Tag: history lessons

Valtteri Filppula

Red Wings clinch 21st playoff berth in a row


In a way, it only makes sense that the Detroit Red Wings clinched a playoff berth for the mind-blowing 21st time in a row by demolishing the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-2. That disparity makes many statements, but the most telling one is that the Red Wings make it easy, but the Blue Jackets prove that it’s not.

An incredible legacy

Because of the lockout, that means the Red Wings have made the playoffs every season since they finished fifth in the Norris in 1989-90. To give you some perspective on that accomplishment, Detroit hasn’t missed the playoffs in Taylor Hall’s lifetime.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets have made one playoff appearance since their franchise was founded and remain without a single postseason victory.

It brings about all kinds of questions. Is Detroit’s two-decade reign of dominance the most impressive in the history of salary cap sports (there’s a serious argument)? Considering the fact that the Red Wings didn’t have the significant advantages of teams from the Montreal Canadiens’ days, is this the greatest run for any NHL team considering context?

The immediate future

Those are all interesting – if totally subjective – debates to have, but the more immediate question is: how much of an impact can the Red Wings make this year?

The St. Louis Blues look pretty close to wrapping up the Central Division at this point, but that doesn’t mean the Red Wings have little to fight for. Considering Detroit’s jarring disparity in home vs. road work,* a likely first round series against the Nashville Predators would be significantly easier if the Red Wings captured the fourth seed.

Sure, it’s been an up-and-down season in which the Red Wings (seemingly) have shown their age a bit based on the injuries that are piling up, but even now, it would be a bad idea to count out Detroit.

Teams haven’t been able to do that for more than two decades, after all.

* – The Red Wings are 30-5-2 at home and 16-20-3 on the road.

Here are highlights of the game, which are heavy on beautiful Red Wings goals:

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Brian Burke faces tough task if he fires Ron Wilson

Dion Phaneuf, Ron Wilson, Brian Burke

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke is different from a lot of other NHL general managers for a wide variety of reasons – not just because he’s one of the sport’s great executive showmen.

His fierce – some might say stubborn – loyalty stands out among those qualities. While neighboring GM Bryan Murray seems to shed head coaches like snakes lose skin, Burke has allowed Ron Wilson to stay despite increasing pressure to remove his beloved bench boss.

As Michael Woods reports, it would be more than just a “hockey decision” for Burke (even if he claims otherwise).

Burke and Wilson were born a month apart, were college roommates and teammates on the Providence College Friars hockey team in Rhode Island in the 1970s and have been friends ever since.

(If more details like that aren’t enough for you to follow the link, go there for the mind-blowing photo of Burke and Wilson as co-captains at Providence College.)

Sports front offices base a lot of their decisions on loyalty and familiarity – just look at how wildly predictable Darryl Sutter’s hiring was in Los Angeles – but even with that in mind, Burke and Wilson’s roots go deep.

It’s not like that’s the only instance when Burke’s been a man of his word almost to a fault, either. Personally, his handling of Ilya Bryzgalov in Anaheim was particularly memorable. Instead of holding onto the talented (then) backup, he allowed Breezy to get a real chance to start with another team. He ended up putting outstanding numbers with the Phoenix Coyotes and earning that huge contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in the process.

If you ask me, Burke’s moving the Maple Leafs in a solid direction. There’s the instinct to believe that the two might go off the cliff Thelma & Louise-style if Toronto’s playoff drought continues this season, but it might just come down to Burke firing his friend and coach.

Don’t expect it to be an easy leap, though.

Flyers still can’t win at the Shark Tank

Philadelphia Flyers v San Jose Sharks

There are plenty of ways to mark the time when the San Jose Sharks transitioned from a shrug-inducing expansion team to a regular contender.

Some point to the work of former GM Dean Lombardi. Others define it by the beginning of the Evgeni Nabokov era through current times.

If you want a fun – if not exact – way to look at it, how about this: the last time the Philadelphia Flyers beat them at home. Just take a look at what the Sharks have done since that 3-1 defeat on Nov. 5, 1999:

  • Ten playoff appearances in 11 opportunities.
  • Five Pacific Division titles.
  • 11-10 in playoff series.
  • Three appearances in the Western Conference finals.
  • One Presidents Trophy.

Say what you will about the Sharks supposed “choking” ways, but considering where they were in November 1999, you’d be wacky to claim that they haven’t come a long way.

