It was a whirlwind of a season for the Detroit Red Wings. Despite the ridiculous number of injuries the team took and it being a transition year, they still managed to make it to the second round of the playoffs. Yet, the Red Wings age-old nemesis – the Chicago Blackhawks – got the last laugh in what was their last year in the same conference together. It was especially heartbreaking to lose to the Hawks after being up 3-1 in the series. However, I’m becoming more content with the second round exit as each day passes.
It was truly a pleasure to watch a team that many said wouldn’t make the playoffs make a post-season run that took them all the way to overtime in game seven of the second round. Yet the truth is, the Red Wings are known for overachieving in the playoffs, and that was easily the case again this year. What matters now is what happens moving forward, and the future looks especially bright in hockeytown.
With the second round exit the first thing I take solace in is that the Red Wings are now in a much better draft position than they would have been if they had been the victors of that game seven overtime. The four conference finalist teams draft 27-30 regardless of their regular season point totals. For finishing outside of the final four the Red Wings were awarded the 18th pick. Not only is that a much better draft position, but it’s the highest first round pick the Wings have had since selecting Martin Lapointe in 1991 at #10 overall. This draft is considered top heavy as well, making the the first round of picks, and good positioning in the first round, all that more important this year. The Red Wings have arguably the best scouting staff in the NHL, and this year they have a particularly good chance of bringing in another stud.
Secondly, the elimination was rather timely, as it allowed several impact players such as Nyquist, Andersson, and DeKeyser to go back to Grand Rapids to finish off the Oklamhoma City Barons, sending the Red Wings farm team to the Calder Cup Finals for the first time since 1992. Now all of the bright young prospects the Red Wings have accumulated will gain some valuable championship experience in the finals. This will make all of those players better, and will also increase their individual trade value as well. It is much easier to include a prospect in a package deal for a big name after they have been integral parts in a Calder Cup Championship run.
Thirdly, due to the delays of the lockout, the Red Wings ended the season at the end of May. Had they moved on in the playoffs their season could have potentially ended close to July, leaving virtually no time for management to re-sign any of their pending free agents before free agency begins. Possible free agents include Filppula, Cleary, Brunner, Nyquist, Andersson, Smith, Kindl, Miller, and White. Completing this process before free agency begins is also crucial to attracting other potential UFA’s on the market. Players who want to win cups will want to sign with a team that has all its key pieces locked up. Locking up Pavel Datsyuk’s extension quickly will also be important when trying to convince a Nathan Horton or a David Clarkson to come to Detroit for a few years. Hopefully the second round exit will give Holland and co enough to get through the re-sign process.
All in all, what happened against Chicago was tough to swallow, but it’s probably better for Detroit as an organization that is still retooling. And there is still a lot to be proud of this season. The Red Wings were one goal away from a conference finals appearance in a transition year racked with injuries, and the Grand Rapids Griffins have a shot at the Calder Cup. Also, remember that whoever wins the cup this year will forever have an asterisk next to their name due to the lockout and shortened season.
The future is brighter than ever in hockeytown.
I hope that all helps you cope with the playoff loss as much as it has helped me.
Detroit Red Wings writer for The Hockey Writers and Michigan State hockey writer for spartanavenue.com