The Detroit Redwings have managed to qualify for the NHL playoffs a staggering 24 consecutive seasons. This streak of postseason appearances is the longest active streak of any of the four major North American pro sports leagues.
For comparison (NHL only), the Pittsburgh Penguins hold the next longest streak at 9 consecutive playoff seasons. The Redwings have also hoisted the cup for times since the 1990-91 season (the year the streak started). Also, 11 Stanley Cup championships make the winged wheel the most successful team in NHL history. Over the years, the organization has been able to consistently produce a playoff caliber team despite work stoppages, rules changes, NHL salary cap restructuring, league expansion and player safety issues. To call the Redwings a model organization would be an understatement.
Debating the history and recent success of the Wings is futile. However, the fact that the Redwings have not made it out of the conference semifinals since they lost to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup championship in 2008-09 is point of contention for organizational leaders and fans. This inability to advance deeper into the playoffs is the main reason why Mike Babcock left the team to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs. One of Babcock’s major issues with this current collection of Wings was his perception that the Redwings lack the elite talent to make a deep run in the playoffs. In Babcock’s mind, getting there wasn’t enough, winning the Cup was the only thing that mattered.
It is true that the Redwings no longer have superstars like Stevie Y, Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Sergie Fedorov, Dominik Hasek, Nick Lidstrom, etc. The team’s current collection of stars include players who are on the downside of their respective hall of fame careers (Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk).
Nonetheless, this team has still performed at an elite level. Even with the decline in production from it’s’ stars, injuries and youth movement, the Wings gave the Chicago Blackhawks all they could handle in 2013 and took the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Game 7 this past season. What makes the Wings organization so consistent is that they have been able to continously produce a winner, while simultaneously building the team through the draft (player development).
They have a great young core of players such as Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Petr Mrazek and Riley Sheahan who are all ready to take the next step. These players have been able to gain the invaluable experience of competing against the best in the playoffs. Even though the stars have aged, Zetterberg and Datsyuk are still held in the highest regard within the NHL community as being two of the best two-way forwards in the league. Detroit still has an elite defenseman who is in his prime (Nicholas Kronwall). Add recently acquired defenseman Mike Green and forward Brad Richards to the core, and for now the Redwings look poised to finally break through the 2nd round of the playoffs.
Winning the Stanley Cup, is the most difficult to win in any team sport. It requires having a great team, but also a considerable amount of luck. So with that being said, based on the current makeup of the roster, the best bet is on the Red Wings not only extending it’s impressive streak, but also making a much deeper run in the playoffs this upcoming season.