Since the FA season has opened, it seems plenty of prognosticators are still picking the Wings to win the Central. Why?
Osgood back in net? Datsyuk is in Russia, and may not come out of Russia. Zetterberg is as yet unsigned, too. That leaves the Wings with a veteran core. A core that has won the Stanley Cup, which isn't to be denied, but won it four years ago and before the "off year."
Chelly is 43, Yzerman 40, Shanny and Schneider 36, and $7 million man Lidstrom is 35. Kirk Maltby is a relative youngster at 32. Buying out McCarty seemed to be buying out a bit of the heart of the Wings, not that they'll be short on leadership.
But, here's the question: Can the aging Wings hang in the "New NHL" where the game is to opened up and speed to be a bigger factor? Can the perfectors of the left wing lock win in a non-left wing lockable NHL? The last time we saw the Wings they were getting bounced from the playoffs by a quick forechecking Calgary team. In round 1, the speedy Predators gave them fits for 6 games. Now, this type of game will be coming at them more often than not.
If obstruction truely goes away this year, can the Wings still stay on top of the Central? The Predators improved their playoff roster, the Jackets youngsters are all a year older and have been complemented by some solid free agent pick-ups, and Chicago seems to be putting together a solid team.
I don't think the Central is the toughest division in hockey this season, but it's not getting any easier for the team whose big acquisition was Andy Delmore.