THE BOTTOM LINE
By Jim Kelley, Special to ESPN.com
The Red Wings will be written off in a lot of places, but not here. They might be old, but they have young talent coming into the lineup. And with a new head coach and Steve Yzerman back for another season, they have motivation to excel.
Offense: The Wings are strong up the middle with the likes of Robert Lang, Pavel Datsyuk and Kris Draper. They also have depth on the wings with the aging but likely still effective Brendan Shanahan, Yzerman and the youthful Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom. The defense is still offensively potent with Nicklas Lidstrom and Mathieu Schneider.
Defense: Not as formidable as in the past, but heady with 42-year-old Chris Chelios back for another season and the rugged Jiri Fischer ready to take over as a top-four physical presence.
Goaltending: The cap hurt the Red Wings. They were quickly out of the Nikolai Khabibulin derby, didn't want Curtis Joseph anymore and would like to pummel Dominik Hasek. Chris Osgood helped them win a Cup in 1998 and he's back for another go, but he's got a groin problem, is not a fan favorite and might be in a battle with Manny Legace for the No. 1 spot.
WHERE THEY'LL FINISH
YES The Red Wings know how to win and still have enough horses to do it.
BUT They don't have the depth of the past. Their old players are too old and their goaltending isn't good enough to play the up-tempo game they love over an entire season.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Young defenseman Niklas Kronwall is the latest in a string of successes from the draft room. He was the AHL's top defenseman last season and will need to make the jump to the NHL for the Wings to stay near the top.
Mike Babcock, a taskmaster with a reputation for defense, comes over from Anaheim to replace Dave Lewis and the others left from the Scott Bowman era. Babcock is driven, but he'll need to win over team leaders to be effective, and that's a challenge.
BEST OFFSEASON MOVE --> KEEPING TALENT
Luring center Pavel Datsyuk back after he had signed to play with Avangard Omsk of the Russian SuperLeague. He's a gifted playmaker.
WORST OFFSEASON MOVE --> CRUNCHED BY CAP
Not re-signing defenseman Derian Hatcher (left) and forwards Darren McCarty and Ray Whitney. Necessary for cap purposes, but their grit was not creatively replaced.
Robert Lang, C
A late acquisition from the Capitals in 2003-04, Lang led the team with 30 goals and 49 assists. Pavel Datsyuk and Brett Hull were second overall with 68 points.
Manny Legace, G
Legace and CuJo split duties, but Legace edged in the stats with a 23-10-5 record, 2.12 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.
“He's coming back. We certainly feel like we've won the lottery.”
— Wings GM Ken Holland on Pavel Datsyuk's return.