When the Detroit Red Wings clinched their 24th consecutive playoff berth against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night, many fans (including myself) took issue with how they did it. They pushed the Canadiens into overtime, earning a point, but ultimately lost the game 4-3. They officially clinched a spot when the Florida Panthers beat the Boston Bruins 4-2 in regulation, later in the night.
#RedWings lose 4-3 in OT at Montreal, but clinch 24th straight playoff appearance because Boston loses outright.
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) April 10, 2015
Let me preface this by saying I would not dare tell anyone how to “be a fan” of the Red Wings. In fact, right after the game, I uttered something along the lines of, “I’m not sure why I’m so happy that this team tripped and stumbled into a post-season spot”. Now, with the season wrapped up, it is much easier to put the year in perspective. There are plenty of reasons to appreciate the Detroit Red Wings’ 2014-15 season.
There are always fans that have their doubts about the Red Wings continuing their playoff streak – some fans of other teams just hope it ends. After their struggles last season, a good portion of the NHL’s fan base predicted the demise of the winged wheel. Before the season started, I saw Detroit being projected to finish anywhere from eighth to 12th in the Eastern Conference. However, the Red Wings had someone a little closer to home doubting their ability to make the post-season: Mike Babcock.
“To be honest with you, July 5th last year I thought we had no chance to get in the playoffs,” Babcock said. “So for us to be in the playoffs and have an opportunity here, we’re thrilled and our young guys have come a long way.”
Taken aback for a second, I considered the situation. Their coach, the man who has his finger on the pulse of this team, did not think it was a playoff team. Here I was complaining about how they got into the post-season, and Babcock did not even have them pegged to make it. Sure, it could be one of Babcock’s motivating tactics, but what if he truly believed that this team was not good enough? Suddenly, I felt a little silly about complaining about how they made it into the playoffs. After all, it’s better to make it by a little than miss it by a little, right?
The Model of Consistency
With the regular season wrapped up, we also have the benefit of seeing how everything has played out. Take a second to examine some of the teams who did not make the cut. The San Jose Sharks had the second longest active post-season appearance streak, making the playoffs from 2003-04 through to 2013-14. Boston went from winning the President’s Trophy in 2013-14 to missing the playoffs in the last couple games of this season. The Los Angeles Kings were the defending Stanley Cup Champions, only to find themselves on the outside looking in this year. Seven teams that did not make the post-season last year are in this year. Seven. Parity is fun, eh?
Sure, Detroit’s streak of 24 consecutive playoff appearances is impressive. Maybe even more impressive is that they have made it every year since 2005-06, when the NHL instituted the salary cap. Despite the league doing their best to level the playing field throughout the league, the Detroit Red Wings have remained a constant in the NHL’s post-season, so let’s take a minute to enjoy what this team has accomplished. In the midst of a retooling period, the Red Wings have continued to find a way to make it into the post-season. Despite that success, they also have several promising young players – Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Xavier Ouellet and Alexei Marchenko, to name a few. We Red Wings fans are a lucky bunch, even if we can’t always see it.
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I am a writer from Windsor, Ontario who has covered the Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers. I have had the pleasure of doing so since February of 2015. Previously, I have written about Red Wings prospects for Hockey’s Future. I am always up for chatting about the Red Wings and hockey in general, so leave me your comment and/or tweets. Follow me on Twitter at @BrandonPeleshok.