Detroit Red Wings: 5 Reasons for Fans to Worry

Riley KuftaContributor IIIFebruary 10, 2012

Detroit Red Wings: 5 Reasons for Fans to Worry

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    The Detroit Red Wings have been the most successful franchise in the NHL over the last two decades. 

    Through incredible scouting, drafting and coaching, the team has won four Stanley Cups since 1995 and is currently on pace for their 21st postseason appearance in a row. 

    While their stats are impressive; all good things come to an end, and all signs are pointing that it could happen sooner than later.  

    The following slideshow will identify five reasons why the Red Wings may be in for a rough couple of years.  

Contracts

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    Following the current season, there are nine players on the Red Wings roster who are headed to some form of free agency.  

    While their top forwards are locked up for a few seasons, some players with expiring contracts play a critical role in the team's success, such as Nicklas Lidstrom and Jiri Hudler.  

    Detroit will surely re-sign some of these players, but others will be parting ways.  

    With so many positions to fill, the Red Wings will be forced to heavily rely on free agent pickups this offseason. If they aren't able to fill the void, expect a considerable decline in performance next season.  

Farm Team Lacking

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    The Detroit Red Wings' farm team, the Grand Rapids Griffins currently sit in 12th place in the AHL Western Conference.  

    With one of the worst GA/G in the league, there are many questions surrounding the team's goaltending and overall defensive abilities; two aspects the Red Wings put great focus on.    

    Although Gustav Nyquist, the Grand Rapids' star rookie is showing signs of greatness, it's safe to say that the majority of the team is still years away from being NHL ready. Which further increasing the team's dependency on free agency pickups this summer.  

Jimmy Howard Dependency

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    Goaltender Jimmy Howard is in the midst of putting together a spectacular season. He ranks among the NHL leaders in just about every goaltender stat, and is the league leader in wins.

    Provided he doesn't suffer a major meltdown, Howard's admirable performance will lead to a Vezina Trophy nomination.  

    It's the games that he hasn't started that cause worry for the fans. In games in which Howard doesn't play this season, Detroit has a record of 4-6-1 with an average of 3.27 goals against.  

    Howard is a great goaltender, but even the best of the best can only play a certain amount of games before the grind takes a toll. 

    Howard has a history of injuries, and is currently sidelined with a broken finger. The Red Wings must find a reliable goaltender to back up Howard, and they must do it now. 

    If not, the team's future success won't be the only thing in jeopardy.  

Age

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    At an average of just over 29 years old, the Detroit Red Wings are the oldest team in the NHL. The average age of their five starting skaters (Datsyuk, Bertuzzi, Franzen, Lidstrom and White) is 34.  

    While these players' current performance is fine, productive decline and retirement are inevitable.  

    Starting in the next year or two, the Red Wings will likely start losing their star players one by one.

Nicklas Lidstrom

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    While the team's overall age is an issue, the age of the team captain, Nicklas Lidstrom is the largest reason for worry.  

    At 41 years old, Lidstrom is set to become a free agent, with his future in the NHL undecided.  

    About two weeks ago, the Red Wings suffered a significant 7-2 loss to the struggling Montreal Canadiens; their second worst loss since March of last year.  

    It just so happens that the 7-2 loss to Montreal was the only game of the season that Lidstrom has missed.  

    If that's not worrisome enough, consider this: the Detroit Red Wings have made the postseason 20 consecutive seasons.  Nicklas Lidstrom has been on the team all but one of those years, picking up four Stanley Cups and seven Norris Trophies.  

    Nicklas Lidstrom's outstanding play, over his career, has clearly played a huge role in the success of the team. 

    The question is, can they still do it without him?