Now that we are a couple of days removed from a devastating Game 7 overtime loss by the Detroit Red Wings, I can actually look back at the season with my emotions in check. I wanted to write a scathing blog the night of the loss, but decided to wait to see if the sting of the loss would fade. I was furious at how this team choked away a 3-1 game lead to the rival Chicago Blackhawks. What shocked me even more was the immediate response from 90 percent of Red Wings fans who were okay with the outcome following the loss.
Are these the same fans that usually find any excuse (weak goaltending, bad officiating, not big enough on the blue line) to vent their anger every time the Wings had a playoff exit over the past two decades? What is going on here? Why aren’t fans angrily blaming different causes for the loss? Why are so many fans proud of a losing team? In my opinion, fans initial reaction to the loss was total weak sauce. I expected more vigor and anger from a fan base who witnessed their swan song from the Western Conference end in a three game gag to their rival. That said, not hearing lame excuses over the past couple of days was a bit of a refreshing take.
I guess this is what happens when a team squeaks into the playoffs and isn’t favored to win a series. Media expectations can alter fans’ viewpoint on what SHOULD happen. But what I don’t think fans understand is this isn’t the NBA. In the NHL, there is barely a difference in talent between the top seeds and the 8 seeds. I believe the perceived separation in talent between the Hawks and the Wings was grossly overblown, especially in this shortened season. Are the Hawks a tad more talented? Maybe. But in my opinion, the Wings had the top two players in the series (Datsyuk and Zetterberg) and the better goaltender in Jimmy Howard. Obviously the Hawks have more skill and depth on the blue line which was the key to Chicago eventually winning the series.
I’m really surprised fans are okay with the ending to this roller coaster season. As fans in Hockeytown, don’t we hold this team to a higher standard? Although there was a bit of a youth movement this season, this team still has world class superstars on the roster. It isn’t like the roster was imploded and put in complete rebuild mode. In fact, the phrase “rebuilding season” has been used more over the past few days than I’ve heard all season. This was not a rebuilding year, retooling yes, but not a rebuild.
Although I am disappointed over the way things ended, there were several positives. Howard emerged as an above average goalie, several rookies got valuable playoff experience and the Wings overcame devastating injuries to emerge as a contender. Mike Babcock may have completed his best coaching job as a Red Wing.
Yet Babcock and GM Ken Holland have set a championship or bust standard in this town and that standard was not achieved this season. Veteran stars Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Kronwall are all moving towards the downsides of their careers. Although many fans are proud of what this team overcame this season, it doesn’t change the fact that this team missed an opportunity for greatness. Although I too am proud at this team’s fight this season, it didn’t lessen the excruciating blow that took place Wednesday night. It was bad watching the Wings lose a game 7 once, watching it happen twice was brutal. As Wings fans all we can hope is to get revenge in next year’s Stanley Cup final.