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Detroit Red Wings Offseason Outlook

Johan Franzen

Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Sigh. We all feel robbed that the Red Wings did not advance further in the playoffs. But, it also signifies that there is still work to do in Detroit. Scoring and team defense were issues this playoff season, much like last year. Those areas of concern should be addressed this offseason, which looks to be a big one for the Detroit Red Wings.

We are going to count down the top five offseason storylines, briefly touching on each of the five in this post. All five storylines will also get an in-depth look in their own post. Enjoy the fireworks this summer, both for America and the Red Wings.

5. The Future of Johan Franzen

While Franzen barely played 30 games this season, he is a big part of the Red Wings and their success. When healthy, Johan Franzen possesses a lethal shot and size to bully his way around the offensive zone. Unfortunately, he has suffered quite a few concussions over his career, with the last one leaving doubts about returning to hockey. Can Franzen fully recover and return to form?

4. Young Guns Taking Charge

Mike Babcock said it in his season-ending press conference: the young guys need to step up and make the older players better. The Red Wings have Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, and Tomas Jurco contributing, but not taking control. They need to in order to set the Wings apart form the competition. It wasn’t that long ago that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg stepped up in place of aging Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan. You can forget about Teemu Pulkkinen, Anthony Mantha, and Dylan Larkin coming soon as well.

3. The Tendys

It has already been said that Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek will compete for the starting goaltender position heading into training camp. Will one or both goalies come into camp hungry for playing time? Petr Mrazek is heading into a contract year that could pay huge dividends if he can seize the opportunity. Howard needs to prove that he can be the #1 goalie the Red Wings thought was worth over $30 million.

2. Improving the Defense

Dion Phaneuf stated that he wanted to be traded to Detroit at the trade deadline. Mike Green has long been linked to the Wings. Jeff Petry grew up in Michigan with his dad pitching for the Tigers. The Red Wings need to improve their defense beyond Niklas Kronwall, Danny DeKeyser, and Kyle Quincey (I know right? Quincey?). Marek Zidlicky was a nice addition this season, but is almost 40, and not a long-term solution. Will youngsters like Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, or Ryan Sproul step up and earn a starting spot? Will the Wings make a splash in free agency or offseason trades?

1. Babs

Please stay. Jeff Blashill isn’t a bad #2 option, but Mike Babcock is the best coach in the NHL. Please stay. Please.

Detroit Red Wings Trade Deadline: Who’s Really Available

Ken Holland

Photo by Getty Images

One of the most anticipated dates of the NHL calendar year is quickly approaching. On March 2nd, NHL teams will be scurrying to acquire what they believe are the final pieces to their puzzle in an attempt to challenge for the Stanley Cup. The Detroit Red Wings are no different.

It is widely-known that the Red Wings are looking to upgrade their back end and they have quite a stockpile of prospects on their depth chart. Though they have an abundance of riches, it may not be prospects that are traded for a defenseman or two if the Red Wings decide to make a trade. Let’s take a look at who’s available and who’s not:

Untouchables

There is not a trade out there that will pry these players away from the Red Wings. These are franchise players that will be in the organization for the foreseeable future.

  • Pavel Datsyuk
  • Henrik Zetterberg
  • Niklas Kronwall
  • Jimmy Howard
  • Anthony Mantha
  • Dylan Larkin

 

Young Nearly Untouchables

It is very unlikely that these players will be traded unless there is an offer Ken Holland and company cannot refuse. Some of these players could become franchise players with continued development.

  • Tomas Tatar
  • Gustav Nyquist
  • Riley Sheahan
  • Darren Helm
  • Teemu Pulkkinen
  • Danny DeKeyser
  • Luke Glendening
  • Xavier Ouellet
  • Petr Mrazek

 

Older Nearly Untouchables

These are vital players to the Red Wings that likely won’t be traded unless there is a great offer. While other available trade chips from other teams are better, these players have their role and are not worth trading unless part of a blockbuster.

  • Jonathon Ericsson
  • Kyle Quincey
  • Johan Franzen

 

Trade Chips

In an attempt to challenge for the Stanley Cup, these players might become available to land a key player in return. These players can garner a solid enough return that it might be worth trading them to improve the team.

