Over the past two decades the Detroit Red Wings have earned the reputation of being the most successful team in the NHL. Along with that success, the Red Wings have developed the reputation of being old.
Detroit has certainly signed their fair share of veteran players. Ten years ago they were picking up Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille. They didn't part with Chris Chelios until he was aged 46. Their biggest free-agent acquisition last season was Mike Modano.
I wrote an article a few months ago claiming that the winds of change were beginning to blow in Detroit, and I still stand by that statement. Look at what has happened for the Red Wings in the last month. They went from releasing 40-year-old Mike Modano and 36-year-old Ruslan Salei to signing 27-year-old Ian White and calling up 23-year-old Jan Mursak.
On top of that, their coaching staff has gone through a big change with the departure of Brad McCrimmon and Paul MacLean and some new blood has been brought in. In terms of goaltending, the injury-prone and recently inconsistent Chris Osgood has retired and has been replaced by the slightly younger Ty Conklin.
Kris Draper and Brian Rafalski have both retired, and Draper's spot as a forward rotating in will likely be filled by young forward Corey Emmerton, barring a trade.
And Detroit is likely not done. If you expect the roster to look just like this by mid-April, you should think again, because with $5 million in cap space and Jiri Hudler's $2.85 million cap-hit being tossed around to anybody who will listen, it's likely that Wings GM Ken Holland is looking to make a blockbuster deal.
Here's a little fact that many people probably didn't know. Detroit's current lineup is younger on average than the lineup of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Will that stop people from calling Detroit old while predicting the "young Penguins" will be successful? Probably not, which makes it all the more fun to hear the same false facts yet again.
And the scary part? The scary part is that this isn't the big change in Detroit. The surfacing of Jan Mursak and Corey Emmerton is the low part of Detroit's depth pool. Brendan Smith is likely to land full time in Detroit next season, and the outlook on Smith is that he will be an all-star defenseman.
I could go on all day about Smith, just like I could go on about fellow Red Wings prospect Teemu Pulkkinen.
So just as a brief review take a look at the changes that have taken place in Detroit. Kris Draper (40), Chris Osgood (38), and Brian Rafalski (37) have retired, while Ruslan Salei (36) and Mike Modano (41) were let go by the Red Wings.
Those players were replaced by Jan Mursak (23), Ty Conklin (35), Corey Emmerton (23), Ian White (27) and Mike Commodore (31). Those five changes alone have an average age decrease of over 10 years (average 38.4 years to 27.8 years).
And still, the Red Wings and their fans will endure another year of opposing fans calling them "old." My question is who they're referring to as old. Norris Trophy-winning Nick Lidstrom? Maybe Tomas Holmstrom, but let's be honest, it doesn't take Homer a lot of stamina to park himself in front of the goalie.
The point here is, when you're watching the Red Wings next year, pay attention to the changes that have taken place. It's just the beginning, and the "old" successful team is becoming younger, and scarier to other teams in the league.
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