This is the first year in a while that the Detroit Red Wings could have a legitimate chance at their season ending on April 27, after their final regular-season game. While fans will be disappointed if the Red Wings fail to make the playoffs, it wouldn't be a complete loss.
The Red Wings went into the weekend having captured 11 points out of a possible 14 from their last seven games. The players might have thought they were in a strong position since they were playing the Columbus Blue Jackets, against whom they had a lifetime record of 53-19-1 before this season. Most fans also assumed that the Red Wings would at least get three or more points, even though they struggled against the Blue Jackets this season.
Instead, the Red Wings lost back-to-back games to the Blue Jackets on March 9th and 10th, which now jeopardizes their hopes of making the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive season.
If the Red Wings do fail to make the playoffs, they will look back on their season record of 1-3-1 against the Blue Jackets as one of the main reasons why.
While the Red Wings are currently sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference with 29 points, they also have played the most games with 26. To put into context how close the playoff race is, the worst team in the Western Conference standings is the Calgary Flames with 22 points—but they have three games in hand on the Red Wings.
Due to the shortened season, it appears that the playoff berths probably won't be finalized until the last day of the season. So each and every game is critical and takes on an even greater significance when a team is playing within their conference.
The team has many young players who look like they have bright futures. Also, the Red Wings have their first-round draft pick that will allow them to select a player who can play a big role in the future. More importantly, the Red Wings can start to look towards free agency, where they will have cap space to make significant moves.
Regardless of all the injuries the Red Wings have had this season, every team has adversity and it comes down to skating hard. The team is retooling instead of rebuilding and has many solid pieces in place that other teams are envious of.
Another factor to take into account is that the NHL is changing. The new CBA makes it tough for a team to have an extended dynasty.
That is why what the Red Wings have accomplished is so impressive. In the future, you won't see a team as successful as the Red Wings have been over such a length of time.
While it sounds like I'm saying that the Red Wings won't make the playoffs, I feel they very well still could—but it will be an uphill battle. All Red Wings fans need to be proud of their team and grateful for being able to watch a winning team all these years.
If the Red Wings don't make the playoffs, they still deserve to be cheered on for a great run over the past 21 years.
*All statistics are from hockey-reference.com and are accurate as of March 10.