The Detroit Red Wings and their fans have enjoyed 21 consecutive postseason appearances. For the majority of those seasons, falling short was not even a concern.
But could the streak be coming to an end?
The first blow came in late May when Nicklas Lidstrom announced his retirement. Lidstrom was one of the best defenders in the history of the game and was one of the forces that led the team to the playoffs 20 of those 21 seasons.
The next hit came in free agency when Jiri Hudler was signed by the Calgary Flames. While Hudler never broke the 60-point barrier in Detroit, there was no denying his skill and potential.
In their hunt to replace the great Lidstrom and add power up front, the Red Wings were reportedly going hard after Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Alex Semin. Of course as we all know, the Minnesota Wild won the Parise and Suter sweepstakes while Semin took his talents to Carolina.
And to top it all off, the Wings are still waiting to hear whether or not Tomas Holmstrom will give it another go or call it quits.
So where does that leave the Red Wings?
Well, it leaves them with major holes to fill and not many options to look at.
The Wings could continue to look at unrestricted free agency, but once you get past Shane Doan (who reportedly has a list of four teams, and Detroit is not one of them) the herd thins considerably.
How will the Red Wings do next season?
Another route could be acquisitions through trades. Rick Nash, who was the big fish this summer, has already been snagged by the New York Rangers, once again leaving few options.
One big name rumored to be available is Anaheim's Bobby Ryan, whom the Red Wings are reportedly in the mix for. The only kicker here is that given his age and skill set, Ryan will undoubtedly come at a high price.
Other players they could look at acquiring through trade would be Dan Boyle, Lubomir Visnovsky and Keith Yandle.
Lastly is the option to pursue restricted free agents. There are many top RFAs unsigned such as P.K. Subban and Michael Del Zotto, but as we learned in the Shea Weber offer sheet with Philadelphia, offer sheets rarely work out and can come at a huge cost when they do.
Whether or not the Red Wings make a splash via restricted free agency or trades remains to be seen. But as it stands right now, Detroit will be entering the 2012/13 season with a significantly weaker team than in years past.
The question is: Without Lidstrom, Hudler and Holstrom, can the Detroit Red Wings keep the postseason streak alive?