This year, it’s the Detroit Red Wings who are showing fans of Detroit sports that the preseason truly doesn’t matter.
After winning seven of eight games on the exhibition slate, the Red Wings have stumbled out of the gate to start the regular season. Before Monday evening’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, the team had accrued a record of 0-3-2; a total of two points through their first five games. (Now 0-4-2 post-Montreal) Through those five games, the team has combined to score 11 goals (now 14), while giving up a total of 23 (now 30). Not exactly a recipe for success, that’s for certain.
But, some of us (myself included at times) are forgetting one thing: this is what was supposed to happen.
I’ll admit it; rebuilding sucks. Cycling younger players through the system, hoping to find a few who might have a chance to be legitimate contributors in a few years. But, finding those players is the tricky part. When the team selected Filip Zadina with the sixth-overall pick in last year’s draft, there was hope (and maybe even some expectation) that he would start the season in Detroit; that he’d be a regular contributor right from the start. But after a slow-going training camp and preseason, the youngster was slated for a beginning-of-the-season stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. Fellow first-rounder Joe Veleno was sent back to juniors for the duration of this season as well, meaning that we will most likely not see him in the NHL at all this season.
That’s not to say that either of them are not going to be good, or maybe even great players. It’s just not their time yet.
But, this is what a rebuild looks like.
There are going to be stretches when veterans are hurt, and four rookie defensemen play in the same game. (yeah, that one has already happened as well.) Wins are going to be hard to come by, but this stretch serves a purpose. Believe it or not, we may very well be watching the stars of the near-future begin to blossom right before our very eyes, or at least we had better hope that we are.
Fortunately, the team does have some veteran presence. Thomas Vanek, Niklas Kronwall, Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, and others will fill that desperately necessary position. It’s vital for the development of young players.
There is no timeline that precisely tells us how long a rebuild lasts exactly. All we know for certain is that it takes a lot of losing to ultimately reach the end of the process. Youngsters get acclimated to the system, and figure out where they need to make changes in order to become competent. It’s much more of a marathon than a sprint, to be sure.
While the Red Wings are most definitely early in the rebuild process, it’s good to remember that guys like Zadina, Veleno, and other highly-anticipated draft picks are going to make their way through the system and to Detroit at some point. The hard part is dealing with the massive amounts of losing that the team is sure to continue going through. But remember one thing: this is what a rebuild looks like.