2016 wasn’t exactly kind to the Detroit Red Wings.
Although they were able to qualify for their 25th consecutive playoff berth, they were quickly dispatched in the first round, meaning they’ve won a single playoff series since 2011. Certainly not good enough for a team that’s prided itself on winning.
To make matters worse, rather than saying his team would do whatever was necessary to return to their position at the top of the NHL, GM Ken Holland instead astonished fans and media members alike by saying that “If you expect (Stanley) Cups, you’re in the wrong league” and that “less can be more exciting.”
Fast forward to the first week of 2017. The Red Wings sit at 16-16-5, good for 7th overall in the Atlantic Division. They’re looking up at the Maple Leafs in the standings. Their powerplay is 30th overall in the NHL. Gustav Nyquist has scored a putrid four goals on the season. Riley Sheahan hasn’t scored once. Tomas Tatar has been largely invisible. Petr Mrazek has routinely had to check his pads to see if they’re made of swiss cheese. Coach Jeff Blashill has mixed up the line combinations more times than we can count, and many have been calling for his job.
For the first time in a long time, their playoff streak is in serious danger of being snapped this year. (Although, the executive in charge of the team hinted that there’s nothing wrong with that, because “less is more exciting.”)
Is this what we have to look forward to in 2017?
The NHL trade deadline is Tuesday, February 28. If their fortunes don’t improve fast, could the Red Wings be sellers for the first time in decades? Will they look to acquire talent to try and make it 26 straight years in the playoffs? Or will Ken Holland give his usual “Well, we kicked some tires and didn’t really see any good fits” and “We like our team” shtick?
Of course, this is also the final season at Joe Louis Arena before moving into Little Caesars Arena next season. The Red Wings are looking at the serious possibility of opening a shiny new building with a team that isn’t playoff material. Not exactly the most exciting prospect.
The Red Wings could very well reverse their fortunes, get hot, and qualify for the playoffs. Earlier this season, they won six straight. They’re missing forwards Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm, and netminder Jimmy Howard with injuries right now. We’ve seen teams in recent years that were even farther out of the playoff picture suddenly go on a tear.
The way things have been going this season, fans aren’t incorrect for not anticipating such a thing happening with their Red Wings.
There is plenty of pride in Detroit’s dressing room, and they know what’s being said about them and their chances. It’s up to them to turn it around. We’re not holding our breath for it to happen. Could 2017 be kinder than last season? We’ll see.