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April 20, 2003 - Ted Kulfan grades the Red Wings
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Sunday, April 20, 2003

Ted Kulfan grades the Red Wings

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David Guralnick and Daniel Mears / The Detroit News

From clockwise, Darren McCarty, Curtis Joseph, Chris Chelios, Sergei Fedorov and Brett Hull helped the Red Wings earn 110 points this season and the second seed in the Western Conference. But a sluggish performance in the first round of the playoffs foiled the Wings' attempt to win their second straight Stanley Cup and fourth in seven years.

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Goalies

Curtis Joseph

It's safe to say this wasn't what Joseph had in mind when he left Toronto to sign a free-agent contract with the Wings. Except for a superb stretch in the second half, he didn't play up to expectations. He let in some untimely goals in the playoffs, which were magnified by the Wings' inability to generate any offense. Grade: B-

Manny Legace

One of the most difficult jobs in pro sports is being a backup goalie. Because of limited playing time, it's nearly impossible to stay sharp. Legace struggled in this role last season, but he was used well by Coach Dave Lewis this season and performed much better. Grade: A-

Defense

Patrick Boileau

Not much was expected of Boileau when he was recalled from the minors, but he showed potential. He has good offensive skills and doesn't get flustered. He'll likely have a job here next season. Grade: B

Dmitri Bykov

He far surpassed expectations. He missed most of training camp because of immigration problems, but seamlessly moved into the lineup. Not flashy at all, but that's fine. Grade: A

Chris Chelios

He's not as good as last year, when he finished second to Nicklas Lidstrom for the Norris Trophy. But at age 41, that was too much to ask. Chelios struggled in the playoffs, which raises a red flag for next season. Still, when he wasn't in the lineup this season, the Wings weren't nearly as effective. Grade: B

Mathieu Dandenault

He met with Coach Dave Lewis after the All-Star break and something clicked because he played much better in the second half. He has gifted speed. He had one glaring error in the playoffs -- a mental breakdown in Game 4 that led to a goal by the Mighty Ducks. Grade: B-

Jiri Fischer

A lost season. He tore his left anterior cruciate ligament Nov. 12 and didn't play again. The Wings missed his size and strength. His return will be welcomed by all next season. Grade: Incomplete

Nicklas Lidstrom

He will probably win his third consecutive Norris Trophy in June, and deservedly so. There might be only a couple of defenseman in NHL history who are better than Lidstrom. He is the one player the Wings can't afford to lose for any length of time. But like a lot of Wings, he couldn't get it going in the playoffs. Grade: A

Mathieu Schneider

He struggled in the playoffs, but a groin problem might have contributed to that. It's difficult to grade him because he played here less than a month, after being acquired at the trade deadline. The Wings like his offensive skills, which should fit in nicely. Grade: Incomplete

Jason Woolley

The Wings were pleased with Woolley after they acquired him from Buffalo when Jiri Fischer was injured. His strengths, primarily passing, fit in so well with this team. An unrestricted free agent, economics will decide whether he returns. Grade: B

Jesse Wallin

It's beginning to look as if Wallin will have to go elsewhere to get a regular spot in the lineup. He played very well during a stretch this season when he was paired with Chris Chelios, but he got injured, and never got an opportunity to get back into the lineup. Grade: C+

Forwards

Pavel Datsyuk

There were concerns at the start about a sophomore jinx and a knee injury kept him out of the lineup in December. But when he returned, Coach Dave Lewis put Datsyuk with Henrik Zetterberg and Brett Hull, and it arguably was the Wings' best line. Datsyuk is on the road to having a long and successful career. Grade: B+

Boyd Devereaux

He arguably was the best player in training camp, but a broken left thumb in the exhibition opener started the road to a season Devereaux would like to forget. He was a healthy scratch late in the regular season and the playoffs. Grade: D

Kris Draper

He set career highs in assists (21) and points (35), and his 14 goals were one short of a career high. Draper has expanded his game greatly the last two seasons and he's becoming a valuable asset on this team, one the Wings can't afford to lose. Grade: B+

Sergei Fedorov

Love him or hate him, Fedorov would be a difficult player to replace. He led the team with 83 points and 47 assists. Fedorov can be maddeningly invisible at times, but there are 29 other teams that would love to have this unrestricted free agent. He could have done more in the playoffs. Grade: A-

Tomas Holmstrom

He had his best season as a professional. Holmstrom reached 20 goals and had a plus-minus rating of plus-11, which showed how much he improved on defense. Few players can match his determination. Grade: A

Brett Hull

He keeps thriving with young talents such as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Despite his age (38), he still has one of the hardest shots in the league. He led the Wings with 37 goals. Hull had a difficult postseason, going scoreless on 15 shots, many of them good opportunities. Grade: A

Igor Larionov

This might be the end of the line for the 42-year-old physical marvel. The Wings' desire to work in younger players, and their economic state, might force Larionov to retire. To his credit, he was one of the Wings' better players in the postseason. Grade: B-

Kirk Maltby

He tied a career high with 14 goals and had career highs in assists (23) and points (37), earning him a four-year contract extension. Maltby could be worked into a bigger role in the future. A very effective penalty killer, he brings a lot of energy to the game. Grade: A

Darren McCarty

With 13 goals, it wasn't his worst season but he'd have liked to have done more as he becomes an unrestricted free agent. McCarty is valuable for his passion, his ability to be an enforcer and his presence in the community. Greener pastures financially elsewhere will make it a difficult decision for him to stay. Grade: B

Luc Robitaille

He suffered an unexpected drop-off. He had just 11 goals and played extensively on the fourth line during the second half of the season. The Wings will buy out his contract for $1 million. He'd like to end up back on the West Coast. Grade: D

Brendan Shanahan

He had a solid season, with 30 goals, 38 assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-5. He continues to be play at a high level and is extremely durable. But, like most of the Wings, he was shut down in the playoffs. Grade: A-

Steve Yzerman

He'll be back next season -- he worked too hard to return after surgery on his right knee to have his career end the way it did this spring. Yzerman, who turns 38 on May 9, is nearing the end of an illustrious career. The injuries the past few seasons might have taken a toll. Grade: Incomplete.

Henrik Zetterberg

A favorite to win the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year. He led all rookies with 44 points (22 goals, 22 assists). Zetterberg plays with impressive savvy on the ice. He, Pavel Datsyuk and Jiri Fischer form an impressive cornerstone for the future. Grade: A

Coaching staff

Coach Dave Lewis, associate Barry Smith and assistant Joe Kocur had a very impressive season, although what fans will remember most is the Wings' first-round exit from the playoffs. Lewis handled the pressures and demands of his first season superbly, dealing with personalities and on-ice decisions as if he has been doing this for years. Smith's understanding of the game is unmatched in the league. Kocur filled the role Lewis had last season, and looks to have a promising future. A 110-point regular season isn't easy to accomplish. But another playoff failure next season won't be easy to stomach for anyone. Grade: A-