Wednesday, April 4, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: 21 Consecutive Playoff Appearances for the Detroit Red Wings

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - the Detroit Red Wings and their remarkable 21 consecutive playoff appearances.
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)

April 1990 - that is the last time the NHL playoffs began and the Detroit Red Wings were on the outside looking in when the second-season began. The model of consistency for professional sports organizations, a lot has changed in the past 21 years... like having the ability to post blogs on the Internet for example.

When the Red Wings embarked on their remarkable playoff streak in 1991, Out for Justice starring Steven Segal was the top movie at the box office (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II was a close second). Wilson Phillips, Gloria Estefan and Amy Grant were battling for the top song on the American Billboard charts. Steve Yzerman, the current General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, had just completed his eighth season in the NHL when Head Coach Bryan Murray and his two assistants, Dave Lewis and Doug MacLean, led the Wings to a third place finish in the Norris Division. They lost in seven games to the St. Louis Blues in the first round that year, but it was the start of their current streak and a sign that great things were coming to Hockeytown.

In the last 20 seasons, the Red Wings have finished first in their division 14 times - once in the Norris and thirteen times in the Central. They have been the Western Conference champions six times and lifted the Stanley Cup in victory four times. When you consider how difficult it is to remain competitive in today’s NHL and the challenges of the salary cap era, Detroit continues to succeed year after year. Drafting well and teaching their prospects how to play the Red Wings way, they have signed key free agents during the off-season and added the right players at the trade deadline when needed. Whether it has been Bryan Murray at the helm as General Manager, Scotty Bowman, Jim Devellano or Ken Holland, the Red Wings organization always seem to make the right move at the right time and the results speak for themselves.

Several teams have climbed to the top of the league to win a Stanley Cup during Detroit’s streak, only to fall back into mediocrity soon after. The four Cups in the past 20 seasons and 11 championships in the long and celebrated history of the franchise, places them third on the all-time list for most Stanley Cup wins behind Montreal (24 Stanley Cups) and Toronto (13 Stanley Cups but none since 1967).

Their Original Six counterparts have combined for four Stanley Cups during the twenty year streak (the Montreal Canadiens in ‘93, New York Rangers in ‘94, Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and the Boston Bruins in 2011), but none have been as consistent as the Red Wings year after year. Their expansion-era cousins in Edmonton and on Long Island had their own dynasties in the 1980’s, but like the rest of today’s NHL teams, no other franchise can lay claim to such an impressive streak (New Jersey’s streak of 13 consecutive playoff appearances ended last year). The Red Wings were one of the great teams in the Original Six era and clearly, they are one of the legendary teams of the modern era too.

The list of the great players to wear the Red Wings jersey during the streak is endless - Yzerman, Igor Larionov, Sergei Federov, Chris Chelios, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Osgood, Dominik Hasek, Vladimir Konstantinov, Henrik Zetterberg... the list goes on and on! I can’t help but wonder what the top movie will be when the streak hits 30 consecutive seasons...

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