The Red Wings suffered a huge blow with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom. Many fans of the Red Wings can't remember a time where he wasn't dominating their blue line, and now this season they'll be looking at Carlo Colaiacovo back there. Tomas Holmstrom is retiring officially on Tuesday, and while they will be captained by the always excellent Henrik Zetterberg and will be forcing opponents to deal with Pavel Datsyuk, their roster seems to lack the zing it's had in the past.
Factor in a very unpredictable 48-game season, and there's a possibility that this might be the first year since 1990 that the Wings don't make the playoffs. GM Ken Holland reminded fans of that possibility in an interview with Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press, saying:
"There's the possibility that we might not make the playoffs this year," the Wings general manager said Wednesday at the Detroit Sportscasters Association luncheon at Hockeytown Cafe. "But nobody can run and hide from you any longer in this league. You can't stockpile players. You're constantly tweaking. You're constantly changing. And that's why all 16 teams that make the playoffs now can win the Stanley Cup."
The trick is making the playoffs, and don't tell me that the Red Wings don't have that one down pat. Mike Babcock can get blood from a stone, and he can get playoffs from this line up. Holland knows this, so why the statement? Simple: temper expectations. When you have one of the best GMs out there telling his fans to be realistic, it provides a cushion of expectations. For some weird reason, if the Wings don't make the cut, then at the very least fans can look at Holland and go "well, he warned us, I guess." It takes the heat off of him if he's seen as being honest from the get go, and that's good PR for him and for the team.
Don't worry, though, Wings fans -- you'll make the playoffs. If you don't, I'll eat my Blues hat.
Image via DetroitNews.com
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Of course, they'll end the season on top of the division with 109 points (don't ask how they'll do that with only 96 point available, they're the Red Wings... like hitting on random 10th rounders to keep their ranks stocked, it's what they've done for the past two decades) and "surprise" everybody. /sarc-off
Yes, the Wings lost a strong blueline presence. But it seems like the entire Central division was bleeding defensemen of various quality, so it's hardly the end of the world when it comes to who they'll have to compete against most often. Their larger problem, which will exist for everybody else, too, is that the Central is still a strong division, and it's going to get plenty of chances to beat up on itself in a Western Conference-only shortened schedule. The Central was 50-28-12 against the East last year, which definitely helped them place 4/5ths of the division in the playoffs. (And even Columbus didn't totally ruin the totals, being responsible for a 6-9-3 mark.)