NOTE: The views expressed in this EDITORIAL do not necessarily reflect the views of Detroit Sports Nation or a majority of its writers and should not be misconstrued as such. The views contained within are the views of the author and the author alone.
Last night’s 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens may very well have closed the door on the Detroit Red Wings’ post-season aspirations. Detroit currently sits at 87 points, one behind the Boston Bruins for third place (and an automatic playoff berth) in the Atlantic Division. Both teams have five games remaining, including a head-to-head match-up on April 7. The Philadelphia Flyers currently hold the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 87 points, but have seven games remaining on their schedule, two in hand and four potential points on Detroit and Boston.
Before action across the league starts on Wednesday, the likelihood of Detroit qualifying for the playoffs sits at a season low 43%. A 31% (and change) chance of nailing down the third spot in the division, and an 11% (and change) chance of taking a wild-card spot.
The terms “playoffs” and “Red Wings” go together like peanut butter and jelly. But right now, the question remains: Is this really the end? The end of the longest active playoff streak in professional sports?
Perhaps it’s for the best. Maybe missing the playoffs would force team management into realizing that in this day and age, nine times out of ten, you can’t successfully rebuild on the fly. Your core gets older and less productive, and you won’t always find gold late in the draft. That’s not to take anything away from the success the team has had late in the draft, because without those finds, this streak would have been over a long time ago.
Besides, does it really matter if they make it in this year? It’s a stretch to think that this team could make any serious noise in the playoffs right now. Shaky goaltending, hot-and-cold scoring, consistently bad defense, and a consistent inability (outside of a few games here and there) to get any secondary or tertiary scoring. Outside of possibly stretching a first round match-up with either the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, or Florida Panthers to five or six games, there wouldn’t be much to look forward to other than another early exit.
Then again, it could still happen. A 43% chance of making it? That’s about the same likelihood of winning a hand of blackjack. I’ve won a few hands of blackjack (okay, maybe more than a few…) in my lifetime. Maybe Jimmy Howard stands tall and solidifies his position as the “rejuvenated starter” in net. Maybe Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk find the Fountain of Youth and become the threats they were during their wonder years. Maybe the defense learns how to clear the front of the net. Maybe the Bruins lose their last five games of the season. Lots of “maybes” there, but maybe they happen!
Okay, back to reality. The hardest thing to deal with would be what is almost inevitable this year. Missing the playoffs by a point or two, and having a middle of the pack draft pick. That’s probably what is going to happen. The beginning of a rebuild. A draft pick that won’t be able to produce right away, plus having to cope with the end of the infamous playoff streak. It’s sad, it’s harsh, but above all, it’s true.
It’s been 24 years since this team didn’t make it to the postseason. Hell, it doesn’t even seem possible to watch the playoffs knowing that the Red Wings aren’t participating. But this year, it’s quite likely that we will have to do just that.