It wasn’t all that long ago the Detroit Red Wings – the mere mention of them – struck fear into the hearts of NHL teams. Built by Ken Holland, and maintained by coaches like Scotty Bowman and Mike Babcock, the Wings were the gold standard for hockey organizations, with players lined up to don the winged wheel and play for the Motor City.
Times have changed, and not for the better of the Wings. They haven’t won a playoff series since the 2012-13 season. For the past five seasons, they haven’t made the playoffs at all. And the highest they’ve finished in their division is fifth – and that was only one year; in each of the other four years, they’ve finished either seventh or eighth. The basement. The pits.
Talk about culture shock.
Detroit’s ownership has been lauded for its hands-off approach, and it got even more compliments when it brought back former on-ice star Steve Yzerman to take over as GM and right the course the team had lost its way from. But those who thought Yzerman would instantly replicate the success he had remaking the Tampa Bay Lightning in his first GM job were mistaken. For a number of reasons, the Wings have continued to struggle in Yzerman’s first two years as their GM, and this coming season doesn’t look like that is about to change.
Now that they’re back in the Atlantic Division, the Wings aren’t close to being as competitive as the back-to-back-defending-Stanley-Cup-champion Lightning. They’re not as deep or as talented as their fellow Atlantic teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and Florida Panthers. Yes, they’re better than the Buffalo Sabres, but that’s not saying much at all. Heck, they may not even be as good as the Ottawa Senators, who have been in a painful rebuild for about as long as Detroit has.