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The Malik Report

Praising the Red Wings’ endurance as an elite franchise, even during a rebuilding year

On Friday morning, the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek began his NHL notebook by suggesting that the Chicago Blackhawks may have proved that, in the playoffs, running into a hot team on the wrong week can wipe out a shortened regular season's worth of unbeatable play, and in a very roundabout way, the Globe and Mail has posited two more articles discussing the Wings' resurgent play, yielding something of a, "How the Wings work" theme. The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle offers several reasons why the Red Wings' "demise has been greatly exaggerated"...

Five: Only five teams have had a better regular-season record than the Wings in the four seasons since they lost in Game 7 of the finals: Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington and San Jose.

Eight: Detroit is one of only eight NHL teams to make the playoffs in every one of those four seasons as part of an incredible 22-year postseason streak.

Thirty-nine: Including this year’s run, the Wings have now played in more playoff games (39) than 23 other franchises the past four years. And only the three recent Cup winners (Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles) and San Jose, Vancouver and Philadelphia have won more in the postseason in that span.

Beyond those basics, the Wings have been one of the league’s best teams in many advanced statistics in each of the past four seasons, too. According to http://www.behindthenet.ca Detro,it has ranked fourth, eighth, third and fifth in a measure called Fenwick Close, which gauges puck possession and is generally a strong indicator of playoff success.

Talk of the franchise needing a tear-down in the post-Lidstrom era, in other words, has been overblown. After all, this is still a team with great two-way stars (Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg), an excellent coach (Mike Babcock) and an emerging goalie (Howard) to give them many of the key building blocks of a perennially contending franchise.

Yes, the Wings remain one of the league’s older teams, but that was also the case when they were winning all those Cups, and much of the supporting cast is young and hard working.

While they’re no longer the one overwhelmingly dominant team in the NHL, they continue to be among the top seven or eight contenders year after year, and in a parity-filled league, that’s pretty remarkable. And this could well be their year, yet again.

And the Globe and Mail's David Shoalts penned a Friday-evening article suggesting that the Wings remain the model franchise for teams attempting to establish a dynastic pedigree, asking both Ken Holland, Mike Babcock and some voices we don't usually hear from how the team's been able to at least remain narrowly ahead of the margins of parity while enduring a "rebuilding on the fly" season:

“Regardless of who’s coming in or going out, we always have really good people coming in,” said defenceman Niklas Kronwall, 32, who was tutored by Lidstrom, Chelios and Brian Rafalski. “It’s not just a player or a coach, it’s good people in the right positions. I think it’s only good for the young players. You get to play in Grand Rapids, which is a great city, and you get put into a system where you learn how we play the game. You are put in all kinds of situations there, whether it’s the power play, penalty killing, five-on-five, late in games, whether you’re up a goal or down a goal, you play in key situations. That really prepares you for when you get here.”

[Kris] Draper, whose playing career ended in 2011 and is now a special assistant to Holland, said mentoring is a leadership thread that weaves 30 years back through the franchise to when Devellano drafted a teenager out of Ottawa named Steve Yzerman.

“When Stevie Y was coming to the end of his playing career, we had Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and Stevie really took those guys under his wing,” Draper said. “They were able to learn from one of the greatest of all time. And Igor Larionov had a big impact on Pavel Datsyuk’s career early on. I was a younger guy watching those guys interact and make sure the organization was going to be in good hands.”

“For me, it was when Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm came in,” Draper said. “I knew one day that those guys were going to take my job. But the fact is, when I saw a great player like Stevie Y take on the role of mentoring those guys, I knew it was the right thing to do. For me to be able to help those guys and see what they do now puts a smile on your face. Abdelkader has turned onto a force, playing on our top line, and it’s great to see.”


The greatest test of the plan came this season. The last of the great nucleus of talent that carried the Red Wings for 20 years dribbled away – Rafalski and Draper retired in 2011 and then last summer defenceman Brad Stuart and forward Jiri Hudler left as free agents, winger Tomas Holmstrom retired and, worst of all, so did Lidstrom, perhaps the best defenceman of his generation.


