After 25 years of greatness, the Red Wings’ empire looks like it’s finally crumbling. They sit at the bottom of the Atlantic Division - unfamiliar territory for them. And their chances of making the playoffs are 7%, even more unfamiliar territory.
So what powered the Red Wings of the 90s and what has changed now? Puck possession.
Perhaps the Red Wings’ most distinctive hallmark during their playoff streak has been a focus on puck possession. Even as teams won through superior playmaking and shooting talent in the 1980s and early ’90s, Detroit loaded up on ex-Soviet stars who’d been trained to take care of the puck. In doing so, the Red Wings anticipated the direction that the game would head in the future, building their dominant teams of the 1990s less on the premise of aiming pucks past the league’s rapidly improving goaltenders and more on the basis of simply controlling the flow of play.
The Wings’ puck possession has faltered in 2016 and they have not been able to replace the talent they have lost. It’s so difficult to dominate a sport for decades, all the more reason to appreciate what they have achieved and what we have witnessed. But where do we go from here?
Is the Western conference no longer the most dominant? The magic number to make the playoffs has been shrinking. For the first time since 2007, the Minnesota Wild only needed 87 points to make the playoffs last year.
Viewed as the weaker of the two conferences for a number of years, the East has had quite a resurgence. Five clubs are on course to crack the 100-point mark, including Washington, Columbus, Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers in the high-octane Metropolitan Division, along with Montreal.
Only 3 teams are on pace to get 100 points in the West, compared to five in the East. Maybe the tides are finally turning.