Monday, September 28, 2009

2009-10 Preview: Brian Rafalski #28

Rafalski was on fire last night with 4 assists against the Penguins. OK, so it was only preseason and the penguins best players weren't out there, but if it's a glimpse of things to come, this could be his best year. We could use a "best year ever" or two this season.

Rafalski is an offensive minded defenseman who's +/- got an amazing boost thanks in large part to being Lidstrom's line mate. Not that Raf doesn't have defensive skill, it's just not his strength. This season, I would like to see Rafalski as a Norris finalist (along with Nick, of course). To accomplish this, he'll need between 15-19 goals, 50 assists and be at least +20. I think the main reason Rafalski wasn't mentioned for the Norris last season isn't because he doesn't have better numbers than Lidstrom, it's because he plays on the same line as Lidstrom. This season, I want to see Rafalski out-shine Lidstrom. Way easier said than done, but if he can (and I think he can), this is the year to do it.

2009-10 Preview: Johan Franzen #93

I was concerned that Franzen's molten hot streak in 2008 may have been a fluke and he would return to his average self the next season, but he didn't. Yay! He was second on the team in goals (34) last season and with Hossa out of the picture, he may be the best goal scorer on the team. While I hope that the rest of the team puts a great deal of emphasis on defense, I want to see Franzen light the lamp at all costs. Goals, goals and more goals from the Mule.

If Franzen has a 40G season up his sleeve, this would be the year to pull it out. 40G, 30A and a +/- of whatever is what I'm looking for from the Mule. I would also like to see more hits and less dives. He's huge, so he should be pulverizing the other team and... he's huge, so why would a little love tap from Ryan Getzlaf make him crumble to the ice like he'd been shot? (Of course, Getzlaf deserves to be in the box constantly and that weak call makes up for the blatant crap he always gets away with.)

2009-10 Preview: Derek Meech #14

Another young guy with plenty of room for improvement. Meech was -12 in just 41 games last season, and -5 in one game against Nashville. His offensive totals (2G 5A) were fine for a 25 year old defenseman, but -12 is not going to cut it.

This season, Meech has to tighten up in his own end. If he plays 60 or more games, scores one goal and ends the season at -5 or better, I would call it a good year for Meech, though I would love to see +1 or better. There's just something about that "-" sign...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sporting News: NHL Player of the Decade

No surprise here.

2009-10 Preview: Valtteri Filppula #51

How best to describe Filppula... streaky? Yeah, that's the word. I think he could score 30 goals if he were more consistent, but that hasn't happened yet. Still, how many teams out there would love to have 40 points coming from their third line?

This season could be a real money-maker for Flip. With 80 goals worth of offense gone, Filppula could get his name out there if he gets anything in the area of 25+. In the end, I'm hoping for 20 goals and 30 assists as well as a +10 or better.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

2009-10 Preview: Andreas Lilja #3

Most Wings fans hate this guy. Personally, I think he's good for the team. I'm not about to spend $150 on his jersey, but he's good in his own end. Good penalty killer. GOOD, not great. Sometimes, I think that maybe Red Wings fans are a bit spoiled. Not every player is Nick Lidstrom or Pavel Datsyuk. Now, I mentioned before that Holland had said he might move a defenseman sometime around training camp. If the choice is Lebda or Lilja, I'd take Lilja (unless he doesn't recover from his concussion), because he's better in his own end.

Lilja was +13 this past season before getting a concussion. That's great, but his 66 PIM are an issue. A few of those minutes are from fighting, but most came from little hooks and holds. This is the "New NHL" so a 'free hand' is now considered 'Holding'. Most of the other guys on the team have gotten the message.

The two stats I'll be watching the most this season will be his +/- and his PIM. +10 and 50 penalty minutes in 75 or more games will be a good season for Andreas Lilja.

2009-10 Preview: Kris Draper #33

Jack of all trades, master of none? Not exactly. Drapes is the master of whatever you need him to be the master of. Need depth scoring? He's been that guy before with 24 goals in 2003-04. Need a guy who can play shutdown-defense? Draper can do it. Kill penalties? Call Kris. Gotta win an important faceoff? Kris Draper.

This year, the only stat I'll be looking at is his +/-. He's been a combined -15 the last two seasons, so some improvement in that category is in order. At 38 and on the 3rd or 4th line, I'm hoping for +1, but even -5 will be acceptable if he continues to be the best faceoff man in the NHL.