  • Tomas Jurco
  • Brendan Smith
  • Alexey Marchenko

 

Odds and Ends

There is no interest for these players. They are unlikely to be traded because their contributions to the team are greater than the minimal return that they will bring back in a deal.

  • Daniel Cleary
  • Jakub Kindl
  • Brian Lashoff
  • Stephen Weiss
  • Joakin Andersson
  • Drew Miller
  • Jonas Gustavsson

 

Prospects

Their valuable is still to be determined, but it would take a great deal for Ken Holland to relinquish one of his draft picks from team control. They could be a valued member of the Red Wings—or of another tam—one day.

  • Ryan Sproul
  • Andreas Athanasiou
  • Mitch Callahan
  • Landon Ferraro

 

Next up, a Top 9 look at who the Red Wings might be targeting as the trade deadline gets closer. It will be the RWI analysis of team needs since no one outside the organization truly knows who the Detroit Red Wings are having trade discussions with.

If the Detroit Red Wings had a Skills Competition

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo by Spokeo

Though no Detroit Red Wings player will be a part of it, the NHL All-Stars will be participating in the All-Star Skills Competition this weekend in Columbus. Among the events are competitions for fastest skater, fastest slap shot, most accurate shot, and best at breakaways. Looking at this from a different and probably more entertaining perspective, I wonder which Red Wings would participate in each event if the team had its own skills competition.

Teams used to hold these kind of events for fans in the past, but have since allowed players not invited to the NHL events to take the time off and rest up for the stretch run. Red Wings like Tomas Tatar and Petr Mrazek have already found sun and warm weather for the week break. If those two and the rest of the team were still in town, who would participate in what event? Who would win? Well, we thought about it and need your opinion regarding the participants and winners.

Fastest Slapshot

Who has the fastest clapper on the team? There is no clear answer like Alex Ovechkin in DC or Zdeno Chara in Boston. The Red Wings boast a few players with hard shots, but none that could break a goalie’s hand. Who gets your vote? The winner receives the Reed Larson Award for hardest shot.

Niklas Kronwall – Known for blasting shots from the point on the power play, Kronwall probably takes a clapper more than anyone on the team. He tries to be more accurate that powerful with his shot like the great Nick Lidstrom.

Jonathan Ericsson – “Big Rig” can really bring it from the blue line, but does not wind up for the cannon shot very often. He has rifled some big shots in the past though.

Teemu Pulkkinen – You can’t be compared to Brett Hull unless you have a heavy shot. Teemu’s go-to is his cannon that we are all hoping he’ll get to shoot a lot of in the show soon.

Danny DeKeyser – Another blueliner who favors the smart play over the big wind up, DeKeyser would be another participant in the hardest shot competition. Does he trump the field?

Most Accurate Shot

Guys like Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov come to mind when thinking of Red Wings who can pick a corner. Who from today’s team would win the competition though? There is an abundance of talent here, but we picked the top four for consideration. The winner receives the Sergei Fedorov Award for Shooting Excellence.

Pavel Datsyuk – Obvious participant. Magical in general for snipage.

Johan Franzen – Though he goes through dry spells, Franzen can snipe. He can go bar down on most goalies in the league when his confidence is riding high.

Tomas Tatar – Could he be the next best pure goal-scorer for the Red Wings? His team-leading 21 goals don’t lie. He could reach 40 goals this season if he keeps making goalies look bad.

Henrik Zetterberg – Most of Z’s goals are not fancy snipes, but accurately and strategically placed shots to where the goalie is not covering. Could that translate to hitting all four targets at each corner of the net?

Fastest Skater

Which Red Wings player has the best wheels? We cannot go into bars to determine that, but we can quantify who can skate around the rink the fastest. Speed is another talent the Wings have collectively, but here are the top four. Winner receives the Kris Draper Hustle Award.

Darren Helm – Like Datsyuk when it comes to sniping, Helm is an obvious candidate for fastest skater.

