The Detroit Red Wings had themselves quite a run in the month of January, picking up 20 points and jumping back into a playoff spot heading into the All-Star break. This run had them end the month with a 26-18-6 record, netting them 58 points at the 50-game mark of the season. This performance has me excited about their chances to make the 2024 NHL playoffs and end the current playoff drought that has gone on for far too long. Look back at some memorable and forgettable seasons from the past and see how this season is stacking up for the Red Wings.
The first season I looked at is last season for the most direct comparison to the current season when the Detroit Red Wings didn't miss the playoffs by too much. At the 50-game mark last year, the Red Wings held a 22-20-8 record with 52 points. After winning game 50, they went on to win six of the next seven games and were looking to be well on their way to the playoffs before going on a 6-game losing streak that drove them into a selling position at the trade deadline and another year of not making the postseason.
Next, I looked at what is the most forgettable season in my memory, which was the 2019-2020 season. This season was an absolute train wreck for the Red Wings, and they had absolutely no chance of making the playoffs at really any point in the season past the fourth game, after which they went on an 8-game losing streak. At the 50-game mark this season, they held a 12-34-4 record with 28 points, which is worse than any team in the league in the current season. Luckily for the Red Wings, the pandemic ended this season early and we didn't have to suffer anymore.
To help get me back in a better headspace, the next season I revisited was the last season that the Red Wings made the playoffs, the 2015-2016 season. It almost seems like a lifetime ago since they made the playoffs, and this season, they held a 25-17-8 record with 58 points, which is exactly the same number of points they have this season. Although you can't say they will make the playoffs based on their record at game 50, this is the first time since the 15-16 season that they have had 58 points.
The Detroit Red Wings record from the 1996-97 season provides hope.
I decided to look back at some of the recent Stanley Cup-winning seasons for the Red Wings to see how far the team is from those seasons. In the 2007-2008 season, they had a 36-10-4 record for 76 points; in the 2001-2002 season, they had a 34-9-5 record for 73 points, showing that the teams from those seasons were a step above the current team at the 50-game mark. In the 1997-1998 season, they had a 28-12-10 record for 66 points, which is still ahead of this season. What was really surprising is that in the 1996-1997 season, the Red Wings had a 24-17-9 record for 57 points after 50 games, which is one point and two wins less than the current season!
This really shocked me cause my memory of this era is that the Red Wings dominated all season long and just ran the table, but that was not the case. After game 50, they only won 14 of the last 32 games that season; what saved them was they had nine overtime losses in that stretch, which helped push them into the playoffs. They did step it up in the playoffs, winning six straight games to close out the St. Louis Blues in the first round and sweep the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the second round. They also won 5 straight to close out the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals and sweep the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals.
If the Red Wings can keep the momentum they built through January going into February, I believe they can make the playoffs this season. It really gave me some hope to see where they were at this point in the 96-97 season. Now, I'm not saying they will win the Stanley Cup this season; it is fantastic to see that they have done it when they had lesser record at the 50-game mark. It also is good to see that they are on the same pace they were last time they made it into the postseason. Either way, watching the rest of this season unfold should be fun for Red Wings fans.