As a hockey fan and Michigan native who is not a Red Wings fan, seeing the sudden downfall of a great team is disheartening. Proclaimed as “Hockeytown”, the Detroit Red Wings have amassed a fan base of great pride and dedication and notoriety for great success. Last year the organization saw the third longest consecutive playoff streak in the history of the National Hockey League at 25 years. This streak is in grave danger of being snapped at a very tumultuous time. Not only are the Wings relocating to their new home in the offseason but, this uncharacteristically bad season comes amid league changes with the expansion draft and after the passing of their General Manager, Mike Ilitch.
The relocation from Joe Louis Arena, their home for 38 years, to Little Caesars Arena reunites the city’s major sports teams but is a huge change for the staff, players and fans. A big season would have truly gotten the city on board with the new venue but is a tough call after a bad season. Not to mention the effects of the Las Vegas Knights and what the expansion draft will bring, as the newest team to join the NHL will likely gun for Detroit’s top talent.
The Las Vegas expansion team brings uncertainty to teams and players, the expansion draft allows the Knights to pick 30 players – at least one from each existing team – reportedly this will also lower the salary cap, which means less room to spend on new talent.
At the trade deadline on March 1, Detroit’s staff seemed to be cutting their losses early in hopes and preparation for the future. Trading off some big talent to teams that are in good position to make the playoffs the Red Wings secured four draft picks for the next two years, a move that will hopefully help to counter the expansion’s arrival to the league.
In sports there is a winner and a loser, its just the way it is but, to see the brand that Ilitch created when he bought the Red Wings and turned them the success that they had been for 25 years, slide well out of reach is saddening to myself and those who love the game. Hockey is fast, competitive and sometimes brutal but the unity of fans, players and the city is a beautiful sight. Despite my cheers for the New York Rangers, hopefully the Spirit of Detroit will don the red and white jersey in the 2018 postseason.