The curtain has come down on another Detroit Red Wings’ season. The Boston Bruins had no problems in powering past the Wings in the 1st round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, taking the series 4-1.
Even though the 23 consecutive playoff appearance streak lives on, this season still fell drastically short of Hockeytown’s initial expectations when the season started. As the season went by those expectations quickly changed and evolved into just keeping the playoff streak alive. So, on that front, the Wings succeed.
But, at the start of the season keeping the streak was almost a given to happen. The goal was to build on last season’s success which saw the Wings take the eventual Stanley Cup winners Chicago Blackhawks to overtime in game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
By my standards with the Red Wings losing in the 1st round, they didn’t meet those expectations.
It’s not like they didn’t have the team to do it either. The main reason for the letdown was all the injuries. I sound like a broken record because it’s been said all season, but this could have been a completely different season if it hadn’t for all the injuries. Especially, if Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, or Jonathan Ericsson hadn’t missed so many games the Wings could have easily avoided a 1st round date with the almighty Bruins.
The Red Wings lost a total of 412 man games due to injuries, the 2nd most in the NHL to the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, the Penguins showed that statistic doesn’t mean much as they won the Metropolitain Division. The deciding factor is the caliber of players getting hurt.
Datsyuk and Zetterberg each played a grand total of 45 games this regular season. Hard to compete when your two best players are out for nearly half the season.
Moving past the injuries, there were also key role players that just failed to perform this season.
The easiest way to do this is to just make a laundry list: Stephen Weiss, Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo, Daniel Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi, and Patrick Eaves.
Count them up, 6 guys that played substantial minutes to start the season that disappeared come playoff time. That’s two complete lines the Red Wings had to scrap (and I’m glad they did) because of injuries and lack of production. That speaks volumes to me that the Wings have some much needed spring cleaning to do this offseason in order to clear the dead weight.
Which brings me to Johan Franzen, or the Mule that forgot how to skate and score goals. His ludicrous contract probably means he isn’t going anywhere, which is frustrating and a problem that could even escalate heading into next season. Dead weight you can’t get rid of is what slowly tears down franchises. That might be a bit harsh on Franzen, but 1 goal in his past 22 games and the unwillingness to speak with the media forces me into making that previous comment.
There is a silver lining to all of this.
With all the injuries and certain players not preforming we were introduced to the future stars of the franchise. Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening, and the list goes on. The youth movement is in full swing. The experienced they gained this season is immeasurable.
While the young guns were relatively kept in check by the Bruins, this is all still a learning experience. Plain and simple, they looked nervous. Give them a few years and they will be ready to play against one of the best teams in the NHL. Now wasn’t the time. When the time comes, I have no doubt in my mind they will get their revenge.
In the meantime, many of the youngsters will get the opportunity to go back and join the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins on their journey to defend the Calder Cup.
Hockeytown, I invite you to take the trip with them. The Red Wings’ season may have come to an abrupt end, but the future stars of Red Wings are just getting their postseason underway.
After a thrilling double overtime victory over the Abbotsford Heat on Friday night, the Griffins are back at it tonight for game 2 of this best-of-five quarterfinal series. Puck drop is at 10PM EST and the game can be heard on 106.9FM or 1300AM. The Calder Cup playoffs are also broadcast online at theahl.com for a small fee.
As for my closing comment on the Red Wings; there is always next season.
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