This year, this time around, this off-season, feels a lot different. It feels like we did the right things and most of them were accomplished swiftly on day one. But what really feels good is how exciting it feels again to have the season start. That itch is back. The anticipation and the dreaded wait that comes with it. Can…the…summer…be…over…already!?
The same feeling you have as a kid about the summer, right now I feel the same away about the start of the NHL season. I cannot wait to see my Detroit Red Wings skate out and play some games – in the Eastern Conference.
This exact feeling of exctiment, passion, and impatience is what was missing from last year’s off-season, likely the result of a dissapoitning loss to the Predators and another early exit. While that was hard enough to swallow we also were hit with a huge bombshell that was Nicklas Lidström’s retirement. We always had a feeling it would come sooner or later, but it really did come all too soon.
This was not all bad news as the Detroit Red Wings failed to sign two of the markets biggest free agents that summer, some may argue for the good of the future, but it was still no less heartbreaking. The uncertainty of what was to become of Detroit’s defense was very alarming as well. We did not know what kind of shape this team was going to be in and with people doubting Jimmy Howard’s abilities, many turned out to predict the Wings not making the playoffs.
It was not a great time to be a Red Wings fan, something we weren’t accustomed to, and some fans even offered the suggestion to trade Datsyuk before the trade deadline as rumors about him going to Russia started floating around.
What went from bad to worse was the addition of the entire lockout situation.
Last summer was one of the worst summers in recent years for the Wings fans. We are very spoiled with our fair share of parades, big FA’s signings, a fantastic rookie breaking out at a ripe age of 25, and in general just having a very positive outlook towards the next season. Last summer was the complete opposite of this, but this year it has all changed or has gone back to normal!
The 2013 playoffs were fantastic, even with the loss, and so far we’ve had a fantastic off-season to boot.
The playoffs showed us that we have a very decent defense, even if it was a bit green at times. We had a fantastic signing in Danny DeKeyser, who was exceptional after joining Detroit. Danny was not the only young player showing that he belongs as a regular next season. We learned that Gustav Nyquist should absolutely play in the NHL next year. Jakub Kindl has a wicked shot and a lot of confidence, Brendan Smith had solid work, Cory Emmerton made a huge case for a roster spot this year, Joakim Andersson has also created a real log jam as far as forwards are concerned for the Wings this summer, and Jonathan Ericsson has proved that he can be a top two D-pairing.
We literally saw some of these kids grow up in front of our eyes.
The exciting part does not end there. We all love Datsyuk, even more so now that he is back for another 4 years in the Wings sweater. This was huge news for Wings-nation as it gave us some serenity regarding the franchise’s future.
As July 5th came around, things only got better. Remember last year when people started to discuss how Detroit is no longer the place for UFAs to go to if they want to win the cup and play on a top tier contender? Well, you can put those rumors to bed and welcome Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson to the historic Detroit Red Wings.
Both players are big time signings and help fill the holes in their own special way. There was a slight backlash at Alfredsson deciding to leave the one team he spent his career with, the Ottawa Senators, but once the smoke settles the Red Wings are left with a premier winger who is clutch, competitive, and is another Swede.
I am even more excited to see Stephen Weiss play for the Wings. The fact is, this guy was counted on to score 20 goals on a yearly basis, and that was playing on a slightly less talented Florida Panthers team that struggled to score goals. You can argue that is something Valteri Filppula could not do, and while he was a great two-way center, his offense just might not up to par given his current contract. We can even take a look at their Corsi Rel QoC scores the last time both players played over 80 games 2011-2012 season. Valtteri Filppula has a Corsi Rel QoC 1.270 compared to Stephen Weiss’ Corsi Rel QoC .869 (Average Relative Corsi of opposing players, weighted by head-to-head ice time.) This is also understandable as one played on a fairly top-end team and the other one played on a less than stellar team. Another very interesting note is that both players had very similar shooting percentage that dipped into the 9% range during the same two years, 07-08 and 08-09.
Overall, Detroit upgraded even though Weiss is a bit older and does come at a slightly cheaper price. When you are a team like the Wings who spend every year to the brim, it helps to save every bit of cash.
So, while the off-season work is not finished for Kenny Holland, he sure did deliver so far. He did not only deliver an optimism back into the fan base, but he has delivered a very good team that is bound to continue to get better.
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