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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

OGA SPR: The Detroit Red Wings - by Big Tex

Welcome to the 11th installment in On Goal Analysis' ongoing series of Season Preview Reports. Today, we examine a team which shall henceforth be known as the "2008-09 Defending Stanley Cup Runners-Up" (phrase Copyright 2009, OGA Enterprises, LLC. All rights reserved. Patent pending. Void where prohibited. Shake well before using. Refrigerate after opening. Keep away from children or pets.)

Last Season versus the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC): The Detroit Red Wings were Chasing Stanley as of 29 October, the third team called IN the playoffs by OGA in 2008-09. Detroit got off to their characteristic strong start, compiling a record of 14-2-4 through their first twenty games (so much for the so-called “Stanley Cup Hangover”). The Winged Wheel kept rolling, with a 4-4-2 record in Games 41-50 the only hiccup…until the homestretch, that is: Detroit stumbled across the finish line, going 5-6-1 in Games 71-82 and entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs with, well…what’s the opposite of ‘momentum’? Nonetheless, they finished the regular season at 5.6 vs. the PQC, good for 2nd in the Western Conference.

Post Lockout Average versus the PQC: In their first three post-Lockout campaigns, the Red Wings averaged 5.93 vs. the PQC, with a high of 6.2 in 2005-06, a low of 5.65 the following season, and rising again to 5.95 in 2007-08. Last season, Detroit finished at a four-year low of 5.6 vs. the Playoff Qualifying Curve, but still managed to make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals. In each of the last four campaigns, the Red Wings have been one of the first teams called Chasing Stanley by OGA. It’s very difficult to say this of a team which has won at least 50 games in each of the last four seasons, but…appearances in the last two Stanley Cup Finals notwithstanding, the Red Wings look to be trending downward. This trend is evidenced by their ‘peak-and-valley’ performance vs. the PQC over the past four seasons (6.2-5.65-5.95-5.6), in which both the highs and lows are gradually getting lower. Could this be the beginning of the end of an era in Detroit?

How does Detroit look heading into the 2009-10 season?

Team Play: ISSUE – Filling in the blanks. The Wings enter the 2009-10 campaign facing several issues, of which the most critical is filling the holes left in the lineup by departing players. Gone are: Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Kopecky (and let us not forget Chris Chelios, who has finally taken his rightful place in the Smithsonian). Between them, they accounted for 88 of Detroit’s 295 goals last season (that’s 29.8%, for those of you keeping score at home). The Wings plan to fill those gaps with the likes of Ville Leino, Jason Williams, Todd Bertuzzi and…Patrick Eaves? Barring a disaster of epic proportions, Detroit will make the playoffs again in 2009-10. The play of the four “replacements”, however, will be a major factor in determining whether the Red Wings finish as a top-three seed or open the playoffs on the road.

Fantasy Value: While they’ve lost some of their luster, the Red Wings still possess a veritable gold mine of talent for the fantasy GM. The shiniest nuggets are as follows:

Forwards: Pavel Datsyuk (81GP, 32-65-97, +34) is, and should be, a 1st-round pick. 31 years old, he’s at the peak of his powers, and has missed just four games in the last three seasons...Henrik Zetterberg (77GP, 31-42-73, +13) has exhibited a ‘peak-and-valley’ scoring trend over the last four seasons. If the trend continues, 2009-10 should be a ‘peak’ season for Z...Johan Franzen (71GP, 34-25-59, +21) looks, at age 29, like he’s starting to get the hang of the North American game. He was a key cog in the Wings’ run to the Cup Finals last spring, exploding for 12 goals and 23 points in 23 games. It’s not unreasonable to expect 40 goals from The Mule this season...Last, but certainly not least, expectations are (justifiably) high for young Ville Leino (13GP, 5-4-9, +5) going into October. Expect to see him on the 2nd line (if not higher), and don’t be surprised if he racks up 30+ goals. You Heard It Here First: Leino is this season’s Loui Eriksson.

Defensemen: Is it even necessary to mention Nicklas Lidstrom (78GP, 16-43-59, +31)? Though at age 39 he’s nearing the end of his career, Lidstrom is still one of the top three or four d-men in the league. Put him at the top of your list of blueliners…How is it that Brian Rafalski (78GP, 10-49-59, +17) had a career year for Assists and Points at age 35? This guy is still trending slightly upward, and he’ll be 36 by the time the season starts! Grab him – grab him now…If his playoff performance is a harbinger of things to come, you should keep an eye on Jonathan Ericsson (Playoffs: 22GP, 4-4-8, +9).

Goalies: Hmmm…which Chris Osgood will we be drafting, the painfully struggling Regular Season model (26-9-8, .887 Sv%, 3.09 GAA, 2 SO) or the rock-solid who-are-you-and-what-have-you-done-with-Chris-Osgood Playoff model (15-8-0, .926 Sv%, 2.01 GAA, 2 SO)? Either way, he’s going to get you Ws simply because he plays for Detroit, but Ozzie could do more harm than good in a rotisserie-style league. This is another caveat emptor pick.

Schedule Analysis: ISSUE – Don’t be fooled by the two home games near the end; Detroit begins the New Year with what is essentially a ten-game, 20-day road trip: @PHO, @ANA, @LAK, @SJS, @NYI, vs. CAR at home, @DAL, vs. CHI at home, @WSH, @MIN. In fact, the Red Wings play just 7 of 21 January and February games at home.

Check your Oil? Friday, OGA examines Edmonton…

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