Earlier this week we looked at the possible top 6 of the Red Wings upcoming roster. That was a heck of a lot easier to determine than the bottom 6.
Tatar – Andersson – Sheahan
Tomas Tatar set a career high in games played (73), goals (19), assists (20), and, inevitably, points (39) last season which was good for sixth in team scoring. In 2012-2013 he led the Grand Rapids Griffins in scoring, so he’s no stranger to putting up numbers. The guy has crazy offensive instincts and fantastic stick handling, along with solid speed. The only reason that he doesn’t start higher on the depth chart is because of his chemistry with Sheahan. Tatar and Sheahan played together for 7.6% of the season last year, often playing with Jurco or Nyquist.
Joakim Andersson is a natural center, and at 25 years old, is actually older than his line mates which lends to the youth that the Wings are attempting to inject into the lineup. Andersson had 17 points this season, a career high, but it still isn’t quite was expected of him. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him as trade bait for a right-handed defenceman.
Riley Sheahan got a chance to play with the big boys and stayed there for 42 games while putting up 24 points. He doesn’t have the same offensive pedigree as his line mates, but much like Abdelkader, makes space for them as a strong power forward. It would be tough to see him going higher than the third line this season, as the Wings have so many forwards who play multiple positions. Sheahan plays the wing as well, whereas Andersson is a natural center.
Miller – Helm – Cleary
Drew Miller and Kyle Quincey were the only two players to play in all 82 of the Red Wings’ games last season. If nothing else, Miller is dependable. 15 points out of a fourth line winger is about what you’d expect. Even though Miller looks like he’s 45, he really is only 30 and will probably give the Wings at least one more season before he gets pushed out by some younger players like Luke Glendening.
I’ll start this analysis with a bit of a confession: I have a man crush on Darren Helm. I honestly love every facet of his game, and I think he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder after being injured so much in his career. He only once has played a full season and he netted 12 goals that season as a 24 year old. This past season he was on pace to score 23 goals and 38 points, both of which would have been career highs. While it may be a little ambitious to say that Darren Helm surpasses 40 points this year (especially because he is on the fourth line) it is safe to say that he will stay on this team for his penalty killing if nothing else. He has amazing breakaway speed and great defensive instincts that make him invaluable at this point. There is also a chance that Helm moves into Andersson’s spot if the opportunity for Helm to get more minutes presents itself.
I’ll also start this analysis off with a confession: I’m not a big Dan Cleary fan. I was fairly upset that the Wings brought him back for another season, simply because I believed that the younger kids needed chances to play. Either way, I do think Cleary at least starts the season as a NHL player, if for nothing else than his heart, his physical play and his veteran leadership. It certainly won’t be for his 8 points in 52 games last season. If his game continues to slip, it would be safe to say that he gets scratched in favour of Glendening or Andersson.
Tomas Jurco is the only forward with a 2-way contract, so I think that means that he starts the season in the minors. If Alfredsson ends up coming back, that would push him even farther down the depth chart. However, if Andersson does end up being traded, that opens up a spot on the line of Sheahan and Tatar where Jurco played often last year; that line was the most consistent of all the lines last season, playing 5.47% of the season together.
Luke Glendening is also a name who played with the big club last year, suiting up for 56 games. Even in college, Glendening was not much of an offensive juggernaut; but that isn’t what the Wings want of him, nor what Glendening wants to be. His defensive play earned him a spot as the fourth line center last season, but there is a good chance that he starts the season in the minors again.
Andy Miele and Kevin Porter were both signed to 2-way deals on July 1st ($600,000 each), so there is a hope in the Red Wings management that these two play themselves onto the main roster. There is a slim chance of this, barring injury.
We can’t talk about the Red Wings 2014-2015 season without mentioning Anthony Mantha, right? Many fans think that he’ll play in the NHL this year, and I agree; just not right away. Mantha’s work ethic and skating are his two biggest weaknesses, and the Red Wings have a history of letting young players cut their chops in Grand Rapids for a number of years. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I do think that Mantha will see NHL ice this year, just not incredibly often. If he doesn’t play 10 NHL games this season, his NHL contract will be extended one more year, something the Red Wings may take advantage of. Tatar played 9 games in his first NHL season, Andersson played 5 and Sheahan played 1.
The Wings season looks bright, it really does. Good enough for first place? That remains to be seen. Good enough to extend the playoff streak to 24 years? There’s a great chance.
I’m Osgood’s Bucket. Keep your stick on the ice.