The Runner Sports

The Lows, Woes, And The Detroit Red Wings

A Season of Loss

In about five weeks, the 2017-2018 NHL season starts.  Contracts are being finalized and fans are wildly speculating about what is going to happen this year. It’s fun to look into the future, but it’s also important to look back into the past.

It was a year of losses for the Detroit Red Wings and it started even before the first puck dropped.

On June 10, 2016, hockey legend Gordie Howe passed away. Gordie was beloved by hockey fans but he was especially loved by Detroit fans. He played 25 seasons with the Wings and is considered one of the greatest players of all time. He held records that weren’t broken until Wayne Gretzky came around.

The Wings spent the season honoring Mr. Hockey by wearing a 9 patch and putting a 9 on the ice. The home opener was dedicated to Gordie and it was one of the best games they played.

Gordie’s death wasn’t the only one that shook up Detroit. On February 10, 2017, Detroit’s longtime owner Mike Ilitch died. Ilitch was the man who put the Red Wings on the map. Under his leadership, the dead wing era ended and Detroit became an elite team.

After his passing, stories poured about the kindness of Mr. I. Mike Ilitch touched many lives and his passing was a great loss to the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings added a Mr. I patch to their jerseys for the rest of the season.

Death wasn’t the only way that the Detroit Red Wings lost someone.

On June 18, 2016, Pavel Datsyuk announced that he wasn’t going to finishing his contract with the Red Wings. The Wings were able to save their cap space by trading his contract to the Arizona Coyotes, but Datsyuk didn’t go with it; he went back home to Russia.

Datsyuk was a very important piece to the Red Wings puzzle. He was known as the magic man and included in 100 greatest NHL players in history. His speed and his ability to find the back of the net was key to the Wings’ success, which led to the 2002 and 2008 Stanley Cups. He was the last member of the 2002 team to leave the Red Wings.

When Datsyuk retired, he had 918 points in 953 games. He won two Stanley Cups and four Lady Byng trophies. He also left a void on the Red Wings that they are desperate to fill.

The 2016-2017 season ended Detroit’s 25 season playoff streak. It wasn’t a surprise to a lot of fans, the Wings had been fading and hadn’t made it past the first round in two years, but it was still a blow to Detroit fans. Especially ones who couldn’t remember a time without playoff hockey and weren’t used to the season ending in early April.

This last season felt like the end of an era and it was. Not only did the Wings lose a legend, their owner, and the streak, but it was also the last season that the Joe Louis Arena will be the home of the Detroit Red Wings.

The Joe may have been old and in desperate need of repairs but it felt like home to many fans. Throughout the season both fans and players shared memories of the Joe. The new arena is state of the art and has a long list of amazing features but the Joe will be missed.

Injuries

This last season was rough for Wings fans. It’s hard to watch a team struggle, especially when every few games everything would seem like it was clicking and it would give fans hope that they got it together. The hope was short lived because it was never long before it fell apart again. It was a roller coaster ride with lots of twists and turns that no one saw coming.

Injuries plagued the Wings. It seemed like almost every other week someone new was being called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins. The constant rotating of players along with the line juggling made it hard for the team to get any chemistry going. As a result, there were a lot of times that the Wings looked lost on the ice.

Some players even spent all season fighting aches and pains. When the season ended, there were reports that Justin Abdelkader was going to be spending the offseason addressing lingering pain in his knee that he had been playing with.

Tomas Tatar also spent his offseason dealing with an injury that had been bothering him. The forward underwent shoulder surgery that he had been putting off. Tatar hadn’t been playing at 100 percent for the whole season and there are hopes that the surgery will help that.

Lack of Power Play

Detroit’s power play didn’t do them any favors. There was a point in the middle of the season that I started wondering if there was any way Detroit could decline power plays. They seemed like more of a hindrance than a help. At the end of the season, Detroit had 252 power play opportunities but had only managed to score 38 power play goals. They were ranked 27th out of 30 on the power play.

Disappointing Play

The power play wasn’t the only thing that wasn’t living up to potential. There were a few players that didn’t do as well as everyone had hoped. The season isn’t on any one of these players individually, the whole team was disappointing, but there were three that were in such a slump it was hard to watch.

Jonathan Ericsson

Jonathan Ericsson is a very popular punching bag for fans. He is a large defender who doesn’t seem to know how to use his body unless it was to get in Detroit’s way. Right before the 2016-2017 season, Ericsson had hip surgery. Finding out that he was in pain with hips that didn’t really work right gave hope that it was what was affecting his game negatively. The issue was corrected and it gave hope that the season would be better.

At the start of the year, it looked like he was getting better. He was using his size, he defended the forwards, he got into fights and he was mostly staying out of the way. He was doing his job and some of his fights even got the team fired up and rallied comebacks. He wasn’t perfect but he was better. Maybe his hip was a bigger contributor to his problems than everyone thought.

It didn’t last forever. He started to fade and fall back into his old habits. Then an illegal hit fractured his wrist and he was out for the rest of the season.

Detroit still holds his contract and his injury is supposed to be healed over the offseason. So maybe 2017-2018 will be better.

Riley Sheahan

Riley Sheahan didn’t have a good year. It was almost like he was cursed. He took a lot of flak for it, but I have to say at least it looked like he was trying. He had 109 shots on goal so at least he was hitting pucks toward the net. They just weren’t going in. Everyone could tell that he was getting frustrated just by looking at him, and lots of people shared his frustration.

Sheahan eventually got both the first and last goal during the last game at the Joe Louis Arena, guaranteeing he will be the answer to a long-lasting trivia question. While rewatching clips from the last game you can actually see the relief on his face and new confidence after that first goal.

Let’s hope he brings that confidence with him to the 2017-2018 season.

Dylan Larkin

Dylan Larkin’s season wasn’t awful but when he is graded against himself and his previous season it was disappointing. Larkin had 43 fewer shots on goal and six fewer goals in his second season. He was at a +11 at the end of his first season but fell to a -28 at the end of his second.

Sophomore slumps exist, especially when a player has an amazing freshman season. There have been a lot of reports that Larkin has been training and lifting during the offseason, so let’s hope that his junior season is going to be a comeback one. Especially since reports that Henrik Zetterberg is going to retire in one or two seasons and many assume that Dylan Larkin is the next leader.

Rebuild

It was a tough season for anyone who loves Red Wing hockey. However, all teams go through seasons like this. Everyone has to stop and rebuild at some point and it’s Detroit’s turn. It’s going to be exciting to see what happens and fans just need to be ready for the ride.

Allison Barbersek
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Allison Barbersek

Writer at The Runner Sports
I love animals and hockey, espeically the wings. I live in the Great Lakes Bay Area of Michigan.
Allison Barbersek
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