Tonight’s game against the Flyers ranked as one of their tightest matches in the two teams’ rare matches in San Jose. The Sharks rode a Ryane Clowe goal and Antti Niemi’s 26-save shutout to a 1-0 win.

Both the Sharks and Flyers are now in sixth place in their respective conferences, with San Jose being far closer to the top of its division (73 points to Phoenix’s 75) than Philly is to the Atlantic (75 to the Rangers’ 86).

It doesn’t seem very likely at the moment, but hockey fans would be in for a treat if the Flyers received another chance to break their losing streak in San Jose in 2011-12 – a chance that could only come in the Stanley Cup finals.

Assessing the fortunes of the Ducks, Panthers and Stars since NHL’s 1993 expansion

Brett Hull

It’s easy to cast a wide net of criticism on the NHL’s expansion to “non-traditional” markets. Looking at the struggles of teams such as the defunct Atlanta Thrashers and the struggling Phoenix Coyotes, one might make a generalization that the game cannot translate to these warmer climates.

That doesn’t mean that every experiment has been a failure, however. Too Many Men on the Site’s Jenna Barley took an interesting look at the fortunes of three franchises that cropped up in unusual markets in 1993: the Anaheim (formerly Mighty) Ducks, Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers. Naturally, it’s important to note that the Stars had a leg up on the expansion Ducks and Panthers because they inherited the Minnesota North Stars’ roster, but it’s still interesting to take a big picture view of some of the NHL’s biggest steps into atypical hockey markets.

Barley found that the three clubs have had some interesting ups and downs since being introduced almost 20 years ago. PHT will expand on her commentary with some notes and insights of our own.

Anaheim Ducks

No doubt about it, the Ducks grew mightier once they cut ties with their Disney movie past. As the Mighty Ducks, they made the playoffs just four out of 12 seasons, though they made spirited runs in two of their last three campaigns. Trading for Chris Pronger surely made a bigger difference than changing the team name, but it is interesting that they won their only Stanley Cup during their first season (06-07) as the plain new Ducks. The sans-Mighty Ducks managed to make the postseason if four of five seasons, bringing the franchise’s grand total to eight in 17 seasons – not awful for a team that many considered a joke even when Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya were tearing things up.

Dallas Stars

Again, Dallas inherited plenty of talent from the Minnesota North Stars days, particularly in the form of franchise player Mike Modano. It seems like the team picked the right time to peak when they won the Stanley Cup in 1998-99 as other local teams such as the Cowboys and Mavericks weren’t having much success. The Stars made the playoffs in 11 of their first 13 seasons, but things have been rocky lately – they’ve gone three straight seasons without making a postseason appearance.

Next season should prove pivotal for a franchise that many cite as a shiny example of successful “Sun Belt” expansion, as the team hopes to get a new owner in place and turn things around with new head coach Glen Gulutzan. Overall, the teams’ been a success but they need to find their way in the post-Modano days.

Florida Panthers

Barley points out that the Panthers were competitive out of the gate, which is pretty impressive since expansion teams are built from scratch.

The Florida Panthers had a very successful first four seasons in the NHL.  They were only one point away from a playoff spot in both the inaugural and second seasons of 1993-1994 and 1994-1995.  In their 3rd season (1995-1996), the Panthers made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to be swept by the Colorado Avalanche.  They again made the playoffs in 1996-1997, but never made it past the first round.

The Panthers had their highest point season in 1999-2000 with 98 points (43-33-6-6).  They also made the playoffs again that year, with a strong Pavel Bure leading the way.  However, they were swept in the first round by the New Jersey Devils and have never made the playoffs since.  The Panthers have gone through 8 coaches since then and 11 since the team inception, but the Panther’s hope that with Kevin Dineen this upcoming season, they can break their 11 year playoff drought.

It’s easy to critique new GM Dale Tallon’s frantic series of moves during his second summer running the team, but the hope is that the Panthers can find two things they haven’t seen much of since Ed Jovanovski was a much younger “Jovocop”: stability and focus. From different coaches to general managers, the team has had too many cooks in the kitchen over the last decade; if that trend stops, the Panthers flailing ways might come to end as well.


The Ducks, Stars and Panthers have had their ups and downs, but even Florida can point to moments in which they played on hockey’s biggest stage. Each teams have reasons for optimism but also plenty of reasons for concern, which means that it’s still too early to be certain if these teams will ultimately be seen as successes or failures.