Is Dan Cleary the heir to Tomas Holmstrom’s throne in front of the net?

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The Detroit Red Wings don’t generally have a shortage of talent very often these days. With guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, and Jimmy Howard it’s hard to see how the Red Wings ever have a hard time having success.

Even in spite of all that, some of their key players are a bit older. Lidstrom is in his 40s and going strong, but a guy like Tomas Holmstrom is 38 years-old and worse for the wear given the sort of offensive game he plays. Parking yourself in front of the opposing goalie and taking your lumps from defensemen and goalies alike takes a toll on your body and for Holmstrom, this upcoming season could be his last in the NHL.

Thankfully for the Wings, they’ve got a guy in Dan Cleary who had a breakout of sorts last year and could be poised to take over Holmstrom’s role this year. As Helene St. James of The Detroit Free-Press says, the transition of going from Holmstrom to Cleary could’ve been helpful in the playoffs last year.

He could have a more secure position this season as a top-six forward, depending on what happens with Tomas Holmstrom.

Holmstrom has been a mainstay as one of Datsyuk’s wingers for years, but he is getting up in age (38) and might be more useful as mainly a power-play guy.

Cleary should challenge for time there, too, instead of being left off the power play as he was during the playoffs, even as the Wings sputtered against the Sharks, finishing that series 4-for-28.

If Cleary can pick up where he left off at last year when he scored 26 goals and added 20 assists for a career high 46 points, he’ll force the issue for coach Mike Babcock. Cleary was able to do some of the dirty work in front of the net while Holmstrom dealt with injury problems last season and did well on the power play with five goals on the man advantage last year.

That’s a far cry from what Holmstrom did scoring 10 of his 18 goals on the power play, but if Cleary is going to be the guy to take his spot there he’ll have to improve his numbers. With Cleary being six years younger and a less abused than Holmstrom, he’s an ideal candidate to fill those very large shoes in front of the net. What Cleary did last year with his ability at even strength has shown he’s capable of being a top six forward with the Wings, it just remains to be seen if it’s his time to take that job and make it his own from here on out.