The Red Wings’ streak of playoff appearances came to an end this spring. Twenty-five straight years, Detroit’s NHL club qualified for the post-season, but their entry into the Stanley Cup tournament had featured especially early exits in four of those last five years.
The Red Wings had gone from a Stanley Cup contender — with a championship and back-to-back appearances in the final in 2008 and 2009 — to a team on the decline.
Sure, the streak endured a little longer, but the Red Wings posed hardly a threat to contend for a championship toward its end.
Not making the playoffs? That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the Red Wings, according to one of their former great forwards Pavel Datsyuk, who now plays in the KHL.
“In most recent seasons, there was constant talk: will Detroit make or miss the playoffs,” Datsyuk told Sport-Express, per Sportsnet. “Can Detroit win the Cup did not seem to be of interest to anybody. Everybody talked only about making the playoffs.
“So, it’s very good the Red Wings missed the playoffs. The recharge started. … Now everything will change, there will be no such pressure and they will be to see the ultimate goal. In reality you need to fight for the Cup and not just to make the playoffs.”
Last season’s fall out of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference has resulted in plenty of talk about a Red Wings rebuild — an idea general manager Ken Holland initially seemed hesitant about. But he’s also aware that the team’s future success will depend on some of their young prospects taking a step and challenging for roster spots for the upcoming season.
“To me, rebuild means eight to 10 years, and there are teams that have made the playoffs one year in 10 while rebuilding,” Holland told MLive midway through last season. “I don’t know of anyone that wants to sign up for that program. We’re trying to win every year. What’s winning? Winning is making the playoffs and you’re in the top half of the league.”