I amazed that more people don’t know the meaning of the word Schadenfreude. It’s such a useful remark that accurately describes a natural human response after life becomes tragic. When everything is failing, what better way to brighten the spirits than by laughing at the p*ss-poor luck of your fellow man?
Deriving joy from the misfortune of others (the definition of Schadenfreude, in case you’re too lazy to use a dictionary) is not limited to smiling when a waitress breaks a dish or cackling at the tone deaf delusional freaks who croak out “Unchained Melody” on American Idol. It can also apply to sports, and is a natural human emotion if you root for a losing team.
Believe me, I know. As a long time Lions fan (yes, I’m writing about football on a hockey blog. Try not to freak out), I’d always root for an NFL team to have a worse losing record. Even now, despite Detroit’s 6-2 start, I’m secretly hoping that the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins go 0-16; mainly, so the Lions no longer have that unique distinction.
And so it goes with the Detroit Red Wings. Right now, they’re abysmal and fans everywhere are starting to panic. True, their losing streak is a matter of concern, but it’s not the end of the season. And it’s been worse.
A lot worse.
Instead of delighting in a sense of Schadenfreude of other current horrible NHL teams (Columbus, Boston), I’ve decided to focus on past Detroit Red Wings seasons. Listed below are the three worst seasons in Red Wings history. Read, reflect, and thank your lucky stars that Detroit doesn’t suck as much as they used to:
It should come as no surprise that one of the seasons included on this list would be part of the “Dead Wings” Era. From 1966-1983, Detroit only qualified for the playoffs two times. The season records were aweful, but this was by far the worst.
If you think a five game losing streak is bad, consider two seven game losing streaks along with an 11 game skid to end the season. In their last 20 games, the Wings only managed to score 32 goals, averaging 1.6 goals per game.
This team was almost completely vacant of talent. The only notable players were Dennis Hextall and USA Hockey Hall of Famer Reed Larson. The team was a combined -454 +/- and last in the league for goals scored. They finished with the worst record of the entire league.
This was also Alex Delvecchio’s last year coaching in Detroit.
This season also saw another Red Wing Alum end his tenure as coach.
“Terrible” Ted Lindsay lived up to his nickname by starting this season by only winning 3 out of 20 games. He was demoted from his GM position the prior year and forced to make amends by coaching a team with little talent.
Despite his prestige and history with the organization, Lindsay was fired mid-season and replaced with Wayne Maxner. He was only able to garner an additional 16 victories and the Wings ended the year dead last in the NHL.
It was also the first full year played at the Joe Louis Arena, and thankfully wasn’t an omen of things to come.
On paper, this should have been a great team. With players like Joe Kocur, Reed Larson, John Ogrodnick, Bob Probert and Steve Yzerman, the Wings seemed poised to have a respectful season.
There were only two problems: The Goaltending and Steve Yzerman’s injury.
Steve Yzerman only played 51 games due to injuries. Even worse, he was limited to 14 goals, the fourth least of his career. The goalies did nothing to help. Starter Greg Stefan had a 4.50 GAA and a .856 SV% and his backup, Mark LaForest, had .846 SV% and 4.95 GAA. The result was the Wings allowing the most Goals Against in the league and dead last in goal production.
Again, this ended another coaching career. Harry Neale, who started off with a positive career with the Vancouver Canucks, faltered in Detroit. After being fired by Jim Devellano, he left the NHL to become a full-time broadcaster. Neale later worked for Hockey Night in Canada, and even did color commentary with Fox Sports Detroit’s Ken Daniels.
In the course of Red Wings history, this season was the “darkest before the dawn”. Steve Yzerman was named captain the next year and went on to lead the team to the playoffs for the three next seasons. The Wings again failed to make the post season in 1990, but then started their current playoff streak from 1991 to present.
References used in this article – http://www.sportsecyclopedia.com/nhl/det/redwings.html and http://www.hockey-reference.com
Follow Derek Hansen on Twitter @Hockey_Mouth