Don’t Fear: The Detroit Red Wings Will Make the Playoffs


The argument about the Detroit Red Wings shifted in the last ten years. Before, they were always “too old” to win a Stanley Cup. Then it changed to not experienced enough after Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan retired. They promptly won the Cup in 2008 and nearly another in 2009. After the exodus of Marian Hossa, the retirements of Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom, and the loss of Brad Stuart, the new argument became how the Red Wings would miss the playoffs.

It still hasn’t happened.

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But that hasn’t stopped the pundits from predicting the doom of Hockeytown’s only hope right now–the Detroit Red Wings. With the Lions failing to win playoff games, the Pistons utterly hopeless, and the Tigers looking like they’ll be retooling, the Red Wings are the one hope for a championship. Their 24 consecutive years of playoff stability speaks to that. And several Detroit based writers opining on why they’ll win has become common within the state. But it hasn’t stopped national pundits from openly wondering. 

While the Red Wings certainly lost a grade A coach in Mike Babcock, the fruits of playoff future exists in Grand Rapids and have been slowly rising to the big club. Outside of devastating injury (remember 2013-2014?), you can bank on the Red Wings making the playoffs again. Here’s why:

The Offense Should Be Improved

I understand that championships are won with defense. The 2008 team speaks to that. But for several years, it’s been lamented as to how inconsistent the Red Wings scoring has been. Worse, without a true quarterback on the power play, the Red Wings, despite significant improvement last season, have looked lost on the man advantage. Enter Mike Green. Green, though maligned for his defensive shortcomings, is the desired right-hand shot for a power play lacking its true quarterback since Lidstrom’s retirement. Another factor in the power play could be Brad Richards, who was known to shift to the point for Chicago. And don’t forget about Teemu Pulkkinen, who has a lethal shot reminiscent of one Brett Hull.

Outside of the power play, the Red Wings offense will look better with the addition of Richards, Pulkkinen, Green, and the expected uptick in performance from Tomas Jurco. Remember, Babcock played his favorites and punished those that struggled–or weren’t living up to his expectations. New head coach Jeff Blashill, while still playing a defensive responsible game, will be more akin to unleash his scorers and push the speed advantage of the Red Wings.

Zetterberg and Datsyuk have kids ready to step up

So much has been made of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk being old. Really? Yes, they’ve faced their share of injury, and if you want to make the case for declining production, I’m going to point out that Datysuk had his best season points-wise since 2011-2012. Zetterberg, remained consistent in his production a season after that devastating back injury suffered in the 2014 Olympics.

Related: Who’s More Valuable – Zetterberg or Datsyuk?

Yes, they’re getting older. But they’re not these crippled veterans who are suddenly useless. Similar to the model the Wings used in 2005-2006, Z and Pavs serve as the statesmen who will guide the youth along. Both Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are showing signs of being the next core. Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha (yes, I will not give up on him) are showing that they’re the next wave of youth. Jurco, Pulkkinen, Sheahan, and Glendening continue to take strides as role players who make big plays. And that doesn’t even count the other names (Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Axel Holmstrom) budding to take over down the road. And I didn’t even list the defensemen ready to rise.

With this blend of youth and experience, it’s disingenuous to suggest the Wings are worse than they were a year ago.

Jeff Blashill is the right coach for the time

He resurrected a dormant program at Western Michigan. He won the Calder Cup in his first year of coaching at the AHL level. And he graduated kids to the NHL that rave about him.

Blash is precisely the man the Red Wings need to take the next step. He is battle tested, and ready to take the Red Wings past the second round. Heck, the Wings were a healthy Luke Glendening away from taking a 3-1 lead and potentially closing out the Lightning in 5 games. The young core is still learning how to close teams out at the next level.

Blash will teach them how to do that. This isn’t to besmirch Babcock’s work–because his resume speaks for itself. But the new voice will lend itself positively in the locker room.

Barring an injury apocalypse that makes the Wings a shell of what they should be, expect to see a 25th year of playoff excitement in Hockeytown. It won’t be easy, but this is a team ready to take the next logical step.

Next: Top 5 Must See Wings Games in 2015-2016

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