Detroit had among the most man games lost due to injuries this season and struggled through most of it until they got healthy in the playoffs. My 5 year old nephew said it best around week 5 "Detroit is not having a very good season, but Datsyuk has scored some nice goals". Amen. As a Red Wings fan, this season was not about winning a Stanley Cup, but rather about enjoying the magic of Pavel Datsyuk while he's still putting on a show. If you ever get bored, go to YouTube, search "Datsyuk highlights", and guaranteed you will be entertained. This team would probably have ranked 30th out of 30 without Zetterberg and Datsyuk.
Jimmy Howard had the best season of his career and earned himself a lucrative 6 year contract. Anyone who thought that Howard was only good because Lidstrom played in front of him, that was not the case since Howard actually got better after Nick left. If he can sustain the level of play he showed in 2013, the post-Lidstrom rebuild might not be as painful as previously anticipated. As a Red Wings fan, they exceeded my expectations, but failed to fill the biggest hole on their roster with a horse the team could ride deep into the playoffs. Dan Dekeyser is a quality NHL defenseman. Acquiring him at the end of the NCAA season was a significant victory for Holland, but he's still just a role player. The Red Wings need a legitimate #1 defenseman, a rare breed that doesn't exactly grow on trees. If you can't grow them on your farm, they are incredibly difficult to acquire. If Keith Yandle had been on this team, they might have won the Stanley Cup.
Preseason Rank: 13
Midseason Rank: 13
Final Rank: 11
GM Grade: C
1st Star: Pavel Datsyuk
2nd Star: Jimmy Howard
3rd Star: Henrik Zetterberg
UFAs: Valterri Filppula, Dan Cleary, Damien Brunner, Drew Miller, Ian White
RFAs: Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith
Best Contract: Niklas Kronwall 6 more years at $4.75M
What I said about them in preseason: As with the Preds, the Red Wings only got worse in the off-season. As we enter the post-Lidstrom era, there are maybe 2-3 years of competitiveness before the bottom falls out completely. As a Wings fan, I'll just enjoy the Datsyuk years while they are left. Would Lidstrom donate his DNA for cloning?
Ultimately the fact that Ken Holland was unable to fill the big hole on defense was overshadowed by the team's playoff success. The forward group is very strong, but the defense is not adequate to be a legitimate championship contender. Holland will have some difficult negotiations this summer, with a large number of free agents looking for new contracts. There are plenty of role players on the roster and in the minor leagues (with Grand Rapids winning the AHL championship), but this teams needs another superstar or two if they want a chance to win a championship while Zetterberg and Datsyuk are still producing at an elite level. Datsyuk has agreed to a 3 year extension, so he will be around to dazzle people with his hands for a few more years.