Craig Remsburg column: Wednesday is the day I’ve been waiting for
Wednesday is a day I’ve looked forward to since last June, when the NHL season ended.
The Detroit Red Wings open the 2013-14 regular season by hosting the Buffalo Sabres.
A new campaign excites most Wings fans, but this season, maybe more so.
That’s because the team has signed free agents Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss, as well as moved to the Eastern Conference.
Alfredsson, if he has anything left in the tank at age 40 and Weiss, who signed a five-year deal with Detroit at age 30, should provide what the team lacked the most last season – secondary scoring.
Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan “Mule” Franzen will continue to provide the bulk of the Wings’ offense. But the team needs Alfredsson and Weiss to give opponents something more to worry about.
Increased offensive outputs by young forwards Justin Abdelkader, Cory Emmerton and Gustav Nyquist would also help.
The Wings’ defensive corp is intact from last season, headed by Niklas Kronwall. Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith are back with another year of experience under their belts.
And late-season sensation Danny DeKeyser, who impressed Wings coaches and fans alike with his play on defense until he got injured, should be more comfortable with the NHL game.
Injuries are – and will continue to be – a major factor this season. Forward Darren Helm is hurting, again, and forward Patrick Eaves (MCL sprain) and backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (groin) aren’t healthy and may miss some time early in the season.
Veteran forwards Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi missed nearly all of last season with injuries and need to be healthy and productive again this season.
Goaltending is set with veteran Jimmy Howard, who agreed to a $31.8 million, six-year contract extension in April. The 29-year-old doesn’t get enough credit for being the top netminder he is and has been for the Wings.
The Wings being placed in the Eastern Conference should help the team in a couple of ways.
First, there’s a general consensus the Eastern Conference isn’t as strong as the Western Conference from top-to-bottom, even with such players as Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh and Alexander Ovechkin of Washington toiling in the east.
Second, the Wings won’t be making many trips to a different time zone in California or Western Canada. That should cut down on travel fatigue over a grueling season.
The Wings lost underachieving forward Valtteri Filppula (Tampa Bay) and rookie forward Damien Brunner (New Jersey) to free agency, but should more than make that loss up with Alfredsson and Weiss.
If the Wings can get a little more scoring from players other than the “Big Three” and stay relatively healthy, the club should make the NHL playoffs for the 23rd straight season.
The Wings might be even able to go deep into the postseason, as well.