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Who Are The Red Wings?

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I have no idea why this question is even rattling around in my brain, but after last night's performance and coming off the heels of a 4-game road trip in which the Wings were everything from legitimate Cup contenders to looking like they would challenge for the first overall pick, I can't help but ask the question: who are the Red Wings?

It may seem like a simple enough answer: they're the Detroit Red Wings. Perennial contenders, star players, great head coach, quality organization. But what is this team about? What is it about them that is going to make them successful?

Let me preface all of this by admitting something that was pointed out to me on Twitter by PG Marsh: if you ask this question after a win or string of wins, the answer is probably going to be different. But I took to the Twitterz to ask fans to describe the identity of the Red Wings in one word.

The results were not very surprising, at least to me. Follow the jump for more.

The exact phrase I used to ask the question was this: give me one word you would use to describe the identity of this team. Here were the responses I got back:

Derp (my personal favourite)

I fully expected someone to break out the "puck possesion" mantra, but is that really an identity? That's a style of play, but a lot of teams have adopted that and been successful.

What was not surprising at all were the number of people who would describe the team the same way I would: inconsistent. We all expect there to be ups and downs over the course of a season; that's perfectly normal. But it's the way the Wings look when they win compared to how they look when they lose that is so baffling. How can a team that can win by 6 or 7 goals on one night get utterly destroyed by the 28th place team on another night? Yea, I realize it's only one game, but how many games have we said the same thing?

When you look at the top teams in the league, they all have something about them that makes them win games. The Bruins will try and out-muscle you. The Canucks play with an edge and use their special teams to hurt you. The Blackhawks will try to outskate you and wear you out. The Blues will out-work you and stay within their system. The Penguins (when healthy) will just out-talent you.

What are the Wings? I grant they are indeed mature and resilient. That comes with experience, which the Wings have in spades. But on a game-to-game basis, we constantly find ourselves asking which Wings team is going to show up, and that's got to be concerning heading into the tough part of the schedule before getting ready for the playoffs. Hell, we don't even know which team is going to show up in a given period, let alone an entire game.

The Wings can play a run-and-gun style and out-score almost any team in the league. They are also capable of playing solid defense and winning a close 2-1 game. The issue that I see is that more often this season than in the past it has been the Wings adapting to the style of play of the other team rather than asserting their will on the opponent. That is very un-Red Wing-like.

That's the real concerning part. A team as talented and as good as the Red Wings should be the ones dictating the play on the ice, not the other way around. It's nice that the Wings can alter their game depending on opponent, but the truly good teams in the league don't do that. I want to know that the Wings are going to play "their game" and if the other team can't deal with that, then the Wings will win.

The Red Wings still have this "aura" around them that causes other teams to respect them, and that's awesome. What's also awesome is that the Wings do have maturity and class throughout their organization. But not knowing which Red Wing team is going to show up scares me.

We're halfway through the season, and the Wings have been up and down the spectrum in terms of their play. Will the Wings show us all who they really are, or are we in for yet another roller coaster?