Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Red Wings Have Some Question Marks, And That's OK

The Red Wings will load themselves up on a bus to Traverse City for training camp soon. They will tell us that the goal for them is simple, and the same as it's been for the past 12 or 13 seasons: to win the Stanley Cup. Anything less than that, they will say, is unacceptable.

Yeah, yeah.

The Red Wings head into the 2006-07 season with the following on their recent resume:

--The signing of a 41 year-old (he'll be 42 in January) goalie with a bad groin
--The loss of their captain of 19 seasons to retirement
--The fleeing of a 40-goal scorer to the New York Rangers
--The drumming out of town of their #1 goalie, who's found a home in St. Louis
--A 44 year-old (he'll be 45 in January) defenseman
--The return of center Greg Johnson, several years removed from his better days
--The signing of nasty defenseman Danny Markov

So what does it all mean?

Most likely, less than the #1 seed in the Western Conference. But that's OK. Being Numero Uno hasn't always done this franchise well in the postseason. Mostly, it hasn't, in fact. The Red Wings will probably be that 3-6 seed that lies in the grass, ready to upset someone in the first round. Again, OK. It'll be nice to ruin someone else's high hopes for a change.

Hockey training camp has always flown under the radar here, even in the wake of Stanley Cups. Too much other stuff going on. Wake me when it's October, hockey fans say. Of course, upon awakening, those fans might find Tigers playoff baseball on their TV and radio dials, jockeying for position. Once again, OK.

But this camp is kinda different because, for all their blather, I don't see the Red Wings as a top three Cup contender. They'll be a good team, and may get 90-98 points, but I don't think they should be a favorite to skate the Cup around the ice in June. I think they have too many questions, too many holes to fill -- roster-wise and emotionally -- to be placed among the league's elite, at least right now. They've come back to the pack a bit, which means the pressure shouldn't be squarely on them come playoff time.

Again, OK.

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