DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs this past season for the first time since 1990.
An aging corps of veterans, a list of unfortunate contracts and uncertainty in prospects have the franchise getting little to no good press heading into the 2017-18 season.
SportsNet's "DownGoesBrown" (Sean McIndoe) puts it this way:
After 25 straight post-season appearances, the Red Wings’ streak finally ended last year. Even the most diehard Detroit fan could see that coming – the team hadn’t won a round since 2013, and had barely squeaked in on a tie-breaker in 2016. On paper, the team isn’t all that good. It’s also relatively old, and absolutely packed with ugly-looking contracts. There’s even a good case to be made that the Red Wings have the worst long-term cap situation in the entire league.
Despite it all, GM Ken Holland insists that he won’t rebuild, at least not in the traditional tear-it-all-down sense. With a new arena ready to open, maybe he feels like he can’t. But we’ve seen old and expensive teams try to reload on the fly before, and it rarely ends well. It’s not hard to imagine a season playing out that sees beleaguered coach Jeff Blashill fired, Holland forced to start trading veterans, and the Red Wings finishing close to dead last.
Still, the Red Wings have a lot of upside in young players such as Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul and Nick Jensen. These are players with a lot to prove still without a real NHL value placed on them yet.
And there remains a decent chunk of talent on this squad with Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Mike Green, Frans Nielsen and now Trevor Daley. It's not impossible to imagine this group being a bit better than last season's 33-36-13 record.
McIndoe points out any shot at success for the Red Wings lies in goaltending. Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek could help right the ship if they bring their game up to levels seen in previous seasons. However, both have shown such inconsistency that it's tough to keep the faith.
The preseason starts Sept. 19.