Analyzing and Scrutinizing:
No changes at the goalie position maintains confidence and communication. With a better team up front, there is no reason why we shouldn't expect the same or better performance out of both Jimmy and Joey.
Are Joni Pitkanen and Brendan Smith an improvement over Salei and Ericsson ? For an added $3.3 mil. in salary over last years, they damn better be. It could be an awkward October while they both adjust to new systems but, by the All-Star break we'll have a much better idea if the changes were a bust or not.
Up front, Hudler's return to the NHL was a disaster to say the least, only scoring 10 goals when much more was expected from him. Modano's wrist injury put a quick and unfortunate end to what could have been a storybook season and a perfect ending to an amazing Hall Of Fame career. Just 4 goals in the 40 games he played leaves a bad taste in everyones mouths. The energy and enthusiasm of Tatar and Mursak, increased ice time for both Filppula and Eaves, a 100% healthy Franzen, and the addition of Langenbrunner more than make up for what those 2 contributed last season. Langenbrunner's career average is 18.8 goals per season alone.
After finishing 2nd in the league in scoring in 2010-11, there is no reason (barring injuries) why this new roster wouldn't duplicate an identical level.
While there weren't the same amount of injuries this past season as we had in 09-10, they did hit at a crucial point of the post-season and it did us in. Franzen's bad ankle, Bertuzzi and Cleary both hurt early in Game 7 against San Jose. Any one of those 3 could have helped us over the hump and into the Conference Finals. The biggest question in my mind is still "what if Modano hadn't gotten hurt ?". Could he have been a bigger factor in the playoffs if he had a full healthy season under his belt ? Unfortunately, we'll never know ... which is why we're sitting here mid May looking forward to next season.
There could be as many as 6 new faces this fall. That's 25% of the roster. To say this will be a different team next season is an understatement, but that's what we need. Too many teams in today's NHL have stolen the Red Wing formula for success, and we need to get back to being one step ahead of everybody.
A little more youthful enthusiasm (smith/mursak/tatar) mixed with a little more veteran experience via free agency (pitkanen/langenbrunner) added to the existing amazing core should add up to a 21st consecutive appearance in the post-season follies.
As Ken Holland makes his changes to the team, I'll be adjusting my changes, so stay tuned ... it's going to be a busy summer.