Luke Glendening – He would probably have Mike Babcock‘s vote. Hustle is key here.

Brendan Smith – When given a lane and an opportunity, Brendan Smith can really fly. As a defenseman, you wouldn’t normally consider him for a fastest skater competition, but he deserves the chance.

Justin Abdelkader – Just another Red Wings player who can move in a fast manner. Abdelkader could definitely keep pace with the other competitors.

Breakaway Survival Challenge

For the sake of changing things up from the norm, this competition would be to see which Red Wings player would be the last man standing in a breakaway contest. To ensure that all four are not stopped on the first try, imagine Jimmy Howard is in net for the event. This winner receives the Steve Yzerman Award.

Pavel Datsyuk – We haven’t seen as many Datsyukian Dekes lately, but Pav can still dangle with the best. He is currently the active leader for shootout goals.

Gustav Nyquist – He’s the next man up after Datsyuk in the shootout and has converted on a few attempts this season. Could he outlast the Premier of Danglestan?

Tomas Tatar – Typically number three in the shootout lineup, Tatar can also snipe goalies when it comes to shootouts.

Tomas Jurco – He was highly-touted in juniors for his dangles and we have seen flashes of that over the past season and a half. Jurco is a wild card here with the skills and not much shootout experience.

Slowest Skater

Just for funsies. Which player on the Red Wings would take the longest doing a lap around the Joe? Could one of the goalies beat them? These players can have cinder blocks in their skates at times. Johan Franzen is not an option here because he can skate fast…when he wants. I won’t elaborate on why they are slow to prevent hurt feelings. Just vote for who you think needs turbo boosters to reach normal speed. I’m not sure this warrants an award, but winner get the Andreas Lilja Cement Shoes Award.

Vote! See, voting can be fun when it doesn’t involve politics or prom king or queen! Vote!

Red Wings’ Tender Groins

photo 1 It’s pretty unfortunate that Jimmy Howard will be out for the foreseeable. It’s also pretty unfortunate that it could have been avoided too.

I was at the Verizon Center the night of the Red Wings’ stinker of a game against the Capitals. I also enjoy walking into the Caps’ arena and seeing their 1997-98 Eastern Conference Championship banner hanging from the rafters. I may have been a kid then, but I distinctly remember Sergei FedorovSteve Yzerman, and Doug Brown scoring clutch goals for the Red Wings. Kris Draper had an important goal too.

But back to Howard.

We all saw Jimmy go behind the net to play the puck after the Caps dumped it in. Kyle Quincey and Danny DeKeyser came back, but neither were in a position to beat Caps’ forward Troy Brouwer to the puck. DeKeyser yelled, “Play it! Play it!” for Howard to rim the puck around the boards. I could hear him all the way from my seat, so surely Howard heard him from 25 feet away. He panicked and left the puck blindly, thinking Quincey was coming through to take it. A few seconds later, the puck was in the net and Howard was agonizing in pain. Now, he’s out through the All-Star break, at the very least.

He was named to the All-Star team earlier that day.

What’s Next

photo 2With Howard on the shelf, it’s Petr Mrazek‘s time to shine. Mrazek, 22, is the Red Wings’ top goaltending prospect and will get an early look at being the team’s starting goalie for the next few weeks. The Monster, Jonas Gustavsson, is not ready to play after sustaining a separated shoulder against the Rangers a few months ago.

Mrazek has the mental makeup to be an NHL starter and the talent to make it happen. I’ve been an advocate of that since I saw him play in the 2010 World Junior Tournament. He reminds me of a young Dominik Hasek with his aggressive style of play. He’s got a long way before getting to Dom’s level though.

The Red Wings have Buffalo up next, followed by St. Louis and Nashville. Buffalo, again, and Minnesota round out the schedule before the All-Star break. While the schedule is skewed toward the lighter side with Minnesota and Buffalo, the other two opponents are top teams in the NHL and will truly test Mrazek’s NHL-readiness. Niklas Kronwall and company will need to be on their game for the next five games in front of “Petr Griffin”. Tom McCollum will serve as Mrazek’s backup, but probably won’t see the ice unless something horrible happens.

