Detroit Red Wings Who Must Prove Themselves Early in 2014-15 Season
The Detroit Red Wings' 2014-15 season keys on the ability of the players to prove the media, critics and fans wrong for a whole season.
After a lackluster 2013-14 season that saw key players Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg injured, the Red Wings had to fight to get into the playoffs. The Wings finished seventh in the NHL in games lost to team-reported injuries last season, and second in team-reported man games lost, per Man Games Lost.
But the Red Wings will need more than a healthy lineup to contend for a Stanley Cup again this season.
Here are five players who need to prove themselves early in the 2014-15 season.
As possibly the biggest disappointment in the Red Wings' 2013-14 season, Stephen Weiss needs to find his game early in the 2014-15 season.
Weiss has never put up more than 61 points in a season, but he did have 42 points or more in six straight seasons before the his lockout-shortened season in Florida.
But the Red Wings don't need Weiss' best effort, just something better than last season. Anything is better than the mere four points that he put up in 26 games last season, as he was often injured and eventually shut down in mid-December.
According to Ansar Khan of MLive.com, Weiss should be "ready to roll in September" for training camp. That is great news for fans and management alike, but the proof that Weiss is fully back to normal will still have to come from his ability to put up points and contribute on a semi-regular basis offensively.
Tomas Jurco will need to fight for a roster spot this season.
Not that Jurco doesn't have the tools to make the roster this season—he does—but Jurco is the only Red Wings player listed on Cap Geek who played more than can be assigned to the AHL without clearing waivers.
This is due to Jurco still being in the last year of his entry-level contract.
If the Red Wings end up signing Daniel Alfredsson later this month, Jurco would have to make an extremely strong case to crack the opening-night roster.
His battle, then, to make the roster, would start in training camp. To say that Jurco needs to "prove" himself early in the season would be very true, considering his NHL season might be put on hold before it ever starts.
Red Wings fans are no doubt thinking of Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist of last season in this instance. Both players were sent down and called up later in the season due to injuries to other players.
This could very well be the case with Jurco as well if he doesn't prove himself in the preseason.
While Daniel Cleary may have had more points than Weiss last season, he put up eight points in 52 games, or the same point-per-game average as Weiss.
Cleary, like Weiss, was also injured last season. His time in Detroit looked to be limited, but he was re-signed to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million per Cap Geek. Via Twitter, Cap Geek also reported that Cleary would earn an additional $1 million if he played in 10 games this season.
To say that the Newfoundland native is under pressure to prove himself early in the season would be an understatement.
Last season, Cleary's signing late in September took away a roster spot from either Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar. Both players went on to lead the Red Wings in goals last season, with 28 and 19 respectively.
This season, Detroit's signing of Cleary not only takes away $2.5 million off of the cap hit (if Cleary plays 10 games), but it also could take away a roster spot to potentially re-sign Daniel Alfredsson. Alfredsson is not getting any younger, but still managed to lead a depleted Red Wings lineup in points last season with 49.
Cleary, unlike Stephen Weiss, will likely be under the most scrutiny from fans, for the sole reason that he is taking up a roster spot, and not expected to be a top-six contributor in doing so.
Pavel Datsyuk will make $10 million this year, per Cap Geek. While Datsyuk is well-deserving of that kind of money, he still needs to have a hot start for the Detroit Red Wings to have any chance at making waves this season.
Over the past decade, Datsyuk has been one of the key components of the Red Wings offense. His offense will need to be on full display once again early in the season so that the Wings don't fall behind in the standings.
It has been a struggle and a battle (to say the least) for Detroit to make the playoffs over the past two seasons, and Datsyuk's prolonged absence last season almost cost it a playoff spot.
Datsyuk has nothing to "prove" to himself, per se. But Datsyuk does have the burden of proving that the Detroit Red Wings are still a contender for not only a playoff spot, but that they're a darkhorse Stanley Cup contender as well.
It will be essential that Datsyuk get off to a fast start in 2014-15 if the Wings have any shot of being in the conversation come playoff time in 2015.
When Johan Franzen is on fire, he is one of the most valuable players in Detroit.
When Franzen goes cold though, it is another story completely. Franzen started last season with just five points in the first 13 games that he played.
While "The Mule" bounced back to put up 41 points in 54 games, his absence from the score sheet is more noticeable than other players'. This is because of his size and his previous scoring output in Detroit playoff runs in 2008 and 2009 when Franzen put up 41 points in 39 games.
Because he is a top-six forward, The Mule needs to prove himself and be producing on a more regular basis, as Detroit was without scoring for the majority of October and November with the exception of Datsyuk and Zetterberg's line.
If Franzen can get off to a fast start to the season, it will greatly alleviate the pressure on Datsyuk and Zetterberg's line to put up offense on a game-by-game basis.