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2011-12 Red Wings will have new look

July 20, 2011 - Keith Shelton
It’s clear the 2011-12 season for the Detroit Red Wings will be a test. A test of their longevity, resolve, and ability to overcome significant turnover. Two important players on the team, Brian Rafalski and now Chris Osgood have announced their retirements in the last two months. First it was Rafalski, a Red Wing in recent years by a long-time veteran blueliner. He held down his role as the No. 2 defenseman on the team and was valuable as a quarterback on the powerplay. While Rafalski’s age and hobbled knee began to show in the 2010 playoff run, he will still be missed. Defensemen of Ralfaski’s caliber do not grow on trees and there was no equal replacement on the free agent market, forcing general manager Ken Holland to improvise. He grabbed speedy, strong and short Ian White, an under the radar D-man to be sure, but White is just coming into his prime at age 28. He appears as sort of a wild card in terms of what Detroit can expect out of him, but if all goes according to plan, he should fit in nicely on the second pairing. Holland also signed journeyman Mike Commodore. Commy is a big body who isn’t afraid to throw his weight around, but has a reputation of being quite sloppy at times on the back end. The signing of Commodore isn’t to plug a big hole with a piece of scotch tape, but to give the Red Wings some much needed size in their defensive corps. He’s not going to get a ton of minutes, but should pack a punch when called upon. Those two will help fill the void left by Rafalski but Ken Holland and the Red Wings are also counting on Jonathan Ericsson who just received a big raise, to make a big leap in improvement. Young prospects Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith will also help fill in the gaps. Osgood, a longtime Red Wings stalwart announced Tuesday he will hang up the skates. Ozzie spent 13 of his 16 seasons with Detroit, played on three cup winning teams and started on two of them. He ends his career with 401 wins, 10th all-time. Red Wings fans have always had mixed opinions of Osgood despite his many accomplishments, but the fact is he has done what Jimmy Howard, still a young goaltender, has not, and he will be missed. Thursday, Ken Holland filled the large void left by Osgood by signing veteran Ty Conklin to a one-year deal. I can’t think of a better stopgap, at least from what was available on the market. Conklin has a had a long journeyman career, but his best season was the one he spent in Detroit in 2007-08. He is comfortable with the Red Wings system and has the mental toughness necessary to play in Hockeytown. Holland made a play for Tomas Vokoun when the free agent market opened July 1. A worthy effort to be sure, but it was a pipe dream. Vokoun was the cream of the goaltending crop this free agent period, and a bonafide No. 1 goaltender wasn’t going to play backup to Jimmy Howard. Conklin, at 35 has been around the NHL, knows what he’s capable of and will be satisfied with his role. This year’s Red Wings will have a new look to them. It could have been worse and Ken Holland likely thanks his lucky stars daily that he was able to keep Nick Lidstrom for one more season. This team will however, have a tough challenge ahead if they want to make it 21 straight playoff seasons.

 
 

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