Let’s see what future starter Petr Mrazek has in store for the Wings as the current starting goalie.

Home Opener Lineup

Lineup

Here is the Detroit Red Wings’ lineup for their home opener against the Boston Bruins. Lineup per DailyFaceoff.com.

Justin Abdelkader  – Henrik Zetterberg – Johan Franzen

Tomas Tatar – Riley Sheahan – Tomas Jurco

Gustav Nyquist – Darren Helm – Andrej Nestrasil

Drew Miller – Joakim Andersson – Luke Glendening

Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson

Danny DeKeyser – Brendan Smith

Kyle Quincey – Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard

Jonas Gustavsson

 

5 Things to Watch Tonight

1. Can Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith continue strong pre-seasons into the regular season?

2. Will Jimmy Howard return to form and be the goalie he was in the 2011-12 season?

3. Can the youngsters avoid a sophomore slump? A lot is expected of Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, and Gustav Nyquist this season.

4. After being a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs last year, can Joakim Andersson establish himself as an everyday player?

5. For the love of God, can we please stay healthy?

 

Very Special Teams

Last season, the Red Wings’ special teams were, well, not up to par. Our penalty kill was atrocious at times, especially against the Bruins in the first round. Additionally, the power play was not very powerful. It was difficult to gain some consistency on special teams with players missing so much time during the season, but that should not stop world-class hockey players from capitalizing on the man advantage.

Looking ahead to next season, I wonder if the Red Wings will continue to use the Tomas Holmstrom screen in front of the net. Todd Bertuzzi, Justin Abdelkader, David Legwand, and even Riley Sheahan filled that role at times last season, but none caused as much havoc as Homer once did. With Bertuzzi and Legwand departing, I wonder if the Red Wings will shift to a more puck possession-focused power play next season.

For the power play, I have to imagine the set up will stay the same, unless Mike Babcock devises some ingenious strategy over the summer involving newly re-signed Daniel Cleary. Here is what the top two power play lines will probably look like:

(Note: other signings and TRADES could change these lines below.)

First PP: Niklas Kronwall up top, Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg on the half walls of the respective off wing, Pavel Datsyuk as the rover finding space and creating space, and Johan Franzen in the slot.

Second PP: Danny DeKeyser up top, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Smith on the half walls, Gustav Nyquist filling Datsyuk’s role, and Riley Sheahan in the slot. Stephen Weiss will also get some time in Sheahan’s role, as could Justin Abdelkader. It all depends on who is playing best at the time.

Now, on to the penalty kill. Woof.

We need improvement. Period. The strategy needs to improve in order to prevent goals. We have great players, but the positioning and assignments need adjustment.  The first thing that needs to happen is our defensemen need to be more physical down low. Boston’s defense hit our forwards enough that they won battles in the corner before they even begun. Intimidation goes a long way. Unfortunately, Kyle Quincey doesn’t scare anyone. Let’s take a look at who will most likely start the season on the penalty kill teams:

Forward pairings: Darren Helm and Drew Miller; Luke Glendening and Justin Abdelkader; Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson.

Defense pairings: Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson; Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff.

With Bill Peters gone and Tom Renney possibly accepting a role with Hockey Canada, Coach Babcock has the opportunity to add an assistant coach with a great special teams background. I heard Adam Oates is available.

D Stands for Defense

Before I venture into the trainwreck that is the Red Wings defense, here is a quick update on the forwards. We signed Dan Cleary to a one-year deal. You can add him to the forwards post and put him in the stands with Joakim Andersson. Cleary will likely rotate into the fourth line and step into the top-nine if someone goes down with an injury (please no).

Anyway, on to defense. Many were disappointed with the signing of Kyle Quincey and deserved to be. We struck out with bigger, more expensive names like Matt Niskanen and Dan Boyle. While a trade is still possible (hopefully probable), we are going to project the defense for next season with the players on the roster. Here is what we are looking at:

Niklas KronwallJonathan Ericsson

Danny DeKeyserBrendan Smith

Kyle QuinceyBrian Lashoff

Jakub Kindl is scratched.