P.S. Bring back the 'Birthday Bandit' videos!

2009-10 Preview: Nicklas Lidstrom #5

Let's be honest with ourselves... Nick could show up to all 82 games in his PJ's and sit on the bench with a bottle of Jack Daniels and he would still be a finalist for the Norris. If he played goalie, he would still be a finalist for the Norris. If he played baseball... you get the idea. He's just that good. So what do we need from Lidstrom this year?

Another 60-70 points and a +/- above 35 would be great.

Is this his last year? I hope not, but he'll be 40 in April and this is the last year of his contract. Larionov and Chelios both played extremely well after 40, though Chelly may have gone a bit far considering he was still playing hockey when most GM employees his age were full-time fishermen. Even if Nick does retire, Detroit's defensive core will be among the best in the league.

Friday, September 18, 2009

2009-10 Preview: Pavel Datsyuk #13

Keep doing your thing, Pav. Another season of 30 goals, 65 assists and a +40 rating is all we ask of you. Shouldn't be an issue for the best player in hockey, right? Assuming Pavel stays healthy, he should finish as an MVP candidate, once again. Aside from the 95 points, I want to see more hits from Datsyuk. Like when he flattened Malkin. Just as long as he stays out of the box.

Wow! Easiest preview, ever!

2009-10 Preview: Brett Lebda #22

I'm not sure if Brett Lebda is going to be a Red Wing much this year. He's definitely a good player and belongs in the NHL, but after hearing Ken Holland say they would probably 'move a defenseman' around training camp or preseason, I can't help but wonder if Brett will be the odd man out. It could easily be Meech or Lilja, but Meech is still young and could get better and Lilja is very defensive-minded, which will be key this season. I think it will come down to whether or not Lilja has fully recovered from last season's concussion.

In the event that Brett stays in Detroit, he's going to have to improve on something. Stay at home! I don't mean: 'Don't show up for the game.' Basically, stay on the blue line and stop fore-checking like you're a forward, because no matter how fast you are (pretty darn fast), we hate seeing 2 on 1 after 2 on 1 because you got caught pinching.

Brett, if you finish this season at +10, but have no goals and no assists, I'll buy your jersey and wear it all summer. Of course, a few goals wouldn't hurt, but the +10... that's required.

Brett Lebda high-sticks two players at once, a new record.

2009-10 Preview: Dan Cleary #11

I'll admit, some time during the second round against the Ducks, I was trying to send ESP messages to Mike Babcock, begging him to scratch Dan Cleary in favor of... just about anyone. Play after play, Cleary would skate into the offensive zone, then coast into the corner with his head down, get plastered up against the wall, then slowly get up as Anaheim skated off with the puck. Then he scored the series clinching goal in game 7, put a whooping on Chicago and had a respectable series in the Finals. If my ESP message had reached Babs, we could have lost in the second round, which is why I get paid $0 to write articles for friends and family, most of whom don't even like hockey. So, now that I have managed to distance myself from any credibility, here's what I think Dan needs to do this season to help the Red Wings:

As I have said in previous articles, this season needs to be all about defense and that system fits Dan Cleary, perfectly. 2007-08, when Detroit won the Presidents Trophy and the Stanley Cup by smothering their opponent with team defense, Dan Cleary scored 20 goals in 63 games. Last year, when Detroit played poor defensively, Cleary scored 14 goals in 74 games. More games, less goals. The most troubling stat, however, is his +/-. He went from +21 to EVEN.

Dear Dan Cleary,

Since Detroit lost roughly 80 goals worth of offense over the summer, your fans would greatly appreciate it if you could score 20 goals or more and have a +/- of about +20 or so. Wings fans want to see the 2008 Cleary. Please leave the 2009 version in Newfoundland.

Some Guy

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2009-10 Preview: Niklas Kronwall #55

This is the last year of Nick Lidstrom's contract and at 39 years of age, possibly his last in the league. What does that mean for the team? Someone will have to step up and be the new #1 when Nick does decide to retire. Rafalski? Yeah, he'll be there, but he's an offensive defenseman and Kronwall has the tools to be great all-around. So what we need from Kronwall this year is:

Shutdown defense in our zone and some offensive touch in theirs. Emphasis on 'some' because, again, this has to be a defensive-minded team if the Red Wings want to be successful. I think Kronner is capable of netting 10 goals and adding 35+ helpers this season. Kronwall was a +25 the year the Wings were a defensive juggernaut, but only +2 last season when the team was offensive-minded. The Wings need Kronwall to produce about 45 points this season and finish with a +/- of 15 or better. Wouldn't hurt if he played disciplined, too, but that hasn't really been an issue with him in the past. Keep 'Kronwalling' people!

