The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin writes an interesting piece on the status of the Detroit Red Wings–a quarter of a century perennial playoff participant who seems to be at a crossroads. There hasn’t been much written about it though there are the obligatory “will the Red Wings finally miss the playoffs” prediction columns every season since Nick Lidstrom retired. And there’s good reason for that.
Since the retirement of Lidstrom, the Red Wings have been stuck in neutral. Though a “tough out” in 2013 and 2015, the Red Wings were bounced quickly in 2014 and 2016. Worse, they haven’t been viewed a legitimate contender since at best, the 2011-2012 NHL season–where they lost in five games to the Nashville Predators in the first round.
Larkin argues that the only person who can answer the question of the Wings’ Limbo status is architect and general manager Ken Holland. The Wings’ GM had a busy summer trading Pavel Datsyuk’s contract and adding several players in Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott while re-signing Darren Helm, Petr Mrazek, Luke Glendening, Danny DeKeyser, and Drew Miller. But the moves were critiqued, especially the long term deals for players who were hardly setting the world afire on the stat sheet.
Larkin writes that Holland has a point when he says the Red Wings are not scraping the bottom of the barrel. They have a number of young core players, but with Ott, Vanek, and Miller all taking up roster space, it makes the margin of error thin for those young players in Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha. Larkin also reports that Holland feels that if a few breaks went the Wings way, perhaps they beat the Blackhawks in 2013 or the Lightning in 2015.
But that misses the point. Hockey is a sport that often comes down to luck. Many would argue that the Wings received their share of fortunate bounces during the years they won the Cup.
The point, made by many fans, is that the Red Wings haven’t been in a spot to even challenge for a Cup. Further, there has been a loyalty given to players in the Wings system or past-their-prime veterans that makes Holland feel like it’s 1999 again. In many ways, it appears that the Wings are committed to a “just barely make the playoffs” mentality and then hoping for the best. Several of Holland’s quotes all but support this.
Larkin takes a bullish view, saying that the Wings have an upside to them. But a prominent voice of Red Wings fans has made a strong point several times this summer–wondering if the financial decisions combined with the insistence on keeping veterans at the expense of younger, hungrier players will doom the team to the very long rebuild Holland loathes. Simply put: what’s the plan and even more terrifying to some fans–what will the result be?
We’ll all see soon.