The NHL season is set to begin in about two months, so what better time to start making bold predictions.
Anyone can predict Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg will lead the team in scoring, so here are three not-so-popular predictions for the Detroit Red Wings in the 2014-15 season.
1. Stephen Weiss Scores At Least 25 Goals
Last year, this would have been expected, but due to the fact Stephen Weiss missed 56 games last year, scoring at least 25 goals would be exceeding all expectations.
Weiss has scored more than 25 goals just once in his career during the 2009-10 season. He has just three goals in the past two seasons, but he has been hampered by injuries in each of those seasons.
He scored this overtime game-winning goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in the second game of the season last year, and it appeared Weiss would flourish in Detroit. However, this would be Weiss’ lone season highlight.
In the 26 games he did play last year, he later revealed he started the season with a sports hernia injury that he tried to play through.
Hopefully, Weiss learns from this mistakes and learns to handle injuries carefully and not push his body past its limits.
2. Anthony Mantha Leads Team in Goals
In his final season of the QMJHL, Anthony Mantha scored 57 goals in 57 games during the regular season and 24 goals in 24 games during the playoffs. For someone who has a knack for scoring goals, leading his team in scoring wouldn’t normally be a bold prediction.
However, what makes this prediction bold is the fact Mantha will most likely start the season in Grand Rapids. If Daniel Alfredsson and Tomas Tatar both re-sign with the Red Wings, the team will have 15 forwards, and there will be no room for Mantha.
Here’s a video of a hat trick Matha scored last year. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and he’s also got a blistering shot.
Mantha will probably start the season in Grand Rapids, but once the season gets underway and injuries start happening, he will get his shot with the big club. There is a huge jump between juniors and the NHL as far as competition level goes, but Mantha isn’t an ordinary player. I think he’ll tear it up in the AHL just like he did in juniors, and Ken Holland will take notice and bring him up to the big club.
3. Jimmy Howard Wins Vezina Trophy
This is probably the boldest of all predictions, but Jimmy Howard has the capability of being an elite goaltender. During the 2011-12 season, he finished with a 2.12 GAA and .920 save percentage. He was on his way toward being a heavy Vezina favorite when a late-season injury derailed his chances of taking home the trophy.
Ever since Nicklas Lidsrom retired after the 2011-12 season, the defense in front of Howard has been suspect at times. Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson have provided some stability, but kids like Brendan Smith, Jaukb Kindl and Brian Lashoff are taking longer than expected to develop. Defense is a position that takes players longer to develop, and Howard has had to be on top of his game to help his young defense.
Howard didn’t have the greatest season last year with a 2.66 GAA and .910 save percentage. Part of that is on his defense, but he also wasn’t as good as he has been in years past. He started last year slow, but once he was named to the United States Olympic team, he played like he deserved to be on the team.
I’ve watched Howard long enough to know he has the capability of being a top-five goalie, but he needs help from his defense, and he needs to channel the 2011-12 season again in order to prove his critics wrong.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.