MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Henrik Zetterberg was coming off two subpar seasons, by his standards. But he bounced back strong and led the team with 80 points. He was much stronger on the puck than he has been in recent years. He also was strong defensively, the player they relied on to match up against top centers such as Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Toews. After missing the first round of the playoffs with a sprained knee, Zetterberg again elevated his play in the postseason with a strong series against the Sharks.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER
Jiri Hudler experienced a forgettable season after returning from a one-year stint in Russia. He got off to a disastrous start and lost confidence. He started to heat up when he was placed on a line with Pavel Datsyuk, but he should have been better on other lines, too. He played too much on the perimeter, wasn’t strong on the puck and didn’t shoot enough. He finished with 10 goals and 37 points, far below expectations. His future with the club is uncertain.
They need to upgrade their defense, even if Nicklas Lidstrom returns. They could use a top-four, stay-at-home defenseman who has the ability to shut down opponents’ top offensive players, preferably someone with size and a physical edge. They also need to shore up their backup goaltending position — someone whom they can rely on to play 20 games and spell starter Jimmy Howard.
FREE AGENT FOCUS
The Wings are hoping to re-sign most of their free agents. Lidstrom is expected to return for his 20th season. The club also will try to retain grinding forwards Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller, though both might get better offers on the market. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has turned down an offer of $2 million per season, according to Booth Newspapers, but the club still is hoping to work out a deal. Longtime Wings Kris Draper and Chris Osgood could be headed for retirement.
–D Nicklas Lidstrom was spotted working out hard at a local health club by coach Mike Babcock’s wife. Babcock took that as a good sign that Lidstrom is preparing for his 20th NHL season. However, the six-time Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defenseman told general manager Ken Holland he hasn’t decided whether he will return next season or retire. He said he will let the team know before the entry draft on June 24.
–LW Kris Draper has told the club he would like to play next season. GM Ken Holland told the longtime checking-line forward that he won’t know for at least a few weeks whether he will have a roster spot for him. It might depend on whether the club can re-sign Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller.
–D Brendan Smith, the team’s top prospect, will get a good opportunity to make the NHL roster next season, especially now that Brian Rafalski has retired. Smith is a skilled player who likes to rush the puck and has a tremendous shot and good passing ability. He needs to improve defensively, however. He had a good first pro season in Grand Rapids (AHL).
–RW Danny Cleary suffered a concussion in Game 7 against San Jose after his head hit the ice following a collision with teammate Jiri Hudler. Cleary was feeling better two days later and said he would have been ready to play at some point during the next round had the team advanced.
–RW Todd Bertuzzi suffered a concussion in Game 7 against San Jose after making helmet-to-helmet contact with Dany Heatley. It is not a long-term injury, however, and coach Mike Babcock said Bertuzzi will be ready for the start of next season.
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.