Don't be surprised to see Kronwall paired up with Rafalski on the first power play unit if the score is lopsided for either team in any given game, but he'll spend most of his power play time with the second unit. I do expect to see him on the first PK unit and coach Babs will probably match him up against some teams top lines. He was amazing when Lidstrom was out against Chicago in the playoffs.

This is a big year for Kronwall. Let's hope he exceeds expectations.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2009-10 Preview: Todd Bertuzzi #44

Big Bert is back in Hockeytown. How do you feel about that? Well, most people are ticked off that he's a Red Wing again and even more are angry that he's in the NHL all together. If you're one of the 10 people on the planet who don't know what happened, click and read. Regardless of what you think of him, he's ours and he's cheap. Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk hockey:

Todd Bertuzzi can score goals. At least, he used to be able to score goals. He really hasn't been the same since the incident, but 15-25 goals is above average. After losing 80 goals worth of offense over the summer, the Wings needed help scoring and because of the salary cap, Bertuzzi got a job. All I'm looking for from Bert is 20 goals and 30 helpers. I'll be happy with 15 because of his low salary, but we need him to score 20. What I don't want to see is dumb penalties. This is the NHL so we can expect plenty of phantom hooks and holds, but I want to rip my hair out when someone retaliates and makes my team shorthanded.

I see him on the third line with Filppula and Leino which could make that line pretty impressive if Bertuzzi plays physical enough and he'll probably get some time on the second unit of the power play, but with all the depth Detroit has, he'll probably be rotated in and out to give power play time to younger players. At least, that's what I would do...

2009-10 Preview: Jonathan Ericsson #52

I knew Ericsson was going to be good, but I didn't expect him to be so good, so soon. He's only 25 now, so I see him getting even better in a couple of years. We're not worried about what happens in a couple of years, however. This is a preview of this coming season, so lets get to it:

Ericsson showed off some of his offensive skills during the playoffs, but his strength is his defense and his positioning. With Lidstrom nearing the end of his career, I would love to see Ericsson on the power play from time to time as well as being paired with a veteran. Lidstrom will most likely stay paired up with Rafalski and Kronwall and Stuart are a great match, which leaves Lebda or Lilja. Earlier in the summer, Holland said that he would most likely move a defenseman around training camp or preseason and based on the Wings past decisions on who they keep and who they let go (Kept Chelios and let go Quincy) I wouldn't be surprised if Lebda is job hunting October 1st.

Despite his offensive skills, I don't see him getting more than 5 goals this year, mainly because he'll spend the majority of his time as the 5-6 defenseman. Maybe 8 if he gets the power play minutes I'm hoping for. Add in about 10-15 helpers and a +/- rating of 5 or better and it's a good year for Ericsson.

2009-10 Preview: Justin Abdelkader #8

With training camp and the preseason just around the corner, it's about time I give my two cents on who needs to do what for this team to contend for the Cup. I'll be reviewing in alphabetical order and alternating between forwards and defensemen. I'm hoping to be done by the time the regular season starts, but we'll see. Anyways, here's the first:

Abdelkader (spell-check just had a heart attack.) Ab... dull... kay... dur, or just say apple-gator and Wings fans will know who you're talking about.

Justin Abdelkader got quite a bit of attention last year when he scored two goals in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals, but it's important to remember that he wasn't drafted to light the lamp. If Abby gets 15 goals this year, that's great, but I'm expecting between 5-10 goals. Abby's value to the team will be based on his +/- rating. A rating of +10 would mean he's had an amazing season, but I'm guessing he'll break even.

Team success this season will depend on defense. The 4-3 wins have to be a thing of the past if the Wings are going to win the Central Division. We're looking at 3-2 and 2-1 games this year and that's where a guy like Abdelkader comes in handy. Think D first and create offense from turnovers and power play chances.

More to come soon and, as always, go Wings!

Best Corn Field on the Planet

Thought I'd share this article and picture I found on the Red Wings website. Hockey season is coming fast!