Are the Red Wings out of their window for success?

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Wings.jpgChicago Blackhawks vs Detroit Red Wings
12:30 p.m. EST – Sunday, March 7, 2010
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The Detroit Red Wings have been so good, for so
long, it’s downright scary. They last failed to win a division title in
1999, and have appeared in two straight Stanley Cup finals, and have
only lost in the first round of the playoffs once since 2003. They’ve
found a way to continue to rebuild through free agency, but more
importantly through the draft as they’ve remained competitive for well
over decade.

This season the Red Wings are going through something they haven’t suffered in a very long time: a fight for a playoff spot in March. Detroit started off the season in a hole, as a poor start put them towards the bottom of the conference standings and the team has been struggling to get out it since then.

It’s been a tough road and one has to wonder: If the Red Wings are able to sneak into the playoffs this season will they be able to continue to dominate like they’ve done in the past in the postseason? Perhaps the age and yes, experience, is finally catching up to Detroit. It’s a situation that the team has not faced in a very long time.

The Red Wings players are not getting any younger.

The
average age of the Detroit Red Wings is 30.5, with the youngest player
on the active roster 23-year old Darren Helm. Every other player is
older than 25 with eleven players over the age of 30. The Red Wings have
built their current team through the draft, with gems such as Pavel
Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg coming in the 6th and 7th rounds. Has the
increasing age of the Red Wings contributed to their struggles this
season, as they fight to maintain positioning just for a playoff spot?

Is
it just a case of injuries?

The Red Wings have had a number
of devastating injuries to key players this season, contributing to a
poor start that has forced Detroit to try and crawl out of the basement
of the Western conference standings. Yet just as it seems as if they
were getting back on top and making a run, as in January, they stumble
and hit another bump in the road. Now that they are relatively healthy,
they sit in 8th place with a one point lead over Calgary and are just
four points ahead of 11th place Dallas. They may be getting stronger as
the season goes along, but how will this older — yet very experienced
— team fare in the playoffs against the younger and faster opponents.
Will their discipline and coaching carry them?

Have to rebuild
at some point.

Every successful team goes through ups and
downs from one season to the next; what made you successful one year
will not necessarily carry over to the next. Somehow, the Red Wings have
maintained a high level of competitiveness for nearly 14 years. Yet
there will come a point when they will stumble, and require a season or
two to rebuild and restock their team. The days of free-agent spending are over and the most successful teams are winning because of the players
they have drafted during the down years.

Is Detroit starting
to enter that cycle? The franchise’s drafts the past few seasons have not fared
all that well, although last year they were able to draft Landon
Ferrarro and standout Tomas Tartar. Are there any mid-round surprises on their way from the 2006,
2007 and 2008 drafts?

Are the Red Wings going to be forced to
restock? Most of the successful teams that are inching towards of top of the conference standings have done so due to drafts that provide a powerful nucleus from which to build around. Most times, these teams can do so because a few years of disappointment and mediocrity have given them high draft picks from which to work.

Detroit is approaching a turning point in the history of the franchise and what happens this spring and this summer will be a clear indication of the direction this team will take.

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Ulf Samuelsson leaves Rangers, takes Carolina’s AHL gig

Ulf Samuelsson, Alain Vigneault
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The ‘Canes made a fairly big coaching splash on Tuesday, announcing they hired New York Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson to become the new bench boss in AHL Charlotte.

“Ulf has built a very strong coaching resume during a decade behind the bench in the AHL, NHL and Swedish league,” Carolina GM Ron Francis said in a release. “He has a proven history of helping to develop young players and understands the organizational culture that we are building here.”

Samuelsson, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Francis in Pittsburgh during the 90s, has spent the last three seasons as Alain Vigneault’s right-hand man in New York, helping the Rangers advance to the Stanley Cup Final in ’14 and the Eastern Conference Final last season.

Prior to joining the Rangers, he spent two seasons as head coach for Modo of the Swedish Hockey League.

Samuelsson will replace Mark Morris in Charlotte, after Morris accepted the head coaching gig at St. Lawrence University. Morris had only been on the job for one year, having inherited the position from former ‘Cane Jeff Daniels.

Report: Marleau won’t face supplemental discipline for hit on Rust

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It sounds like Patrick Marleau won’t be suspended for his hit on Penguins forward Bryan Rust (top) in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

After the game, Marleau told reporters that he was pretty confident he wouldn’t be suspended and it sounds like he’s right.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan didn’t see things the same way.

“It’s a blindside hit to the head,” he said. “[Marleau] gets a penalty and I’m sure the league will look at it.”

Marleau was given a two-minute penalty for an illegal hit to the head on the play.

Rust played a single shift after taking the hit, but he went to the locker room after that and didn’t return. Sullivan said he’s day-to-day. It’s unclear if Rust will practice with the team on Tuesday.

Former Flyer Rick MacLeish passes away at age 66

MacLeish
Flyers.nhl.com
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Former Philadelphia Flyers forward Rick MacLeish passed away on Monday night. He was 66-years-old. The organization confirmed the news early Tuesday morning. MacLeish was battling meningitis as well as kidney and liver problems, per Philly.com.

“With the passing of Rick MacLeish, the Flyers have lost one of their legends,” Flyers President Paul Holmgren said in a release. “A good father, grandfather, teammate and friend, Rick will be missed by all who were fortunate to come and know him over the years. His happy and friendly demeanor was front and center everywhere Rick went. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with Rick’s wife, Charlene, his daughters, Danielle and Brianna along with his grandchildren. May he rest in peace.”

MacLeish first put on a Flyers jersey during the 1970-71 season. He would go on to score 349 goals and 759 points in 846 NHL games with Philadelphia, Hartford, Pittsburgh and Detroit. MacLeish also scored what is considered to be the most important goal in Flyers history when he netted the opening goal in Game 6 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Final against Boston. The Flyers would clinch their first Stanley Cup that night.

He won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Flyers and was named an NHL All-Star three times in his career.

PHT Morning Skate: Nick Bonino has been pretty clutch this postseason

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Pascal Dupuis wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune.

Matt Cullen also wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune called “Hockey Dad”.

Dainius Zubrus is making his third trip to the cup final, but he still hasn’t won one. (Puck Daddy)

–Watch the highlights from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. (Top)

–Here’s the Punjabi call of Nick Bonino‘s game-winning goal. (Streamable)

–Speaking of Bonino, he’s been pretty clutch this postseason:

–The NHL still wants to play an outdoor game on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Ottawa Sun)