Is Red Wings' experience asset or liability?

Detroit Red Wings’ Dan Cleary screens Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford on this first-period shot during NHL exhibition action at Joe Louis Arena Sept. 24. Critics worry that the health of the team is at risk with 14 players being over the age of 30.

One thing is known for sure about the Detroit Red Wings this season. They are old. In fact, they are the oldest team in the National Hockey League this season.

This season’s roster lists 14 players who are above the age of 30. Of those 14 players, two of them are in their forties. Mike Modano and Captain Nicklas Lidstrom, both 40 years old, will rely on their experience and leadership to help the star-laden Wings bounce back from their disappointing season a year ago.

This season’s squad might remind some fans of the 2002 team that won the Stanley Cup behind the leadership of veterans Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille and Dominik Hasek. To me, this season’s squad is all about returning the Wings to normal. Normal for the Red Wings is finishing the season on top of the Western Conference and having a realistic chance at winning it all in June. And despite the injuries that plagued them last season, they still maintained the longest active playoff appearance streak in the NHL with 18.

The real question at hand for me is: Can the Wings stay healthy?

I might have a doubt or two about the resiliency of the veteran players and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The Detroit Red Wings have consistent talent. They just have to stay healthy through the long, arduous, 82-game regular season.

While some fans might be skeptical about the team’s durability because so many of the Red Wings’ essential players are over 30 years of age. Rest assured, if they make the playoffs with everyone healthy, the amount of experience alone will make for a strong run at their 12th Stanley Cup.

In my opinion, if a professional athlete has played at an elite level before, they can do it again. Just look at Brett Farve. It’s just a matter of conditioning. This season they need to prove to all critics they’re not too old to make some noise this year.

So far, I like what I see. Modano has scored already. They beat the defending champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, Saturday night and Pavel Datsyuk, usually known for his scoring abilities and sportsmanship, recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick in the season opener against the Anaheim Ducks. I see a lot of emotion out on the ice and that makes this feel like a comeback season to me.

Last season, it just didn’t feel like they had a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup simply because of the overwhelming amount of injuries. A whopping 312 man games were lost to injury last year as opposed to 187 games lost the season before when they appeared in the Stanley Cup finals for the second season in a row.

Key players were out for the majority of the games in the 2009-2010 season. Daniel Cleary, Thomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen, Jason Williams and Valtteri Filppula all missed games last year.

The bottom line is this: The Wings have the talent. They simply must find a way to stay healthy throughout the regular season and into the playoffs if they want a chance to win their second championship in four years.

Old or not, in Hockeytown, failing to win the Stanley Cup is a disappointing season.

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