure, the Wings would love a 20-goal, 50-point season from Bertuzzi, but he knows his role as a secondary scorer and he does it well. Besides, do moves like this indicate that Bertuzzi shows any signs of slowing down?
- Ty Conklin was brought on in the off-season to back up Jimmy Howard when Chris Osgood decided to retire. After a sour season last year with St. Louis, Conklin, 35, re-signed with the Red Wings. A better defense in front of Conklin and more offensive support should help bring his numbers back down this year.
The only other player on the Wings’ roster this season over the age of 35 is Tomas Holmstrom. While Holmstrom has shown signs of slowing down in recent years, probably mostly thanks to the abuse he takes in front of the net on a nightly basis, it appears as if Holmstrom will be used a bit more sparingly this season with other players such as Jiri Hudler and Patrick Eaves rotating in on the top line alongside Pavel Datsyuk.
Also consider the fact that much of the Wings’ “age” retired this offseason with Kris Draper (40) and Chris Osgood (38) hanging up the skates. Defenseman Brian Rafalski (38) also retired and was replaced on the blue line by 27-year-old defenseman Ian White.
The truth is that the Wings will actually look much younger this season with players like Eaves, Drew Miller, Darren Helm (pictured), Justin Abdelkader, Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak all slotted to play. None of those players are older than 28.
In an ironic twist, the sports writer from Nashville at least went outside the box and cited that the Wings failed to make any significant offseason improvements. Kettle. Black. Done.
In fact, outside of the additions of Commodore, White and Conklin, the Wings didn’t make any significant additions – not because they didn’t want to, but because the talent wasn’t available this summer. Remember that the Wings are roughly $5 million under the salary cap. That gives them more than enough space to address any legitimate concerns at the trade deadline and make them serious contenders for the Stanley Cup.
This season will be the first in a long time to feature a significant youth movement on the Red Wings’ roster with many of the younger players expected to take on more significant roles. Even 30-year-old Niklas Kronwall is expected to take over more responsibility from the ageless Nicklas Lidstrom. And Valtteri Filppula could be in line for a breakout season (finally) after a big preseason with six points in four games. With younger players taking on more responsibilities and veterans still performing at high levels, it’s difficult to take seriously the argument that the Wings are too old to win.