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Getting to Know the New Red Wings

Last month I wrote about the departure of 3 familiar faces from the Detroit Red Wings lineup. Chris Osgood, Kris Draper and Brian Rafalski all retired after having very successful careers in Detroit, but their leaving created some holes in the lineup that needed to be patched before next season. I am sure some fans were a little surprised with the moves made by the moves made by the Wings management, since none of the new players are big name guys. To help with the confusion, I am writing this post as an introduction for Wings fans to get to learn a little bit more of the new Wings and I am sure they will be pleasantly surprised when the season start and these guys are in the lineup.

Ian White- Perhaps the biggest addition made to the Wings roster this season will be Ian White, a right handed shooting, offensive defenceman. At only 27 years of age, the Wings are hoping to get a few years out of White and they are expecting him to be a direct replacement of Rafalski on the powerplay. Last season White played 78 games between Calgary, Carolina and San Jose posting 4 goals and 22 assists for 26 points. He also played 17 playoff games with the Sharks where he registered 1 goal and 8 assists. He is a well traveled player having been traded from Toronto to Calgary in the Dion Phaneuf trade, then traded to the Hurricanes from Calgary. But he didn't stay long in Carolina and was traded again to the Sharks at last seasons trade deadline. I am sure he is hoping to stay settled in Detroit a little longer than that, and hopefully less distractions and moves will help increase his point totals. He will have to learn to be more effective defensively but playing with Lidstrom and under Babcock should help with that.

Mike Commodore- Commodore is another well traveled defenceman, only he plays a more defensive game than White. Listed at 6'4" and 233 lbs, Commodore has shown he is not afraid play a rough and tumble style of hockey throughout his 10 year career. Originally a New Jersey draft pick, Commodore didn't really breakout until the 2005-06 season with the Carolina Hurricanes where is bright orange hair and heavy hits were a big part of their run to the Stanley Cup. However, after only playing 20 games last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets before being demoted to the AHL, Commodore was in need of a new team. When his contract was bought out and he became an unrestricted free agent, Detroit became very interested in his services and signed him July 1st. If he can play the way he played when he was in Carolina, the Wings will have another solid player on the back end protecting the net and stopping scoring chances.

Ty Conklin-  This is a man who needs no introduction to Wings fans as Conklin was the backup to Chris Osgood during the 2009-10 season. When Osgood retired, the Wings management thought it would be good to go with someone familiar and Conklin happily returned to the team after playing the past two years in St. Louis. Conklin has proven throughout his career that he is a solid backup who can provide support to the starter as well as come into some tough games and steal some wins. With Jimmy Howard still young, it will be good for him to have the experienced Conklin, who has been to 3 Stanley Cup finals but never won, providing support during the grind of the season and playoffs. Wings fans should be happy to have him back.

Fabian Brunnstrom- Though he is not officially signed to be a Red Wing, Brunnstrom was given a pro contract by the team allowing him to attend training camp. If he can earn himself a spot after camp, then the Wings will happily sign this young player as he has shown in the past that he can be a good secondary scorer. Brunnstrom took a different road than most to the NHL and so far has yet to impress people who follow the North American game. After going undrafted, Brunnstrom rose to fame in 2008 from his stellar play in the Swedish Elite League and soon as many as 20 NHL teams were trying to sign him to NHL contracts. He was given tours of many teams facilities and cities, including throwing the opening pitch at a Texas Rangers baseball game while with the Dallas staff. Detroit was one of the teams trying to lure Brunnstrom to the NHL but he ended up choosing Dallas and joined their squad in the middle of the 2008 season. He started his NHL career strong with a hat trick in his first game, but since then his numbers have been below expectations. After only scoring two goals in 44 games last season, Dallas sent him to the AHL and then traded him to Toronto, who kept him in the AHL for the rest of the season. So now he is hoping to make a comeback in Detroit and being only 26 years old, he can do it. The Wings are hoping fellow Swedes like Zetterberg, Franzen and Lidstrom will mentor him properly into becoming a professional player because he has the skills to be a star, if he works hard enough for it.

It is amazing but those were all the additions made by the Red Wings this summer. Besides signing a couple AHL players, the Wings are hoping the four players mentioned above can lessen the load left by Osgood, Draper and Rafalski. But the biggest additions will be the improved play of Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Jakub Kindl and Jonathan Ericsson to fill the void. Detroit will remain a contender as long as they continue to draft well, so a big free agent signing is not always needed to them atop the standings.

Still some fans were a little disappointed that there is close to $6 million available in cap space bit there is a reason why management left that space alone. The Wings next two best defencemen after Nick Lidstrom are Brad Stuart and Nik Kronwall. All three of those players are unrestricted free agents next summer, and though it is expected Lidstrom will retire, Stuart and Kronwall will both want raises from the $3 million they each get. The extreme defencemen signings that have occured this summer will raise the value of Stuart and Kronwall but the $6 million available cap space gives the Red Wings plenty of room to retain their services. This is simply an example of the Red Wings management team planning ahead for the future because the Red Wings would be finished if Lidstrom, Stuart and Kronwall all left after next season. Although that space may be tempting to fill, by planning ahead the Red Wings can assure they will be able to keep their best defencemen at market price and not have to worry about losing them to other teams. Red Wings fans should be happy with that.

I hope this article helps ensure confidence among Red Wings fans for next season. Even though their was no big splash of a free agent signing from the Wings, Detroit is still in a good position to be a top team in the NHL for years to come. It will be difficult to fill the leadership lost by all the retirements this season, but the players should have no chance filling in the vacant roles left on the roster. It will be exciting to see young players like Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader continue to grow and begin providing leadership to the team. The 20 year playoff run the Red Wings are on right now is far from over, and fans should be appreciative of that.

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