 

Yikes.

I believe Smith and DeKeyser will start the season together, unless there is a trade (please). They will be in Detroit for a long time and could develop some great offensive chemistry together breaking the puck out of the zone.

Personally, I would like to see a top-four defenseman acquired and Xavier Ouellet in the lineup full time. I would keep Brian Lashoff as the seventh defenseman to play in games where a defensive defenseman is required. Kyle Quincey can do the job, but there are better options out there. If Jakub Kindl had a lower salary, he could be kept. But in the salary cap era, Kindl’s $2.4 million salary is too much for someone to sit in the stands.

There’s still a possibility of a trade. Mike Green is certainly an option at the right price. There are a lot of rumors flying around here in DC, but I anticipate Green staying put. Jeff Petry would be a more realistic option.

Next up, we will take a look at special teams. May God have mercy on the penalty kill.

 

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Free Agent Frenzy Roundup

Top 9: Worst Plus/Minus in Red Wings History

Free Agent Frenzy Roundup

Swinggg and a miss. Today, the Red Wings missed out on signing Matt Niskanen, Dan Boyle, and others to reasonable contracts. Niskanen signed with Washington for seven years and $40+ million. Boyle signed with the New York Rangers for two year and $9 million.

Per Ansar Khan, the Red Wings offered Boyle three years and $12.5 million, but he declined in favor of the Rangers. Niskanen followed his former defensive coach from Pittsburgh to Washington. Todd Rierden also got former Penguin Brooks Orpik to DC, but the Caps grossly overpaid (over $5 million per season for five years).

With the market thinning out, we signed Kyle Quincey.. I am only okay with this if Ken Holland and company can still pull off a trade. Hopefully Quincey will be on the third pairing an help Danny DeKeyser develop more. In addition to Quincey, they are looking to the trade market for a top defenseman. Could Keith Yandle, Tyler Myers, or another young defenseman be available for a reasonable price?

The Red Wings did sign Kevin Porter to a two-way deal to add depth in Grand Rapids. It’s good to see the University of Michigan alum back in Michigan.

As for everyone else, there were some good deals and some bad ones. They are summarized below in the SOLID and LOL categories:

 

SOLID:

Ryan Miller to Vancouver

Boyle to New York

Jim Nill acquiring Jason Spezza from Ottawa

 

LOL:

Benoit Pouliot to Edmonton (five years at $4 million per year)

Orpik to DC

Florida drawing names out of a hat to sign

 

Stay tuned tomorrow for more updates and commentary. Hopefully the Red Wings can add and not subtract key pieces.

 

 

Can’t Forget About Detroit’s Restricted Free Agents!

Danny DeKeyser

Photo courtesy of Steven King/Icon SMI

Detroit has three players on their NHL roster that are slated for restricted free agency, meaning that if any team offers a restricted free agent (RFA) a contract, the Red Wings can match it or let the player walk and receive compensation. The three players up for a new contract are Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Tatar.

Of the three RFAs, I can only see Danny DeKeyser signing a long-term contract with the Red Wings at this point in time. I could see Detroit and DeKeyser agreeing to a five-year, $15 million contract this summer to lock him up for awhile. He would make more than Jakub Kindl’s $2.4 million per season on the open market and the Red Wings will pay him accordingly. Additionally, they could come to terms on a two-year, $4 million contract and work on another long-term deal when that contract expires and DeKeyser is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. Expect DeKeyser to be taken care of this summer and contribute in the top four on defense next year with a new partner.

Riley Sheahan had a breakout year this year just in time for a new contract. He solidified the number two center job with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, and Stephen Weiss out with injuries at varying times this season. It is likely Sheahan (and Tatar) will sign a two-year deal this summer with the Red Wings. If I had to guess, he would receive around $1.5 million on average for those two seasons. It would be nice if Ken Holland and the Red Wings’ brass could keep Sheahan’s average cap hit closer to $1.2 million to spend the other cash elsewhere.

