Then again, the time needed for that potential and youth to develop may simply have been underestimated.
The Red Wings are displaying all the signs of a team seeking maturity. And just like so many awkward 14-year-olds caught somewhere between boyhood and manhood, time is the only thing that will aid the transition.
As anyone can remember from their own personal Twilight Zone of puberty, the process is anything but a comfortable one. What's more, the strange hybrid creature that emerges in the middle of this process, he of the adult body and childish emotions (or vice versa), is often met with equal parts pity and confusion.
Clearly, there are parts of the collective Red Wings' body that are already mature.
The Red Wings' core players are proving night in and night out why they have extra letters on their jerseys.
Through the team's first 18 games, captain Henrik Zetterberg (10 goals, 10 assists), and assistant captains Pavel Datsyuk (7 G, 11 A) and Niklas Kronwall (1 G, 9 A) have been every bit the leaders they've needed to be. Newcomer Daniel Alfredsson (3 G, 10 A) has demonstrated that he may have left the "C" in Ottawa, but he is still a consummate lead-by-example player.
Indeed, these four players have combined for 51 points between them to start the season.
That's encouraging until one realizes that the remaining 22 players who've played at least one game over the same timeframe have combined for 47 points.
There's no telling when the rest of the team will grow into their own secondary scoring roles, but clearly that time has not yet come.
Still, offensive ability is only half the story.
Looking at Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Kronwall and Alfredsson again, their plus-34 rating demonstrates the kind of defensive awareness one would expect from the team's leaders.
However, their teammates combine for a minus-39 rating, indicative of their collective deficiencies on both sides of the puck.
All numbers aside, one need not delve deeply into the team's statistics to know that these players, promising as they may be, have a long way to go to resemble the fully developed, championship-caliber team they aspire to be.
From night to night and even shift to shift, the Red Wings can morph between seasoned veterans and unsure novices with unsettling ease.
Be it Zetterberg willing his team to overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third period or Kyle Quincey giving the puck, and the game, away a few minutes later, the Red Wings' collective inconsistency is costing them wins and points.
However, when it comes to inconsistency and maturation, the presence of the former is very often the best indicator of the latter.
The Detroit Red Wings' 9-5-4 start may be below the expectations of some, but it may simply suggest that they have yet to mature into the team they will become.
When will they get there?
Just like so many patient parents waiting for their restless teenagers to come out the other end of puberty as fully formed adults, Red Wings fans will simply have to wait and let nature take its course.
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