Unfortunately, it has been looking more and more like there will be a lockout come midnight tomorrow. However, if the NHL and NHLPA miraculously grow up within the next day-and-a-half and realize that fans are at least somewhat important, the Detroit Red Wings will be a very interesting team to watch.
Today, Detroit sent down 19 players to their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. Fans were met with an initial shock upon seeing the names that were sent down, as they included Damian Brunner, Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar.
The list also included some top prospects in Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco, who weren't expected to crack the NHL roster yet.
Looking at the list at first, people were likely thinking that it could be an ominous sign of a lockout with so many talented players going to the AHL. Or it could mean something entirely different.
In fact, if you take away these names from the Red Wings' lineup, they still have a very solid roster. The lines may look somewhat like this:
Valtteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Danny Cleary
Todd Bertuzzi-Pavel Datsyuk-Johan Franzen
Justin Abdelkader-Darren Helm-Mikael Samuelsson
Jordin Tootoo-Cory Emmerton-Jan Mursak
Niklas Kronwall-Kyle Quincey
Carlo Colaiacovo-Ian White
Jonathan Ericsson-Jakub Kindl
Drew Miller and possibly Patrick Eaves would both be available to rotate in and out of the lineup with probably Tootoo, Emmerton or Mursak.
This tells Detroit fans that they have no reason to worry. The Red Wings lost both Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman in the summer of 2006 and went on to get the first seed and make it to the Western Conference finals in 2007, win the Presidents' Trophy and Stanley Cup in 2008 and make it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2009.
The loss of Lidstrom leaves a major hole in the lineup, but it shouldn't be the difference between a playoff team and a non-playoff team. Ken Holland and Mike Babcock are among the best in the business, and Detroit has one of the deepest programs in the NHL. The loss of Brad Stuart was made up by the addition of Carlo Colaiacovo, who, if healthy, could be a very good contributor; and the loss of Jiri Hudler was made up by the signings of Mikael Samuelsson and Damian Brunner. The Jordin Tootoo signing also adds the gritty agitator that the Wings have been looking for for years.
This Red Wings team should be fine if there is a season in 2012-2013. They were the top team in the NHL in mid-February before hitting a slump at the worst time of the season last year. Also, despite getting somewhat embarrassed by Nashville in the first round, an argument could definitely be made that Detroit out-chanced and outplayed the Predators throughout most of the series.
The Central Division will be as tight as ever, but you can still expect Detroit to be battling for the title throughout the year. They always find a way.
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