Red Wings won’t sacrifice games for better drafting position

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Detroit Red Wings
Feb 15, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings left wing Henrik Zetterberg (40) and defenseman Niklas Kronwall (55) display a patch on their sweaters for owner Mike Ilitch in the third period against the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena. Mike Ilitch passed away February 10, 2017. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings will be on the outside looking in once the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on April 11th for the second consecutive year, and only second time they’ve missed in consecutive years in over three decades.

Typically, this is the point where fans will begin pining for their team to lose games in order to achieve a better draft position for the summer. The main draft prize is slated to be Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who has drawn comparisons to former Red Wings great Nicklas Lidstrom. 

However, the players refuse to simply lay down and lose, despite each victory late in the season decreasing the Wings’ chances of winning the NHL lottery. Hockey players are competitive by nature, and not doing everything to win game in and game out simply isn’t a part of their nature.

“You don’t become an NHL hockey player without being really competitive,” head coach Jeff Blashill explained. “You think about what they put on the line with their bodies and all that, you play to win. When the puck drops, you 100% play to win.

I don’t think Detroit would want us to represent them with guys that didn’t want to play to win. I understand the end goal of why people want that, I understand the importance of trying to get that first pick. I’m not naive to that.

But would you want athletes that didn’t play to win? That would be crazy.”

Pride is always a part of the nature of fierce competitors, and forward Dylan Larkin echoed his coach’s sentiments of not trying to lose in order to potentially field a better team in the future. 

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“No, no,” he said in response. “We have a job to do every night and every day, and we’ve got a lot of young guys in here. Every day is an audition and guys are trying to earn whatever it might be, whether it is more ice time next year. Your position on this team and in this league has to be earned every day.”

Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who earned his first shutout of the season in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators, attests to the fact that the team must remain professional in the midst of a disappointing season and still attempt to play their best every game.

“Every single guy in here is a pretty good professional, we still want to go out there, we still want to perform, we still want to play our best, you know, want to win games,” Howard said.