I’m not excited for the start of the Red Wings season.
I’m not saying that I won’t watch the opener tomorrow or I won’t be at the Joe for the home opener on Monday. I just wouldn’t feel an absence in my life if those games weren’t happening.
I’m also not saying that I don’t care what happens with the team. Quite the opposite.
At the end of last season, even with the Wings bowing out so early in the playoffs, there was hope. General Manager Ken Holland spoke about giving opportunity to the team’s prospects, about revamping the defense, about ways to make the team better.
In June Pavel Datsyuk left but Holland managed to unload his contract. It came at a high cost but was necessary given what the team was trying to do. There was still hope. I still had hope
As free agency approached, the Red Wings had money to spend and roster spots to fill, as well as prospects like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi and Tomas Nosek ready to challenge for a role.
Then the Wings brought back Drew Miller, the penalty-killing specialist who missed most of the season with a pair of injuries.
Then the Wings brought back bottom-six forward Darren Helm on a five year deal.
On July 1st, the Red Wings signed Frans Nielsen to replace Datsyuk and Thomas Vanek to replace the soon-to-retire Brad Richards and Steve Ott… For some reason.
Suddenly those open roster spots were filled and the hole in the team’s defense hadn’t been addressed. Holland reassured us that the glut of forwards gave him pieces to use in trade for a defender.
Training camp approached and there was no trade. News broke that Jacob Trouba, Michigan-native and right-shooting defenseman, exactly what the Wings were coveting, was demanding a trade. But those pieces that Holland had assembled wouldn’t be enough. So there was no fix for the blueline and there was no battle for forward spots. Athanasiou beat out Teemu Pulkkinen – waived off to Minnesota – but it was for the 13th forward spot, relegated to the press box.
This season’s roster is last season’s roster. From opening night to the end of the season to today, Johan Franzen became Pavel Datsyuk who is now Frans Nielsen. Brad Richards became Thomas Vanek. Landon Ferraro was replaced by Darren Helm – re-signed due to a need for speed. Drew Miller became Joakim Andersson who became Drew Miller again. Teemu Pulkkinen became Andreas Athanasiou who became Steve Ott – despite that supposed need for speed. Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey became Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet.
The team that backed into the playoffs and only made it there because they got help from the Ottawa Senators on the last day of the season is much the same as the team that begins this season.
I expect this team to miss the playoffs. I expected that this would be a losing season last May. But in May, I had hope that this losing season would feature learning experiences for the next generation of Red Wings. Instead, they’re going to lose with the same guys that lost last year.
So I’ll watch and I’ll root for the Wings, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m not getting excited.