Red Wings preview: Rankings, predictions, playoff chances, more

Following the retirement of Henrik Zetterberg, Dylan Larkin will lead the movement for Detroit. 

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we’re running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

As the Detroit Red Wings continue the process of turning over the roster, how seriously will they contend for a playoff spot?


How they finished in 2017-18: 30-39-13 (72 points), finished 27th in NHL, fourth in the Atlantic Division

The Red Wings moved into Little Caesars Arena but remained in purgatory as a franchise, stuck between a youth movement and a salary-cap strapping collection of long-term contracts. They drafted explosive winger Filip Zadina sixth overall but bid farewell to Henrik Zetterberg, who called it a career with a back injury (just as his base salary dropped by $3.65 million).

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 75.5

Best-case scenario: This collection of forwards skates opponents out of the building, vastly improving the team’s 2.59 goals-per-game average from 2017-18.

Worst-case scenario: Dylan Larkin had a breakout season and signed a long-term contract but can’t separate himself as the superstar this team needs to build around. Top 2018 draft pick Zadina spends most of the season in the AHL, which means there’s one fewer player for fans to be excited about. At the trade deadline, nobody wants to take a Tomas Tatar-like contract, so GM Ken Holland is still saddled with too many bad deals.

Forward overview: Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Michael Rasmussen, Evgeny Svechnikov … all of these players can skate and score, and all of them are 24 years old or younger. (That’s not even mentioning Zadina, who’ll likely start in the AHL this season.) They’ll mix in with veterans Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader and everyone’s favorite enigma, Thomas Vanek. NHL rank: 27th

Defense overview: Mike Green signed a two-year deal to stay in Detroit after redefining his career, but he is fighting a viral infection to start the season. This is a veteran blue line — Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson, Danny DeKeyser, Niklas Kronwall — that might be a little overripe for a league built on youth and speed. NHL rank: 30th

Goalie overview: Jimmy Howard is back for his 12th season in Detroit, joined by free-agent signing Jonathan Bernier. If the Wings get average netminding from this pair, they’ll be happy. NHL rank: 27th

Special teams: The Red Wings were 24th in the NHL on the power play last season, at 17.5 percent, and Zetterberg takes 18 PP points into retirement. The penalty kill was 23rd, at 77.5 percent in 258 times short-handed.

Pipeline overview: A strong 2018 draft that saw Zadina, Joseph Veleno and Jonatan Berggren fall into Detroit’s lap bolstered a prospect core that has taken dramatic steps forward in recent years. Michael Rasmussen is another forward the club can be excited about, while defenseman Filip Hronek might be ready to take the next step. This system is starting to look more like that of a team committed to rebuilding. Read more — Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: Howard is 34, and his ratios took a hit last season, with him unable to follow up a 2016-17 campaign that offered a glimmer of hope. He is in the last year of his contract and likely on his way to becoming a veteran backup sooner than later. Bernier, on the other hand, has offered a tantalizing taste of high-ceiling goaltending as an injury replacement for two consecutive seasons. In short stints filling in for the Colorado Avalanche last season and the Anaheim Ducks the season prior, Bernier put in a body of work among the best in the NHL for short windows. I’ll have plenty of shares of him as a G3 or G4 for fantasy in later rounds and deeper leagues. Read more — Sean Allen

Coach on the hot seat? Jeff Blashill enters his fourth season as head coach having missed the playoffs the past two years. But in overseeing the burgeoning youth movement in Detroit, one assumes he’s safe for a bit.

Bold prediction: After a year of speculation that Steve Yzerman will rejoin the Red Wings as general manager, he returns to the NHL … to run the expansion Seattle Totems.

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