Detroit Red Wings: Hockey is back-Let’s Bury 2014-15 for Good


Rejoice Detroit Red Wings fans–hockey is back. Yeah, it’s just training camp, and it’s intra-squad scrimmaging, but it’s Red Wings hockey in some facet. And we’ve all waited too long. And so as the ice in Traverse City is filled with Red Wings already on the roster, Griffins trying to break through, and non-roster invitees attempting to hang onto their professional dream, it’s time to leave last season behind and focus on the 2015-2016 season.

Dumb Luck and Bad Timing

It was the evening of Game 7 against Tampa Bay and I just left work after a long day. I went to fill my car up and heard a horrible pop and semi-explosive noise. My rear right tire blew and I was marooned. In a cruel twist, my tire iron and jack were at home–casualty of another tire that burst only a week earlier on our other family car.

Dumb luck and poor timing.

As I sat waiting for the truck, I listened on Sirius and reflected on the fact that the tire burst on a day when my favorite team is playing in a Game 7. A team that could very well play its final game of the season.  A team with a wheel as a prominent symbol for its logo–beset by dumb luck and poor timing throughout 2014-2015. I’ve always been a big believer in omens–especially during the Cup runs. This one seemed ominous.

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Game 7 was overshadowed by the suspension of Nik Kronwall, and the cloud proved too heavy for the Red Wings to overcome. The Red Wings whiffed on opportunities–when once again–they outplayed the Lightning as they had in other games of the series. The only goal Tampa Bay scored with Mrazek in net was one that had Wings fans howling for a penalty. Who can forget Kyle Quincey pinned to the ice by an opposing player–leaving the slot open for the eventual winner. That’s what I walked into after the tow truck arrived and I was dropped off at home by a close friend.

Dumb luck and bad timing.

We all know how it ended–with handshakes. It was another case of so close–yet so far. A team given no chance by any major reporter or pundit, the Red Wings took the eventual Eastern Conference Champion to the limit. Sound familiar? Sadly, it’s been that way for what seems forever–though that’s not true. It’s only been year three of rebuilding on the fly. The other years were just falling short. Since 2013, it’s been a Wing and a Prayer (couldn’t resist the pun) for a playoff run.

The Future Beckoned

No sooner were the Red Wings eliminated did Mike Babcock fire his warning shot that his days were through in Hockeytown. Sure, there are those that figured he would stay there. Or that his mind wasn’t quite made up yet. But when Mike Babcock referred to Mike Babcock, it was no longer about the Red Wings. It was about him. Mike Babcock–much like the team’s hopes for a second round series–was good as gone.

The Babcock Sweepstakes commenced and he was the freshly minted coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jeff Blashill was the logical choice–but he had to wait for the AHL playoffs to cease. His Griffins were once again the conference finals and Wings fans everywhere had to be patient for their new coach. Maybe, just maybe, the dumb luck and bad timing moving beyond. Here was a coach–a sought after one who the Red Wings locked down for several more years. Someone groomed in their system. A native Michigander.

May 21, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock speaks at a media conference to announce his signing with the club at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

It all felt so normal. It felt like it was time. It was as if everything was lining up.

Blashill was introduced, the Red Wings hit a home run in the 2015 draft, and then the free agents arrived. First came Mike Green, the coveted right hand shot the Wings lacked since the retirement of Brian Rafalski. Then out of nowhere, it was veteran and recent champion Brad Richards only hours after Green signed. If it weren’t for salary cap hell, Richards would have re-signed with Chicago. Instead, he was with Detroit. It was learned later that Pavel Datsyuk wouldn’t be ready for  start of the season. Richards would now be the insurance they would desperately need until he returned.

Dumb luck and poor timing averted.

Looking Ahead

Practice began this morning, and it’s a fresh start. For everyone. The future of the Detroit Red Wings and their pursuit of the organization’s 12th Stanley Cup begins today. A game won’t be played. An opponent won’t be vanquished. But new attitudes, expectations and faces await. So do new challenges. And new questions.

Will Johan Franzen play a whole season?

Where will Dan Cleary end up?

Will Teemu Pulkkinen show the goal scoring prowess he had in Grand Rapids?

Will younger kids get the chance and space they never did with Mike Babcock?

Will Jeff Blashill be the great coach everyone thinks he’ll be?

How will Tomas Jurco play this season?

Will it be Petr Mrazek or Jimmy Howard as the #1?

Will Dylan Larkin make the team out of camp?

Will they make the playoffs for a 25th consecutive year? And can they get out of the first round if they do?

Questions abound and answers will arrive with time. The season will certainly contain its share of dumb luck and bad timing.

Maybe this is the season it’s overcome.

Next: Training Camp Roster Previews: Team Delvecchio, Team Howe & Team Lindsay

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