Hockey observers were certain the Red Wings would finally hit the wall. Then, when the season started in January after the lockout, the Red Wings ran into a string of injuries. Their entire third line – Helm, Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson – was lost for almost the entire season. But down on the farm, Joakim Andersson was deemed ready and was promoted in February. Gustav Nyquist came up from Grand Rapids in March and along with 27-year-old rookie Damian Brunner, who spent the lockout playing with Zetterberg in the Swiss league, joined with Andersson to form a third line that is scoring big goals against the Blackhawks.

“I did 2 1/2 years down there,” Andersson said. “I know the Red Wings’ plan. They want their guys to be ready when they get up here and I felt I was ready when I got here.”

Shoalts continues, and his quips from Babcock and about Babcock are superb.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


Slumpy's avatar

Da hawks playing with Prez Trophy curse on shoulder.
Seven of last 27 winners failed to win the Stanley Cup.


Feels good that giant boulder isn’t on our teams shoulder this season for a change.

Posted by Slumpy from Under My Wheels on 05/25/13 at 11:52 AM ET

Sweet Jesus's avatar

I have to laugh every time I see something positive about the Wings from Mirtle.  He predicted an easy ‘Hawks series victory (as did many), but also called the series “over” on Twitter before Game 1 had ended.  My, oh, my.  Mmmmmmmm.  Crow.  Yummy.

Posted by Sweet Jesus on 05/25/13 at 01:05 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Mirtle has some serious-ass company in that department.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/25/13 at 01:16 PM ET

Sweet Jesus's avatar

Mirtle has some serious-ass company in that department.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/25/13 at 01:16 PM ET

I’ve always had respect for him,  so perhaps it’s my fault for holding a grudge.  But you know what they say—some people have common sense, the rest you have to beat it into.

Posted by Sweet Jesus on 05/25/13 at 03:42 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Holding it all together is Babcock, who may have performed his greatest run as a coach this season, pulling the Wings into the playoffs. Now, they look like a team that was simply getting better slowly because of the transition to a new generation.

“I think he finds a way regardless of who’s in the lineup,” Kronwall said of Babcock. “Over the last few years we had some players leave us but he’s found a way to get everybody on the same page and get the job done. I don’t think there’s a coach out there that compares to him.”

Yeah, but it’s not good enough for the Jack Adams - so say the PWHA.

That’s okay.  If Qballstache wins it, it’s a friggin’ joke and we don’t any more of that.

Posted by SYF from A tall cool pint of Guinness on 05/25/13 at 04:57 PM ET

Bugsy's avatar

Grand Rapids is one big city in Michigan that does have hope it will do well in the future. I agree w/Kronwall.

The article also reminded me how we were debating about whether to let Kindl go. Correct me if I’m wrong

Again, appreciate what the Wings are doing even now, is pretty hard to do in ANY sport for this long. At least hockey wise, if I’m reading correctly, only 2 teams have longer playoff streaks in history that also won a Cup during that time: Boston and Montreal, and the only streak of the 4 teams longer that Detroit that went into this century was St. Louis.

I follow all of the major sports. The one team that’s comparable now is the San Antonio Spurs in basketball, and the praises for them sound like the praises for the Wings.

Posted by Bugsy on 05/25/13 at 05:12 PM ET

SYF's avatar

BOS - 29 years (2)
CHI - 28 years (0)
STL - 25 years (0)
MTL - 24 years (8)
DET - 22 years (4)
MTL - 21 years (10)

Just to illustrate what Bugsy’s talking ‘bout.  The number in parenthesis are the number of Cups won during those respective streaks.

Wings are friggin impressive due to expansion, the pre-cap years, and now, the cap years.  Just impressive.

Posted by SYF from A tall cool pint of Guinness on 05/25/13 at 05:23 PM ET

James Mirtle's avatar

I also picked the Wings to win it all… last year. Didn’t work out so well.

Have always been high on them if you read my stuff consistently and not one or two tweets.


Posted by James Mirtle from Toronto on 05/25/13 at 07:14 PM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.