The “12 Days of Christmas” is a classic holiday song first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we count down the 12 Days of Hockeymas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
The Detroit Red Wings were once a machine when it came to making the playoffs, compiling an impressive 25-season playoff streak from the 1990-91 to 2015-16 seasons. They won four Stanley Cup Championships over that span and are tied with the St. Louis Blues for the third-longest postseason streak in NHL history (he Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks have streaks of 29 and 28 seasons, respectively).
All good things must come to an end, though, and in today’s Red Wings countdown to Christmas, we look at the conclusion of the streak and what has transpired since.
The Red Wings Didn’t Fare Well in the Streak’s Final Years
Though the Red Wings’ playoff streak was an impressive one, they failed to advance beyond the semi-finals in their final seven appearances, including first-round exits in each of the final three seasons: 2013-14 to the Bruins (lost in five games), 2014-15 to the Tampa Bay Lightning (lost in seven games), and 2015-16 to the Lightning (lost in five games).
In its final playoff season, 2015-16, Detroit welcomed a number of new faces to the team. Among them was Jeff Blashill, who the organization named head coach in June 2015 after Mike Babcock left to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs. As luck would have it, the two teams faced off the very first game of the season, with Blashill and the Red Wings winning that game, 4-0.
Dylan Larkin, the presumptive next captain of the team, also made his Red Wings debut that season and had an immediate impact in the league. Not only was he selected to participate in the NHL All-Star Game, but he was also named Rookie of the Month for November. His All-Star experience was also one to remember, as he won the fastest skater competition by clocking in at 13.172 seconds and ultimately ended up fifth overall in voting that season for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
The Red Wings finished third in the Atlantic Division, behind Tampa Bay and Florida, before losing to the Lightning in five games — their final playoff appearance.
The Rebuild Hits Full Speed Ahead
As Detroit entered its rebuilding phase, it hasn’t always been the easiest to watch, as the last four seasons have seen a combined record of 112-164-41. Last season was especially ugly, with the Red Wings winning just 17 games while finishing last in the league in both goals scored and goals allowed.
Since the 2016-17 season, Detroit has only had a player recognized as one of the league’s weekly stars on three separate occasions; Green was named the third star of the week on Oct. 24, 2016, Tyler Bertuzzi was named the second star on April 1, 2019, and Anthony Mantha earned second-star honors on Oct. 7, 2019.
Former GM Ken Holland kicked off the rebuild before Steve Yzerman took over prior to the 2019-20 season. Both of them focused on stocking the proverbial cupboard with prospects, dealing lineup mainstays like Petr Mrazek, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Mike Green, and Andreas Athanasiou over the previous three seasons, all for draft picks. Detroit has selected 33 players over the last three drafts, and as it stands right now, have nine selections in 2021, including three in the second round.
Looking Ahead to the Next Playoff Appearance
Though it’s impossible to predict when the Red Wings will next make the playoffs (but that didn’t stop us from trying!), the future certainly looks bright. Yzerman has what’s thought to be much of the team’s core locked up for the foreseeable future, while the talent currently playing overseas is performing at a very high level.
It sometimes feels a lot longer than four seasons since the last playoff appearance, but after one of the most painful seasons in recent memory, fans will likely see the team improve drastically in the coming years.
When do you think the Red Wings will appear in the playoffs next? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Catch Up on All 12 Days of Hockeymas:
12 Years Since Winning the Cup
11 Stanley Cups in Franchise History
10 Hall of Famers on 2002 Stanley Cup Team
9 James Norris Memorial Trophies
8 Retired Numbers
7 Art Ross & Frank J. Selke Awards
6 Presidents’ Trophies
5 Conn Smythe Trophies
A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.