The Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs for 21 straight seasons. In that time, they have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals six times, winning four. That run may be in jeopardy after a very disappointing offseason.
Since back-to-back final round appearances, the team had consecutive second-round playoff exits, then lost in the first round this past season.
This offseason has been bad. It started with the loss of defenseman Brad Stuart. While not a surprise, it was still a huge loss for the team.
The situation became even worse when Nick Lidstrom decided to retire.
When free agency started, they were thought to be the frontrunners to land prized free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Both decided to head to Minnesota instead of Detroit.
Since then, the team has missed out on Shea Weber, Rick Nash and Alexander Semin as well. They now appear to be out of the Shane Doan race, too.
Now, in all fairness, they really had no chance at Nash. It would be hard to imagine the Blue Jackets trading him to their conference foes. It has been reported that they Red Wings made a pretty substantial offer, but it did not go anywhere.
The fact that he went to the Rangers for such a low price shows how unwilling Columbus was to work with Detroit.
In the case of Weber, he was a restricted free agent. While it has been reported that the Red Wings were in trade talks with Nashville, that seems hard to believe, as the Predators were likely going to match any offers.
If that is the case, why would they look at trades? Philadelphia signed him to a monster offer, which Nashville did match. Even if they were not able to land him, the Red Wings should have been more aggressive. They had more cap space and could have made the contract more painful for Nashville to agree with.
If you cannot make your team better, then at least make it harder for other teams to improve. Detroit could have made that cap hit even worse for Nashville, which would have hampered them in building around Weber.
Semin is very much a high-risk/high-reward player. After playing with Pavel Datsyuk, though, it appeared to be a risk worth taking.
He ended up signing with Carolina to a one-year deal.
He would have been worth a one-year trial run. The team is known for suffering some offensive struggles at times. Having a pure scorer like Semin would have been a huge boost to the offense.
It is widely known that Shane Doan would rather stay in Phoenix. His asking price now appears to be too high for the Red Wings. While he certainly is not worth the reported $30 million that has been offered by an Eastern Conference team, it is still yet another player that the Wings have missed out on.
In their places, they have signed role players, at best.
For a team that has been declining the past three seasons, they need a spark. Despite Coach Mike Babcock's thoughts that Damien Brunner is a top-six forward, it would be a shock if he was that spark for the team.
The only hope is that Detroit does have a knack for discovering players; hopefully Brunner is the next in that great line.
Defensively, the team has not added players to fill the enormous hole that the loss of Lidstrom and Stuart has created. They re-signed Kyle Quincey, but he did not finish strong enough last season to warrant much confidence.
Right now, though, he will likely be a top-four defender to start the season.
While the team is not bad, they cannot be considered contenders at this point. For the first time in recent memory, they have gotten worse over an offseason.
They were the fifth seed in this season’s playoffs, only seven points in front of the eighth seeded team. As the team stands now, they look to be in a fight for a playoff berth.
Perhaps the role of underdog will motivate the team. Maybe Ken Holland is working on more moves.
Regardless, something will need to happen to spur this team. If not, Hockeytown will experience a rarity: no hockey playoffs.
PJ Sapienza is a featured columnist covering the Detroit Red Wings as well as many other sports.
You can follow him on Twitter.