It’s tough to play in a town where anything short of a Stanley Cup Finals appearance is considered a failure, but that’s a responsibility the Detroit Red Wings have earned themselves with their play over the last decade or so. The fact that the Wings were even in the playoffs was a testament to their fortitude, as they managed to finish 5th despite losing over 300 man games to injuries to prime players like Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, Daniel Cleary and Niklas Kronwall. A second round exit at the hands of the San Jose Sharks must have been an unfamiliar sight to a team that had won the Conference for two straight years and has won it six times since 1993. They truly are the class of the West, and any bid for the Stanley Cup will most likely have to run through Hockeytown first.
*Offense:’ If Valtteri Filppula can bounce back and fill the role of 2nd line center, one of the most dangerous tandems in hockey will be reunited and unleashed on the league again this season. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg work better together than any two players in the league except the Sedin twins, and whoever ends up on their wing will put up big numbers by default. A third line with Mike Modano centering Daniel Cleary and Jiri Hudler could be lethal if Modano still has some gas in the tank. Throw in the three monsters Franzen, Holmstrom and Bertuzzi and you see how complete of an offense the Red Wings boast.Grade: ADefense:The ageless Nicklas Lidstrom will be back for at least one more season, and you can bet he’d like nothing more than to leave with a 5th Cup ring to complete his fist of hardware won with the Wings. While the defense is aging, with half the expected starters over the age of 35, this is a veteran group that will be prepared for anything. Barring another injury-laden season, the Wings will again be among the most technically sound defensive teams around, something they’ve become famous for. Special teams are nothing to worry about for this group either, as there are multiple players who can fill in on any role.Grade: B+’'’Goaltending:’’’ A fantastic young goalie who stood out in the Central Division last season, Howard looks to be a stud in Detroit. A 2.29 GAA behind a team that doesn’t struggle to win games in the first place will give him the chance to put up some monster win totals if he can maintain a consistent level of play all season. Chris Osgood is still in town as the backup, and while you’d have to wonder if he’d still have it when the time came, he’s been good enough for this Red Wings’ club for years now. No reason to think that would change now.Grade: A-’'’Key Losses:’’’ Andreas Lilja, Brett Lebda*Key Additions:’ Rusla Salei, Mike Modano