Perhaps the headline is more wishful thinking than reality.
The Red Wings preseason was not kind to the team. Out of eight games, only three were winners. Three other games were regulation losses and then there was one OT loss and one shootout loss. All of this went down against very competitive teams like Penguins (one win, one loss), Blackhawks (one win, one loss), Bruins (two losses), and Maple Leafs (one win, one loss). Even worse, the last three pre-season games were all losses. And who do we meet in the season opener on October 9? The Bruins.
I have to admit, I expected more to go down in the Red Wings off season to change things up. The past few seasons have not been great. Looking back since the last cup win in 2008, the post season stats a far from stellar. For 2008-09 we were back in the finals and that time the Penguins took home the prize. Since then, the Wings have been out in round one or two:
- 2009-10: Out in round two to the Sharks in five games.
- 2010-11: Out in round two, again to the Sharks but in seven this time.
- 2011-12: Out in first round to the Predators in five.
- 2012-13: Out in second round to Blackhawks in seven (after barely getting out of round 1, taking seven games to defeat the Ducks).
- 2013-14: Out in round one to (look, here I am naming them again) the Bruins in five.
Looking beyond playoff performance, it’s been a challenge even to get into the postseason. Last season we scooted in as the wild card. It was similarly bad the year before (although in 2012-13 it wasn’t called a wild card slot). You have to go back to the 2010-11 season to find Detroit clinching the division.
I could try to dissect this whole thing by looking at years of stats and performance, but I admit to being a more casual fan than that. I expect team management to work on this sort of thing.
As I said above, I expected things to go down over the summer. When Pittsburgh, a team that’s been having better seasons than Detroit (even while not winning a cup), up and fired their head coach among others, I was braced for the same thing to happen in Detroit. Or to see some significant shifts in the roster. Or both. None of that came to pass.
Don’t mistake the last paragraph to imply that I’m not a fan of what’s in place. Mike Babcock is a great coach, the winningest in Red Wings history. Plus he’s got a couple Gold Medal hockey teams under his belt, too. I also love to watch so many of the players on the roster, both individually for their skills and how they play together. But what is happening these past seasons where the Wings can’t maintain a streak, narrowly get themselves into the post season and can’t even get to conference finals? More importantly, what’s being done to change the pattern?
I do appreciate that the team seems optimistic this season. In a Wings press release from October 6, Goalie Jimmy Howard, who has publicly remarked that he’s expecting a much better season for himself this year, said “We’re a pretty underrated bunch of guys right now. I don’t think a lot of people are expecting too much out of us this year but we know what we’ve got in this dressing room, we know what we’re capable of and I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
Maybe Detroit will find their wings and fly. I do love a good surprise. Here’s hoping it’s a season full of them courtesy of the Red Wings.
Jeff’s regular PuckBuddys beat includes the Red Wings and reviewing fiction that features gay hockey players. In addition, he’s the author of the Hat Trick series, which chronicles the romance of Simon & Alex, two hockey players who fall in love during high school. Hat Trick 2: Playing the Rebound was published in July and he’s at work on the third installment. Another hockey romance short story, Rivals, will be out from JMS Books this holiday season. You can follow him on Twitter at @hockeyguynyc.