May 9, 2013
Red Wings' winning era about to endClock set to strike midnight on successful, classy run
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
DETROIT - Sometime in the next few days -- or weeks -- we'll see the end of an era for what has been one of the classiest and most successful hockey organizations over the last 25 years.
It could come as early as Friday night, when the Detroit Red Wings face a must-win game against the Anaheim Ducks in Detroit.
Even if the Wings manage to survive despite trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal, it would be merely putting off the inevitable.
The 2013 version of the Wings just isn't good enough to stage the kind of playoff magic Hockeytown teams have in the past.
It's not a criticism or a slam at the organization that has won multiple Stanley Cups along with conference and division titles. It is merely the clock striking midnight on the belle of the ball.
In fact, if the Red Wings are eliminated Friday, or in Game 7 Sunday, they have probably stretched the series longer than many thought they would.
In large part that's because they are playing a Ducks team that hasn't struck fear in anyone's hearts. Some of their top players haven't exactly lit it up.
Their second-leading scorer, Corey Perry, has one assist in five games.
Both teams have suffered the up-and-down blues. The Red Wings were outshot 14-3 early in Game 5 but the Ducks trailed twice in the game and had to come back.
In another time, another place, this wouldn't be good enough for the Ducks to win either. But the Ducks have just enough youth, depth and ability to go deep into games to be a shake better than the Wings.
The hope was that the below-average season the Wings had was an illusion that would disappear in the playoffs.
The season was no illusion. It was a reflection of a team that suffers a significant chasm between the talent level of its aging stars and that of the youth that supposedly will take them into their next lifespan.
Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and a couple of others still make significant contributions but they no longer make those contributions on a game-in, game-out basis.
When Justin Abdelkader served a two-game suspension, Todd Bertuzzi replaced him. Bertuzzi was injured for most of the season and is a player who has seen his better days.
Bertuzzi had his moments in Game 4 but in more than 10 minutes in Game 5, his stat line was minus-1 with only two hits and one shot. It's the type of drop off many of the Wings undergo on a regular basis.
Defenceman Danny DeKeyser played a handful of games right out of college for the Wings. His injury, a thumb problem that was fixed surgically on Wednesday, was considered a major blow for the Wings.
How does a collegiate defenceman suddenly become a key component of a veteran team? It speaks to how thin the Wings have become, especially on the blueline.
Wings' coach Mike Babcock has spoken several times about his lack of depth, something never heard in previous years. He also talked about how players like Datsyuk, 34, and Zetterberg, 32, have been good one game and not so good the next.
In the playoffs, 50% isn't good enough.
The Wings are fortunate Jimmy Howard has covered up a lot of their warts. He's made them look better than they are, unlike previous years when the Wings would allow fewer than 20 shots a game and make whoever was playing goal for them look better than he was.
No one knows for certain what Game 6 holds.
It will be a battle of inconsistent teams that have been made more inconsistent by being pummeled by travel and overtime games.
Abdelkader will be back and that's good news for the Wings.
The Motowners may have enough to force a Game 7 and who knows what would happen then.
Not that it matters in the long run.
We've seen the end of a Red Wings team as we've come to know them because as it stands now, it has simply become not good enough.