By: Pat Caputo
1. Jimmy Howard, Goalie – He has had solid regular seasons, but Howard’s performance in the playoffs last season was disappointing in a first-round loss to Nashville. Howard has to be at the top of his game, especially now that all-time great defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom has retired.
2. Pavel Datsyuk – During last season, The Hockey News named Datsyuk as the second-best player in the NHL, according to a poll of players. He didn’t perform like it in the playoffs after having in-season knee surgery. The Red Wings desperately need Datsyuk, an amazingly skilled performer, to have his best season.
3. Niklas Kronwall – Known for his big hits, Kronwall has also been a solid all-around player. But he must be better than that now that he is the leader of the Red Wings’ defensive corps following Lidstrom’s retirement.