The adjustment of me becoming a Detroit Red Wings fan is in a full swing. While most of what I write on here is fairly subjective and lives in the realm of a statistical reality sprinkled with my own analytics of said data, this piece comes purely from the fan side of things. The feeling and emotional side that we all carry as fans of any sports team. We get hit with the emotional attachment somewhere in our life, for whatever reason, but this heart and soul dedication that we all share comes from passion. I have passion towards the Red Wings and it is only understandable by most of you who are reading this.
The thing is, being a Detroit Red Wings fan is, or rather has been, fairly simple for the past 20 years. You simply show up and watch an awesome team on your TV win 60 to 70 percent of the time. You did not have to really sweat it out until the playoffs and even than you kind of got the better end of things compared to fans of most other NHL franchises. This was not without its own disappointments and heartbreaks, but for the most part we have had the Red Wheel feed us nothing but good and great over the last two decades.
Just thinking about the names that rolled through this organization, whether on a consistent basis or as stoppers-by for a chance to win a Cup, can really get impressive and overwhelming. The techniques and strategies for acquiring talent in the league have changed, but Detroit has remained a fairly attractive option for players even in the midst of a city that went bankrupt. The New York Rangers for example have struggled to find similar success even with New York’s buying power and the lights of Broadway as attractions.
This season is different however and it is really starting to sink in.
I guess we all heard it too many times before: that the Red Wings are going to be bad and forced into a rebuild year. It happened after Scotty Bowman left, it happened when Dominik Hasek left, it happened when Steve Yzerman retired, and it once again hit us after Nicklas Lidstrom retired.
We’ve heard it so many times that I think we sort have, as the fan community, just become immune to hearing it or even understanding it. It has become almost unimaginable to have something like not making the playoffs or having a rebuild year possible simply because we are used to Kenny Holland doing something magical during the off-season to bring us some gold and that rainbow to shoo away the rainy cloud.
This off-season was no different, right?
We got Daniel – god damn- Alfredsson! On day one of free agency and not to seem crazy, but I thought Stephen Weiss signing was a very strong one as well. I mean these two guys offered us two things we needed. A top-tier right-handed sniper and a solid two-way second line center. It was all going to be so well again, right?
Fast forward 64 games later and what do we have?
We have Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Stephen Weiss on the shelf, and we are about inch out of the playoffs sitting in 9th place in the East (and this situation could get worse tonight). What the heck man? The injuries that have hit the Wings are just immense.
The Wings are sitting currently in 3rd place in man games lost in the NHL and definitely in games lost due to groin injuries. What’s even more frustrating is that a lot of those games lost belong to the top six players.
Take a look at that and tell me what you see. Out of the 64 games available this year we’ve had Zetterberg with 45, Alfredsson with 52, Franzen with 37, Datsyuk 39, and Darren Helm 29. This is a not an excuse but a simple “LOOK AT THIS ****” .
I was ready to get my pitch forks out and start yelling at my TV.
This was not supposed to be a rebuilding year, but it turned into one right before our eyes. Look at all the new faces we got to see play so many games for us this year that we were worried about not finding a roster spot?
Gustav Nyquist is almost a point per game player this year with 32 points in 39 games. Tomas Tatar is leading the rookie line with 26 points in 55 games. Joakim Andersson has 15 points n 58 games played, Riley Sheahan has 14 points in 24 games, Tomas Jurco with 10 points in 25 games, and Luke Glendening found a home on the 4th line with 38 games played. These guys are as green as they get and, after some time to ripen at the AHL level, have been put through some real NHL adversity like no other season.
Those names have been playing big minutes and sometimes showing a lot of promise, but the truth is that they do not have enough experience to carry the load. This is why the Wings find themselves in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in over two decades. This is also why it’s okay to do so for the first time in over two decades.
Look, I know we still have a really good chance to win out and make the playoffs, especially if Datsyuk can come back and with the addition of David Legwand, but what I am saying that if we do not it’s okay. It is okay for me because I saw this team play this season and I see what we can do. The young kids that we were promised are good and will be better as soon as next season. In my life as a Detroit Red Wings fan I have seen a lot of rosters that were exceptional and those Red Wings that should have never missed the playoffs didn’t. This year we saw an injury-plagued season show us that our team is not deep enough for a long NHL season, and a playoff spot at this point will be a cherry on a cake, not a guarantee.
Is this a rebuild season for the Wings? Absolutely it is and it is as much of an on the fly rebuild as any team can do. We moved our AHL kids in and they have proven capable of competing at this level, but not enough to be a contender. Without a 100% healthy Datsyuk and Zetterberg in the lineup the Wings are simply okay, and that is not good enough anymore to make the post-season.
Let us not be disappointed with this season but simply be very thankful that, whichever way it goes down, we can see that the Red Wings are built to never crumble. Even the best of the best stumble once in 23 years.