Finally, Tomas Tatar will also probably sign a two-year deal this offseason. His cap number will be higher than Sheahan’s and closer to $2 million per year. If the Red Wings are smart, they will sign him to a long-term extension after this next season. Tatar could potentially explode and command more than $4 million per season if he puts up 30+ goals and 60+ points. He could certainly do that if a big winger is added to his line in order to give him more time and space to shoot.

These three players will combine for approximately $5-6 million in cap space of the projected $20 million in cap room this offseason. It would be wise for the Red Wings to keep these salary low with Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, and Tomas Jurco all slated to become RFAs next season.

This will be a fun offseason.

Red Wings’ History vs. Eastern Conference

Igor Larionov

Photo Courtesy of Dave Sandford/Getty Images

It’s officially time for Detroit Red Wings playoff hockey. For the 23rd straight year, the Red Wings will attempt to bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup. This year, however, there will be a new twist to the Red Wings’ pursuit: they are in the Eastern Conference now.

Detroit does have some recent experience against Eastern Conference teams though. They have played seven other current Eastern Conference teams since the streak began, though Columbus and Toronto were in the Western Conference when Detroit last played them in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at Detroit’s playoff experience against the Eastern Conference now that they are in the East and will have new postseason opponents.

  1. Pittsburgh- Detroit last played the Penguins in the 2009 Finals. We won’t talk about the results, but the Red Wings did beat the Penguins in the 2008 Finals. Those are the only two playoff matchups between the Red Wings and Penguins, with each team winning a series and a Cup in the process.
  2. Columbus- The Red Wings and Blue Jackets only met in the playoffs once. The 2009 sweep of the Blue Jackets was Columbus’ only playoff appearance until now.
  3. Carolina- Back in 2002, Carolina met Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals only to see Steve Yzerman lifting the Cup and Nicklas Lidstrom taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy. This was Carolina’s only playoff matchup against Detroit as either the Hurricanes or the Whalers.
  4. Washington- Team Ovechkin met the Red Wings in the 1998 Finals only to be swept in four straight. This Cup matchup against Detroit was the high point of the Pre-Ovie era and the only DC-Detroit playoff series.
  5. Philadelphia- Eric Lindros and the Legion of Doom took on the Red Wings in the 1997 Finals and got swept. Detroit took home the Stanley Cup for the first time in 42 years that season. This matchup was the only time Detroit and Philadelphia have met in the playoffs.
  6. New Jersey- We just were not ready yet. New Jersey swept Detroit in the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals even though Detroit was heavily favored. This was the only time in each franchise’s history that they met each other.
  7. Toronto- Detroit and Toronto met in the first round of the 1993 playoffs. Detroit took a three-games-to-one lead in the series, but Toronto roared back to take the series. This was the 23rd time Detroit and Toronto met in the playoffs, with Toronto breaking an 11-to-11 tie in series wins that year.
  8. Montreal- In 1977, Montreal defeated Detroit in the Quarterfinals in five games. That was the 12th time the two teams met in the playoffs with the Red Wings owning a 7-5 series wins lead. The two teams could potentially meet in the second round this year.
  9. Boston- My dad was not even alive when the Red Wings and Bruins last met in the playoffs. The two met in the 1957 Semifinals, with Boston taking the Series in five. Boston has fours series wins against Detroit, with the Red Wings only winning three series against the Bruins. The Red Wings have an opportunity to tie the all-time series score with a win against the Bruins in the first round this year.
  10. New York Rangers- In the 1950 Stanley Cup Finals, the Red Wings defeated the Rangers in seven games. Detroit has won four series, while the Rangers have only won once in their history.

Detroit has never played Buffalo, Florida, New York Islanders, Ottawa, or Tampa Bay in the playoffs. They could play the Lightning in the second round this year though.

Even though only the playoff series against Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Carolina are the only recent matchups with players still active, Detroit has had good luck against Eastern Conference foes. Their extensive playoff experience since the lockout will provide the essential “big game” mentality needed to make a playoff run, even if the Red Wings are the eighth seed. Additionally, the Griffins run to the Calder Cup last season with guys like Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, and Danny DeKeyser is crucial. Playoff and championship experience at any level will help with the nerves and put them in the right mindset come Friday.