The Red Wings have made 19 straight playoff appearances and won four Stanley Cups in the last 13 seasons, but their championship window may finally be closing. Last year they were passed in the Central Division by Original Six rival Chicago, which now sits atop the hockey world with its prized shiny chalice held high and young core of stars ready to defend it. Will the grizzled old warriors from Detroit be able to wrest it back, or will the Wings fall further down the standings as Father Time becomes an even tougher opponent for their aging nucleus?
2009-10 Record: 44-24-14, 102 points (second in Central Division; fifth in Western Conference; lost in second round of playoffs to San Jose, 4-1)
Bruins record vs. Red Wings: Boston trails in the all-time series 235-244-95-2, with the Red Wings padding their lead with a 2-0 win in Detroit in last year’s only meeting on Nov. 3.
When to watch: The Bruins and Red Wings play a rare inter-conference home-and-home series this season, with Boston hosting the opener on Friday, Feb. 11, then heading to Detroit for the rematch on Sunday, Feb. 13.
Familiar faces: Defenseman Brad Stuart was the centerpiece of the return for Joe Thornton in that infamous deal, but lasted just 103 games before being dealt to Calgary. He won a Cup after joining Detroit in 2008. Tough guy Aaron Downey was also on that championship squad. He made his NHL debut with the Bruins in 1999-2000. That was his only game in Boston, but he spent three seasons in Providence. He’s been invited to training camp by the Red Wings after being out of the league last year. Boston College product Patrick Eaves was also a Bruin, on paper at least, as he was acquired from Carolina last summer in the Aaron Ward trade, then immediately bought out. Goalie Joey MacDonald was a backup in Boston in 2006-07 and is hoping to land a similar role in Detroit. Defenseman Doug Janik hails from Agawam, Mass., and played at the University of Maine.
Key additions: F Mike Modano (free agent); D Ruslan Salei (free agent); F Aaron Downey (camp invite); G Joey MacDonald (free agent); D Brendan Smith (signed out of Wisconsin, NCAA); F Ilari Filppula (free agent); D Evgeny Ryasensky (free agent); F Chris Minard (free agent)
Key losses: D Brett Lebda (signed with Toronto); F Brad May (retired); F Kirk Maltby (free agent); D Andreas Lilja (free agent); F Jason Williams (free agent);
Burning question: Do the Gray Wings have another title run in them?
Detroit has been a perennial contender for the last 15 years, winning four Cups and reaching the finals six times in that span. But has the toll of all those long playoff runs finally caught up to the aging Wings? Detroit features eight core players who are 35 or older, including standout defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, 40. And the Red Wings didn’t get any younger with their biggest offseason additions being Mike Modano, 40, and Ruslan Salei, 35. How much do these guys, or the likes of Chris Osgood, 37, Kris Draper, 39, Tomas Holmstrom, 37, Brian Rafalski, 36, and Todd Bertuzzi, 35, have left in the tank? Even the next wave of current stars like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen are all over 30, so time is quickly running out on the chances for this collection of players to add any more titles in Hockeytown.
2010-11 outlook: The Red Wings can never be underestimated. Lidstrom and Rafalski still each topped 40 points last year, while Datsyuk (27-43-70), Zetterberg (23-47-70) and Franzen (21 points in 27 games, plus 18 points in 12 playoff games) remain elite talents. Injuries ravaged Detroit last year before they made a late run to reach the playoffs, and with their core another year older staying healthy will remain a challenge. The Red Wings need to limit the trips to the trainer’s room and get another big year in goal from Jimmy Howard, who had a breakout rookie season last year (37-15-10, 2.26 GAA, .924 save percentage).
Did you know? Detroit might be a rough town, but on the ice, things are almost always peaceful. The Red Wings have finished dead last in the NHL in fighting majors in each of the last six seasons and eight of the last 10. The other two years they ranked 29th. Detroit GM Ken Holland has long opposed employing an enforcer, but not even the skilled Wings have been able to win without some toughness. They added Downey and brought back Darren McCarty in 2008 after a lack of grit contributed to several early playoff exits, while McCarty and power forward Brendan Shanahan were also part of all three earlier Cup squads, along with heavyweight Joe Kocur and rugged defenseman Jamie Pushor in 1997 and 1998.