Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Detroit Red Wings.
After Detroit just barely managed to squeak into the playoffs in 2013-14, it seemed reasonable to wonder if its longstanding postseason streak dating back to the 1990-91 campaign was drawing to a close. However, the Red Wings’ efforts to rebuild on the fly continued and at first it looked like they would far exceed expectations.
Detroit got off to a 17-6-5 start, prompting Red Wings coach Mike Babcock to call the ’14-15 squad their best team since they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2009. The following day Detroit began a six-game losing streak and while that wasn’t the start of a collapse for the Red Wings, it did illustrate that this was an inconsistent team.
Further complicating matters was the decline of goaltender Jimmy Howard, who posted a 2.99 GAA and .896 save percentage in 21 games after the all-star break. That prompted Detroit to lean on 23-year-old Petr Mrazek instead. The young netminder helped keep Detroit above water in the playoff race as its 43-25-14 record secured the squad a postseason berth by a four-point margin.
That set up a first round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning with Mrazek starting between the pipes. Detroit held its own against the eventual Stanley Cup finalists and Mrazek certainly had his moments as he posted two shutouts and turned aside 15 of 16 shots in Game 7. The one shot that got by him was all it took though as Lightning netminder Ben Bishop denied all 31 of the Red Wings’ shots on goal.
And with that, Detroit suffered its second straight first-round exit.
The Detroit Red Wings’ playoff appearance streak started well before Babcock took over as the Red Wings’ bench boss, but he kept that legacy going for another decade and now he’s gone. Following Babcock’s decision to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit appointed Jeff Blashill to serve as the team’s second bench boss since the start of the salary cap era.
He’s inherited a team with some talented young players, but also two superstars in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk that are in the twilight of their careers. On the plus side, GM Ken Holland has provided Blashill with some reinforcements to aide in his rookie campaign.
Detroit signed offensive defenseman Mike Green to a three-year deal, $18 million deal and added veteran center Brad Richards to a one-year contract. Both could prove to be valuable additions with Green aiding Detroit with the man advantage and providing them with a right-handed shot from the blueline while Richards might serve on the second-line, allowing Datsyuk (once he’s healthy) and Zetterberg to play together.
With those additions, Detroit will attempt to build on its 2014-15 run and win its first playoff series since 2013.