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Red Wings’ playoff streak borders on historic, but does it matter?

Aug 27, 2014, 10:04 AM EDT

Gustav Nyquist AP

When you talk about creating a culture of winning, the textbook example would be the Detroit Red Wings. Sure there have been more successful teams in recent years like the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings, but no franchise has enjoyed a period of sustained success quite like Detroit.

The Red Wings last missed the playoffs in 1989-90, which translates to 23 consecutive seasons of postseason appearances (obviously, we’re ignoring the lockout eliminated 2004-05 campaign). That’s not the longest streak in the history of the league, but its close. Boston’s streak of 29 seasons from 1967–68 to 1995–96 holds that distinction, but it was arguably easier to make the playoffs for the Bruins given the percentage of teams that got in during that period.

Detroit has not only had to face more competition, but its also overcome the salary cap system.

Regardless, with every passing year, Detroit is coming closer to reaching that record, but how does that matter? After all, while the Red Wings are making the postseason, lately they haven’t done much in the playoffs.

The Red Wings have lost many of the players that made them a force to be reckoned with during much of their 23-season run; from Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, and Sergei Fedorov, to Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, and Dominik Hasek. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are still around and are two of the best forwards in the game, but they’re also in their mid-30s.

Sustained success has meant that the Detroit Red Wings haven’t been able to draft the cream of the crop prospects and while Datsyuk and Zetterberg were diamonds in the rough, Detroit hasn’t had a that big of a late-round success story since (Gustav Nyquist is arguably the closest after being taken in the fourth round of the 2008 entry draft, but he still has a lot to prove). They also haven’t been able to lure superstars to Detroit in recent years, which once wasn’t a big obstacle for the Red Wings.

This isn’t the suggest that the solution for Detroit is to abandon its attempt to rebuild on the fly and instead tank in the hopes of drafting the league’s next superstar. Chicago certainly benefited from a couple years of drafting high, but we’ve also seen with Edmonton that building through the draft can be a painful and not always effective process.

This also isn’t to dismiss Detroit’s current group of youngsters. Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Danny DeKeyser showed promise last season and they don’t represent the extent of the Red Wings’ farm system. At the same time, they have big shoes to fill and it’s far from a safe bet that they’ll be up to the task.

The question is more simple than that: Does Detroit’s consistency, by itself, matter? Would the Red Wings breaking that record be meaningful to fans if by that point they weren’t a true Stanley Cup contender and hadn’t been for years? It’s historic either way, but is it important?

Keep in mind that the next longest active streak is San Jose’s and no one seems to be celebrating the last decade of the Sharks making the playoffs.

  1. pjblake2redwings - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    because unlike the Sharks, we have won a few cups during this playoff streak. A playoff streak that is older than 12 teams have event existed is something to be proud of. The whole Red Wing organization just produces winners especially at the coaching and manager level.. Look at Nill in Dallas. We will continue to be a Stanley Cup contender with Nyquist, Mantha, Petr Mrazek and Danny D leading the way!

    • sjsblitz - Aug 27, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      This is true….

    • dueman - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:13 PM

      A Playoff streak that is older than 9 teams have existed actually, but still impressive…

  2. tapefolie - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    Arguably the dumbest article I’ve read in some time! Every time you get into the playoffs you’re not going to win the cup, but once you get in you never know what can happen!

  3. jhuck92 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    I think tape is right, you never know what can happen in the playoffs. LA got the 8th seed a couple years ago, got hot, and steamrolled the postseason. Financially, it’s better making the postseason than not. Even if you get swept in the first round, you have at least 4 more games to sell tickets.

    • cheliostwin - Aug 27, 2014 at 7:29 PM

      Also, if you miss the playoffs, you definitely won’t win the Cup. In the salary cap era, where they are trying to achieve parity, every team that makes the playoffs has a legitimate chance of getting hot and winning it all.

  4. jcmeyer10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    My dad, who is a Vikings fan and lived during the 60’s would say yes. There is something to be said about a team that is in contention every year and is competitive.

  5. hockeydon10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    I’m always amazed at this “they haven’t done much in the playoffs lately” mantra.

    While it’s true they haven’t done much compared to, say, Chicago or LA or Boston, I’m certain there are a lot of teams that wish they could boast Cup in 2008 and Finals in 2009, which is only 5 years ago.

    This includes every team that lost in the Cup finals except Boston. The other four all have DNQ for playoffs in that time.

    It’s also not like they’ve been one and done in those five years.

    2010 they were 1st in the central then lost in the 2nd round to San Jose in a 7 game series that saw two OT losses. Then, in 2012-13 were the only team to take the champion Blackhawks to 7 games (and OT for game 7), again in the 2nd round.

    So, yeah. The “they haven’t done anything” is just a bit of a misnomer. Certainly Chicago, Boston and LA have done better. It could be credibly argued San Jose or Pittsburgh have done better by going deeper in the playoffs more often. The rest have all fallen in the 1st, 2nd or DNQ in that time.

    If that’s the definition of “haven’t done anything”, then that umbrella statement is so wide that it catches 75% of the league in comparison.

    • jweipp17 - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      They also lost the best defenseman ever during that time. No other team can say that!

      • rmccleary97 - Aug 27, 2014 at 12:24 PM

        When did Bobby Orr come out of retirement to play for the Red Wings?

      • cotts1 - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        Please…Orr was playing against people who still worked summer jobs….the competition level isn’t even close to what Lidstrom faced. You can say the same about Gordie Howe…best players of their eras but compared with today’s players they wouldn’t stand out all that much.

