For the better part of a generation, fans of the Detroit Red Wings always had something good to look forward to in mid-March.
By that point in the season, the Red Wings always had something to play for. If it wasn’t getting into the playoff picture, then it was their positioning with it. If it wasn’t a division title, it was a President’s Trophy finish.
By mid-March, the fans always had something to look forward to beyond a playoff finish, which was a given at the start of the year.
Over the past three seasons, those lofty expectations have been knocked down a peg or two. Indeed, the Red Wings were battling for a playoff spot right until the last game of the season last year, as that particular outcome was in doubt right until the end.
Still, they got in.
It’s mid-March in 2014, and while the Detroit Red Wings are still mathematically within sight of a playoff spot, many fans will only find cold comfort in any statistical analysis or formulaic assessment of their chances.
Mathematical probabilities cannot distract anyone from the truth at this point—the Detroit Red Wings’ season is collapsing one game at a time.
Should what appears to be inevitable finally come to pass, the Red Wings will finish the year outside of the playoffs for the first time in 22 seasons. Those recording the historically unfortunate event will no doubt cite the moment, game or incident that somehow signaled the beginning of the end.
Good or bad, this always seems to be the case. If a team makes a historic run to the Stanley Cup, there’s always the “one game," “one moment” that emerges as the tipping point of historical record. The same seems to be true of seasons that end with a thud.
Make no mistake, the Red Wings have shown no signs of throwing in the towel on the year. Should a little “E” suddenly appear next to their name in the standings, it stands to reason they’ll play on with the same determination and effort as they have for much of the past few months.
The Red Wings are seeing their season, and their teammates, collapse around them, and perhaps the most tragic part about it is there’s very little they can do about it.
On any given night, the Red Wings are actually the “Red Wings” in name only. With a roster that has seen rookies like Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco practically turn into grizzled veterans as still newer players like forward Teemu Pulkkinen come up behind them, “Detroit Red Wings” becomes a decidedly loose term to apply to this team.
Despite the effort and marked enthusiasm these younger players bring to the ice and the dogged determination that still exists among Detroit’s more senior players, there’s no denying the inevitable.
The rock-solid season the Red Wings were hoping to build has not only not materialized, but the shoddy structure that has been cobbled together to date is also starting to pitch and sway.
To bear witness to such a thing is painful, but not nearly as painful as knowing in one’s heart that the whole thing is bound to collapse, but no idea when it will actually happen.
It’s mid-March and the Detroit Red Wings may soon have only one thing left to play for: pride.