After years of complaining about traveling and pandering to the league, the Red Wings finally get their wish and they are now an Eastern Conference team. I am really going to miss the division battles with the Wings, especially after last year's epic seven game playoff series. I loathe everything Red Wing, but I do respect the hell out of the organization which if far more than I can say about some other teams *cough* Blues *cough*.
Last year, the Red Wings took the Stanley Cup champs to the absolute brink after struggling to make the post season. I really think the move to the weaker Eastern Conference will make their path into the post season much easier this year. The Wings did make a few upgrades over the summer. They signed Stephen Weiss to a five year deal who, if healthy, can add some scoring depth to the team. They also perpetuated the stereotype that Detroit is where old Swedish guys go to play hockey by signing long time Senators' captain Daniel Alfredsson to a one year deal. If the Wings can get improved play from their defense they can be a force in the East this year.
Today we talk to JJ From Kansas, part of the Winging It In Motown crew, about all things Wings.
(Editors note, there were originally seven questions but one was about the absence of Daniel Cleary, who resigned with the team last week.)
The Red Wings finally got their wish and are now part of the Eastern Conference. Are Wings fans happy with the move and is their anything that you will miss about the Western Conference?
I think by-and-large Wings fans are happy that the amount of West Coast road trips will be severely limited going forward and are excited about being able to renew some rivalries which had sat dormant for a while, but it's still kind of bittersweet. Being in God's own timezone myself, I minded the western trips about one hour less than the hometown fans did, but there's a whole new conference of insufferable fanbases to get used to. Mike Babcock has often talked about how the devil you know is better than the one you don't, and there's not nearly 20 years of having dominated the division to fall back on when it comes time to interact with them.
What do you realistically expect out of Daniel Alfredsson this year?
Alfie's getting paid like a 2nd line scoring winger who'll also play on the top power play unit and, since the cap is artificially tight this year, that's precisely what I expect out of him. I honestly don't know how realistic the expectation is that he'll actually live up to the cap hit purely production-wise, but old dudes trying really hard is one of those intangibles that Mikael Samuelsson failed to deliver last year and I don't think I'm overstating things when I blame the Wings' inability to win the Cup completely on him.
Do expect the Wings to improve on the blue line this year despite no real changes being made?
People love to joke about how old the Wings are, but the truth of the matter is that they have one of the youngest defensive corps in the league. That young corps drove Detroit to the 5th-best goals against average and the 7th-fewest shots on goal against per game. The change is that a full four of their seven defensemen (Kindl, DeKeyser, Smith, Lashoff) are in the age range where they're still supposed to be improving while the other three (Kronwall, Ericsson, Quincey) are still in "prime" years. There will be times when youngsters struggle and of course the annual injury lottery too. Pragmatically, I don't think an expectation of an improvement over last season's numbers is called for, but expecting them to be one of the ten best defensive teams in the league again isn't outlandish.
Which one of your new divisional foes are you looking forward to starting a rivalry with the most?
You know, prior to July, I didn't give two craps about Ottawa. I figured that they'd annoy me on general principle, but that I'd always have more fun hating on Boston, Montreal, and Toronto. Fortunately, since the Alfredsson signing and Eugene Melnky's embarrassing summer, it should be a lot of fun watching games between the Wings and Senators this season.
Will you still be checking in with your old Central Division rivals to, at the very least, make fun of the St Louis Blues because that never gets old?
I'll probably still see a great deal of Western Conference games this season just because they'll be what's on when more important games are over and because I've got a level of familiarity and appreciation for Western teams that I haven't developed for the East just yet. I'll definitely always have a special place in my bile ducts for the Blues though. There's just nothing good about that team. Getting away from them will be great, but what kind of hockey fan would I be if I suddenly got more tolerant of that festering suckhole poisoning the very heart of the Central division?
And finally, now that the Blackhawks are not division rivals anymore, can you please send Gustav Nyquist to Chicago?
Hahahaha remember this?
Oh man... no.
Yes JJ, I do remember that goal but it wasn't as cool as this one!
Thanks again to JJ From Kansas for helping me out with the preview. The Blackhawks will make their only trip to the Joe on January 16th and the "Detroit Sucks" chant is only appropriate to use on March 16th this season.