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Red Wings among best this offseason

Friday, 08.15.2008 / 12:27 PM ET / Features
By Larry Wigge  - Columnist
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Red Wings among best this offseason


After a late-season trade sent him to Pittsburgh, Marian Hossa will play in Detroit in 2008-09, giving the Red Wings an additional scoring punch. Watch highlights of Hossa

Christmas in July. Well ... not quite.

Not when impact players Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Brendan Shanahan and Teemu Selanne have yet to announce their intentions for the 2008-09 NHL season.

We've definitely seen a lot of packages opened halfway before Christmas. Pricey gifts.

On the surface, you might ask, "which teams have been the best shoppers?"

Red Wings -- With the defending Stanley Cup champions and their mentoring system that seems to make players better in a Red Wings uniform, they ended up with one of the best offensive players on the free-agent list in winger Marian Hossa. This team worked wonders in incorporating defenseman Brad Stuart into the lineup and seeing him perform his best since being the third pick in the 1998 Entry Draft. The Wings also moved quickly after seeing Dominik Hasek retire by signing goalie Ty Conklin, as well as having enough under the salary cap to re-sign defenseman Andreas Lilya.

Rangers -- No matter what you think the Broadway Blueshirts will look like without star wing Jaromir Jagr after he bolted to big money in Russia, Markus Naslund has been ready for a new hockey life, and the Rangers are hoping it will begin in New York where centers Scott Gomez, Chris Drury and Brandon Dubinsky have a way of making wings perform better. Not to mention the 26 goals by Nikolai Zherdev that should improve in much the same way. What puts the Rangers over the top this offseason, however, is the signing of free-agent defensemen Wade Redden, Dimitri Kalinin along with the re-signing of Michael Rozsival.

Lightning -- In addition to penciling the name of Steven Stamkos behind Vinny Lecavalier at center, the Lightning were the quickest off the mark in free agency when they added Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts and Adam Hall on the wing from the Stanley Cup finalist Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as luring 27-goal scorer Radim Vrbata away from Phoenix and Mark Recchi, who seemed rejuvenated in Atlanta, where he scored 12 goals and 28 assists in 53 games after being obtained from Pittsburgh. Olaf Kolzig joins Mike Smith as competition in goal. But can Matt Carle get back on track production-wise from defense to help offset the loss of defenseman Dan Boyle? And is Barry Melrose still in touch as a coach after a decade with ESPN?

Blackhawks -- It's no secret that Nikolai Khabibulin never lived up to the big free-agent contract he got from the Blackhawks a few years ago. Cristobal Huet will be better than the “Bulin Wall” in Chi-town. But the big-news signing by the Hawks was defenseman Brian Campbell, who together with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook could give Chicago one of the top-3 d-man corps in the NHL. Campbell will not only help improve the Hawks’ power play, but with James Wisniewski and Brent Sopel rounding out the defense, Huet's job should be easier this season.

Sharks -- Dan Boyle vs. Brian Campbell and Rob Blake vs. Craig Rivet. That's the big news with the Sharks, who also brought in Detroit assistant coach Todd McLellan to replace Ron Wilson behind the bench.

Some would argue for a couple other teams in that top-5 shopping success. We think there are still questions, however.

Capitals -- Getting Sergei Fedorov to return to the Capitals after a rebirth of sorts in D.C. is definitely a plus. And if the Caps are getting the Jose Theodore that led Colorado to a playoff berth in the second half of the season amidst so many injuries in Colorado, well, then, the net in Washington is in better hands than it was with Kolzig, Huet and Brent Johnson.

Wild -- The names may not be impact monikers, but Owen Nolan, Antti Miettinen and the return of Andrew Brunette up front looks strong. Gone are big producers Brian Rolston and Pavol Demitra, but rookie James Sheppard showed he's ready to take over at center for Demitra and Pierre-Marc Bouchard is one of many forwards ready to take the next step. On defense, Marek Zidlicky and Marc-Andre Bergeron will certainly help the Wild's transition game.

Canucks -- Under new GM Mike Gillis, the Canucks acquired depth up front in the name of Pavol Demitra, Steve Bernier, Ryan Johnson and Kyle Wellwood. That means a center position headed by Henrik Sedin, Demitra, Wellwood and Johnson -- and perhaps Mats Sundin.

Oilers -- Erik Cole is one of those core leaders that every club wants. Well, the Oilers got him from Carolina for inconsistent defenseman Joni Pitkanen. They had replaced Pitkanen in an earlier deal for a more impact defenseman Lubomir Visnovski.

Flames -- Michael Cammalleri is a faster and more productive goal-scorer than Alex Tanguay. The Flames hope that Todd Bertuzzi can be re-invented in Calgary the way Mike Keenan helped make him one of the best power forwards in the game a few years back in Vancouver.

Blue Jackets -- If R.J. Umberger can be the No. 1 center that Rick Nash has never had with the Blue Jackets, then a 50-goal season isn't out of the question, especially with the help of playmaking wing extraordinaire Kristian Huselius over from Calgary as a free agent. Depth? The Jackets never were sure what they were going to get from Nikolai Zherdev. They've gone more conventional with hard-working additions like Umberger and Raffi Torres in a trade with Edmonton. Fedor Tyutin just might be Columbus' best defenseman right away, coming over from the Rangers with fellow blueliner Christian Backman.

Sakic, Sundin, Shanahan and Selanne could very easily help put another team or two into the top dozen most improved teams in July.

Colorado, for instance, would look much better with “Super Joe” returning to a team that added Darcy Tucker up front and Andrew Raycroft to help replace Theodore in goal.

Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal (with the additions of Tanguay and Georges Laraque) would certainly really be better with the addition of Sundin.

Ditto the Rangers -- if they can find room under the cap to add Shanahan's power forward and leadership contributions. Same for Anaheim if Selanne decided to return.

Of course, there are four months until Christmas -- and championships are rarely won in July. Or December. We all know, of course, that there's another six months after Christmas until the Stanley Cup finals get underway.

But it's interesting to open the summer wrappings and speculate, isn't it?





1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80