Detroit Red Wings: Is Their Championship Window Closed?

PJ SapienzaContributor IIIApril 18, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 21:  Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 21, 2012 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Red Wings 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Have the Detroit Red Wings become regular season leaders but post season pretenders? Sure, they went to two Stanley Cup finals just a few years ago, but much of the roster is the same.

During the playoffs, the talent needs to rise to the top. If not, then you just become another Vancouver or San Jose, teams known for great regular seasons but not much come playoff time.

While saying that the team has made the playoffs for 21 straight years is nice, that is not the goal. In any given season, if this team does not at least make the conference finals, then the season is a failure.

Most teams that win a championship, or at least contend for one, build to it, are competitive for a few years, then fall back. Some crash and burn before rebuilding, others only see slight drops. Detroit has spent the last two decades being able to rebuild on the fly.

The Red Wings enter game five fighting their playoff lives. After losing in the second round to San Jose the past two seasons, they are now facing a first-round ouster to Nashville.

Losing two games in a row at home to Nashville is inexcusable. Yes, Nashville has a good goalie in Pekka Rinne and even two very good defenders in Ryan Sutter and Shea Weber, but they are still Nashville. They should not be able to skate into Hockeytown with a tied series and leave in control of it.

While on paper the Red Wings are capable of coming back to take this series, they have not shown it on the ice yet. They have not played horribly, they just have not been able to get the job done. The Predators have been able to win in three of the first four games.

If they do end up losing the series, there should be several players worried about the spot on the team. Much of this team has been together for many years now. Perhaps complacency has set in; maybe they need more players who have yet to hoist a cup to come in with the desperate hunger to help drive the team.

There will be changes to the roster. Ryan Sutter and Zach Parise are both on the Red Wings' radar for offseason free agency. Brad Stuart may be heading back to California, and, of course, there is always the retirement watch for Nick Lidstrom and the presumed Tomas Holmstrom retirement.

Detroit Red Wings did roll through the first half of the season with ease, but once again they struggle in the playoffs. Too many of the regular season leaders tend to disappear come playoff time. They look a step slow against the youthful Nashville team.

The window to win looks to be closing for this team.

They need an infusion of new blood, players to spark the team to reach their full potential. Young players who will bring a needed energy to the team. Eight of the ten leading goal scorers are over 30. While we have seen players that can still be very good into their late 30’s, most players start slowing down.

Time was already running out for this team to really be a contender. Nashville appears ready to slam it shut. The Red Wings cannot allow a five-game first-round exit. They need to fight back; they need to push for one more run at the cup.

They need to show that these first four games have just been a minor slump and not a sign of where they are headed.