I was conversing with my friend over the weekend about his favorite team, the Detroit Red Wings. Now, most people who know me understand that even though I was born and raised in Michigan, I do not particularly care for the Red Wings. I don’t know if it’s out of spite of arguing with people my entire life who knew less about their team than I did.
My friend knows about hockey and he is not one of the people I am referring to. We were discussing in particular the Justin Abdelkader contract when it donned on me. The Red Wings are legendary when making it to the playoffs, however, they rarely get into the Conference Finals or Cup Finals.
I started voicing my thoughts and I believe that what makes them a great team also hurts them. If I were the owner of the team, I would probably sit down with Ken Holland and tell him that what he has done has been excellent for the team, but it is time to make some moves that will take them over the hump.
For instance you have two players in Zetterberg and Datsyuk who are at the end of their prime. Dylan Larkin is positioned and should be the future of the franchise. What he will lack though is a counterpart who is equally as skilled. Digressing back to the Abdelkader contract, the Wings brass clearly thinks he is a major piece of their long term puzzle. A third line player gets awarded a 7 or 8 year deal? Who will provide a formidable one-two punch for the Wings? I think having a combination of elite players is crucial to winning the Stanley Cup. In 2008 for instance the Wings had Z and Datsyuk in their prime along with one of the best defensemen in the history of the sport. Kane & Toews, Malkin & Crosby, Ovie & Backstrom, Perry & Getzlaf.
The Red Wings should have never signed Abdelkader for that long. Mark my words, by 2023 or whenever his contract is up he will be talked about much how Franzen and his $5M/year contract is currently talked about. Oh, and Franzen is signed for two more years.
What Detroit does well is scout talented players. They then build on this talent and have a tendency to keep players in their system. This has helped their AHL affiliate dominate in recent years and allows them to sustain a culture of continuously making the playoffs. What this also does, however, is hinder their chances at winning the Cup. They are so set on their system and their players that they never take a chance and make a splash in the free agent market.
For all of you Red Wings fans out there, I pose a simple question; Would you rather make the playoffs every year for the next 10 years with an average team or miss the playoffs the next five years, but have one of the best teams in the league the five years after that?
In my next blog post I will explain the steps that the Red Wings could take to make them an instant contender. (PS It’s a lot easier than you think)