The Detroit Red Wings have been eliminated from playoff contention and the streak is over. We knew this day would eventually come. It still feels weird that it’s here, even though we have known for months this was the year.
I did not pick this team to make the Playoffs at the start of the season, but again it still feels weird. This is the first ever Stanley Cup Playoffs that I will watch that did not feature the Red Wings.
We can look back at all the great years. We took many for granted. When they would lose in the first round in the mid 90’s and early 2000’s we would get mad. It was Stanley Cup or bust.
For a time, it seemed like the Wings would never get this done. Finally, in 1997 we all got to feel what it was like for our Red Wings to win the Cup. All we wanted before that was just to see Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings raise the Cup just once in our lives, for those of us who are younger. We did.
Then the the tragedy of the limousine accident happened and our days of joy turned to days of sorrow. We all wondered how? And why?
Then the team went out and won again, the last team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups. Then they built a Hall-of-Fame team, we all know how it came together and they won the Cup in 2002.
The again years of Playoff heartbreak under Dave Lewis and Mike Babcock. Then despite the salary cap the team won again in 2008 and almost another repeat in 2009.
However, the mistakes of long term contracts and overpaying players started. Most, not all, were blinded because it was “Trust in Kenny”. It seemed year after year the same roster returned with tweaks. Free agency would come and go with no big stars added. The core grew stale.
I remember being the first in my group of friends to sound the alarm. “They need a new top six!” I was told “They are fine” because the regular seasons looked great, until they didn’t. I would say that we needed some of those forwards like the Ducks had, when we all learned to hate Anaheim.
Year after Year, we all waited for the big trade that would change the direction of the Detroit Red Wings and bring a decade more of playoffs and another Stanley Cup. It never came. In fact, no major moves happened. They struck out in free agency, became hesitant to make any major moves, and then it appeared to us a few years ago that it just seemed keeping the streak alive was now the goal.
The groups kept making it even when it was on the last few days of the regular season, so lets keep them together. To many it became who cares about the streak? This is awful hockey to watch. This is not the Red Wings we know.
Now that it’s over, at some point they will need to create cap space to make a run at free agents. Most importantly, they must have a good draft and have players that are ready to come up quickly. They simply do not have the luxury to wait five or six years.
Many of our Winging It In Motown readers, including myself, have said they simply do not trust Ken Holland to rebuild this team and many want head coach Jeff Blashill gone. While I’m not a fan of Blashill, and disagree with a lot of what he has done, not many coaches can come in and get this team to play much better because the talent is simply not there as a whole. That is on Holland.
Don’t forget, Holland can gain more time for himself by making Blashill the scapegoat. It’s easy for Holland to say things were “fine” before Blashill got here and he just is truly an AHL coach. My worst nightmare.
So if you don’t want Holland rebuilding the team they both must go together, which would be my choice. Make no mistake, a big chunk of the blame is on Holland. For those who say he deserves a chance to fix it, he’s had time to fix it and prevent it from getting to this point, and he hasn’t. It would be different if they were making deep runs and all of a sudden missed the playoffs. Warning signs have been there for years now and nothing was done to right the ship.
Now that the streak is over its overdue to get serious about turning this thing around. They cannot continue to be loyal to the veteran players. Produce or go.
Steve Yzerman is not walking through that shiny new door at the Little Caesars Arena, so where do you go from here?
Finally, the good news is many teams in this situation don’t have an Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou or Dylan Larkin. Detroit has all three and right there, half of your top six forwards are in place with younger players. This shouldn’t take years and years to fix if management makes the smart moves. If Holland continues to tell us 8-10 years to rebuilt, or 5-6 years to rebuild then he truly is admitting without saying it he has the team in a bigger mess than we think.
We are thankful for the 25 years of good memories, the four Stanley Cups and great hockey. Now forgive us if we won’t accept less, but hockey brings us together and we want to be united by the good times watching the Detroit Red Wings.