    • pwshrugged - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      I think people have forgotten just how much of a fight the Wings put up against the ‘Hawks in 2012, too. That was one of the best series I’ve seen in a long time, and while they ended up losing in heartbreaking fashion, it was still a huge building block for the younger guys getting their first taste of the NHL playoffs.

  6. pitpenguinsrulez - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    But the Wings haven’t been a legit contender since there Cup runs. They won’t break Boston’s streak.

    • JoeAvg - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      But as the article points out much of Boston’s streak was during a time when you could count the number of teams that didn’t make it on one hand. The Wings current run is far more impressive.

    • polegojim - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:07 PM

      @pit… They haven’t’ been a legit contender…. since they contended to win the Stanley Cup??? Makes no sense.

      Favs don’t win every year…. See Pens, Caps, Sharks, Bruins, Blackhawks… For your Legit Contenders from last year.

      It ain’t over til it’s over.

  7. bruceeff - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    The playoff streak is fools gold. A playoff streak that goes nowhere seems to breed apathy the longer it goes on. Just look at the St. Louis Blues or the Blackhawks and their lengthy streaks that ended over a decade ago, and two decades respectively. St. Louis – 25 years and no cups. Chicago – 28 seasons and no cups. It’s winning that matters, not simply getting there.

    • cotts1 - Aug 27, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      yeah obviously winning is what matters….only one team gets to win…not something that is easy to do…

      • bruceeff - Aug 27, 2014 at 3:52 PM

        No kidding. There is, however, a big difference between a team that can make the playoffs and a team that can take a legitimate shot at the cup. For the last half-decade, the Wings have fallen under the former category and not the latter. That has to change.

    • polegojim - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:02 PM

      @Bruce…. NEWSFLASH –

      Detroit Red Wings, 23 years includes 4…4…4… Count them… 4 Stanley Cup Championships

      That’s REAL GOLD bud.

      • pwshrugged - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:55 PM

        Technically, it’s silver.

      • polegojim - Aug 27, 2014 at 3:34 PM

        ; ) yes the Cup, but the memories are gold!

    • hockeydon10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      It’s not fools gold, it’s franchise gold. It’s not just the money from playoff games, it also builds a fan base that’s ready and willing to support their team through ticket and merchandise sales.

      Making the playoffs for a 24th straight year doesn’t breed apathy. What breeds apathy is having a franchise that doesn’t compete and continually falls short (see: Coyotes or Panthers).

  8. hockeydon10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    Interesting tidbit: 2014 marks the longest consecutive number of years the Wings have gone without winning a cup since…

    17 years ago,
    when there were only 26 teams in the league.

    • pwshrugged - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:43 PM


      In 1997, the last time the Wings had won the Cup was in 1955; or, 42 years.
      In 2014, the last time the Wings had won the Cup was in 2008; or, 6 years.

      Not sure I follow your math or your point.

      • hockeydon10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 3:17 PM


        2014 marks the longest amount of time the wings have gone without winning a cup since the 1997. “Since 1997” was meant just that way. Since 1997. Not “since 1955”. Not “ever”.

        Maybe it was the way I broke it up into several lines.

      • pwshrugged - Aug 27, 2014 at 4:36 PM

        Ooh, I see what you mean there. A bit of unavoidable linguistic ambiguity in the usage and location of “since” – my bad. Sorry about the misunderstanding.

  9. pwshrugged - Aug 27, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    Oh goodness, more Streak consternation.

    I’ve lived in a few different places, made friends with fans from a few different sports areas. I can say, as a fan myself and as a casual observer of people, that I’ll take a lifetime of perennial contention over a guaranteed championship or for a handful of win-now years balanced against years of misery. The buzz, the vibrancy, the intensity of a fan base that can count on their team having a legitimate shot every year in the playoffs is unmistakable. And make no mistake, every team that gets into the NHL playoffs ends up with a legitimate chance.

    That said, 4 Cups over 23 years of uninterrupted playoff performances is incredible. It’s something every fan base wishes their team had. Let’s not pretend and discount it. It’s a special thing, and like it or not, it is poised to continue with the influx of young talent the Wings have unearthed. We will break 29. If we made it through 2012 and 2013, injury-riddled and not knowing what our AHLers would play like in the NHL… well, I think we’re past a bump in the road.

    The free agency grumblings this year are ridiculous; the Wings didn’t get what they wanted, but when have the Wings ever been a splashy free agent team (after the lockout)? This is a team that always developed its best talent, its superstars, in-house. First it was Yzerman and Lidstrom, then Datsyuk and Zetterberg; now it’ll be Nyquist, Sheahan, Tatar, and DeKeyser. They’ll find the other pieces as they go along, but make no mistake – the big pieces for the team’s future are set, and they’re good ones.

    I have zero concern for the Wings, their Cup dreams, and their playoff streak. The future looks brighter to me today, loaded with up-and-coming young stars and a handful of aging veterans, than it did five years ago, when all we had were those aging veterans. Looking forward to the season. Is it October yet?

    • hockeydon10 - Aug 27, 2014 at 3:32 PM

      Well said.

  10. alraguc - Aug 28, 2014 at 7:28 AM

    When you start trading away promising prospects to bolster your lineup to keep the streak going, that can be a problem. Trading Jarnkrok to the Preds for two months of an aged David Legwand was foolish.

    • kellerjason0 - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      It was what we needed at the time. The loss of Jarnkrok is unfortunate but I doubt we make the playoffs without the push Legwand gave us. It’s in the past now and we have so many great prospects that I am not worried.

  11. mackattack29 - Aug 29, 2014 at 8:10 AM

    This is the dumbest article I’ve ever seen on here. Seriously… This guy deserves to be fired and shamed by the entire hockey community… what a freaking joke.

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