Part 16 in my "State of the Franchise" series.
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
20. Tampa Bay
22. Los Angeles
25. New Jersey
30. San Jose
#15: Detroit Red Wings
Top Fws: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula
Top Ds: Niklas Kronwall, Ian White
Top G: Jimmy Howard
Top 3 Under-23s:
Top 5 Prospects
1. D Brendan Smith (23)
2. F Gustav Nyquist (22)
3. F Calle Jarnkrok (20)
4. F Tomas Tatar (21)
5. F Tomas Jurco (19)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: B
The Wings boast a group of highly skilled and versatile forwards. Datsyuk and Zetterberg provide a real strong one-two punch up the middle, and they're flanked by the likes of Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, and Dan Cleary. Jimmy Howard is at the forefront of their defense; after what seems like forever, he's developed into a bona fide starting goalie.
The defense, an area of strength not so long ago, now looks pretty thin. The Wings, who've lost Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart, and Nicklas Lidstrom from the core of their championship defense, are relying on a top 6 of Kronwall, White, Kyle Quincey, star rookie Brendan Smith, Jonathan Ericsson, and Jakub Kindl. Not the most inspiring of groups; Quincey has been dogged by consistency issues, Kindl has been disappointing in his professional career to date, Ericsson took a step back in his play last year and Smith is still learning the NHL game.
The Detroit Red Wings have one of the deepest groups of forward prospects, if not THE deepest, in the league. With names like Tatar, Nyquist, Pulkkinen, Jurco, Jarnkrok and Frk, the Wings can take their time and develop these prospects to their full potential. Smith leads a decent group of defenders in Detroit, with Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, and Adam Almqvist all figuring to be a part of future Red Wings incarnations.
If there's a single area of concern, it's that the goaltending lacks a top tier prospect, although there is some depth with Petr Mrazek, Jake Paterson, Jordan Pearce and Thomas McCollum. The defense and center positions aren't quite as stacked with strong prospects as the wing position, although as a whole the depth is just fine. Some center prospects like Landon Ferraro have tailed off and that has left Jarnkrok as the only skilled center in the system.
The Red Wings are entering uncharted territory. For years, the Wings were blessed with the likes of leaders and star players such as Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Dominik Hasek, Vyacheslav Fetisov, Igor Larianov, and Nicklas Lidstrom. That era officially came to an end after Lidstrom's retirement, and that has left the Wings with one of the largest holes they've ever had to fill in the history of their franchise. With him, the Wings were always capable to being a contending team, but that security blanket is gone.
The Wings aren't trying to make up for that loss without some key assets, however. The team, as per usual, has built a prosperous farm system full of mid-to-late round picks. They also have something they haven't had in a long time; plenty of cap space. While free agency hasn't worked out for them yet, the Wings are capable of making moves to shore up their team, and the prospects that will be making the jump to the NHL in the near future will be NHL-ripe and ready to contribute.
The Wings will likely find themselves in an unusual situation next year: that of a bubble team among the group of 6 or 7 in the playoff dogfight. While it may take a bit of time for the Wings to build up their team into a powerhouse again, the future looks promising, if somewhat foggy.