By Mark Wilson
June 27, 2015

Sorry Red Wings peeps but this playoff streak you adore needs to come to an end.

Beginning in 1990, when Bryan Murray was coach, and continuing to this day a major pro-sport best 24 consecutive seasons of tasting Stanley Cup play.

24 straight years. Fantastic. Kudos. Way to go, boys. Mazel Tov.


It’s phony baloney.

Six years have passed since the Wings lost to Pittsburgh in the 2009 Cup Finals; seven years since Mike Babcock led the last charge to drinking out of the prized chalice.

Babcock is now in Toronto and Jeff Blashill is a first year NHL head coach.

Friday night in South Florida (because there is no better spot for an NHL Draft than in the SoFla heat) the Wings began the “Blashill Era” by drafting a young Russian forward named Evgeny Svechnikov. He was the 19th overall pick in a draft which saw Edmonton get ANOTHER number one overall in Connor McDavid.

Longtime Wings’ GM Ken Holland said all the usual nice things about Svechnikov who won’t even turn 19 years old until Halloween.

Big kid. Really like him. Toughness. Can score.

Yes, Ken we know.

A future project.

I do this every year the draft comes around. The last time Detroit picked in the top ten of ANY draft was way back in 1991. They took Martin Lapointe number ten overall. Back in ’91, “the streak” was only a year old.

Hell, it might as well be 1891.

The Wings gave us a ton of thrills.

Murray leaving and replaced by Scotty Bowman. Bowman leading the team to its first Cup Finals appearance since 1966 when they played the Devils in 1995. Back to back Cup championships in 1997 and ’98. A third Cup in 2002 with all those Hockey Hall of Fame greats. A FOURTH Cup in 2008 after Steve Yzerman had retired to a front office job.

I mean, I could go on.

But why?

The Wings were given their parades. We’ve honored this run over and over. Babcock and Bowman will always be the “Killer B’s” of Motor City pro hockey.

And along comes another “B.” Blashill.

He will dramatically change the way the Wings play. Holland knows it and so does Jimmy Devellano. Yes, Jimmy D. is still heavily involved with the organization. Owner Mike Ilitch hired Jimmy in 1982. He’s the one that brought Stevie Y. to Motown.

There was Devellano along with Holland, Blashill, Kris Draper, scouting director Tyler Wright and others up on the podium as they handed Svechnikov his new Red Wings’ sweater and hat.

But, the 19th pick?


There is no doubt NO franchise in sports has done a better job with less when it comes to draft choices than the Wings. For a quarter century they’ve found diamonds in a lot of roughs.

Make no mistake, however. When it came time to WIN a Cup… they signed veteran free agents and we all know it.

Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are holdovers from a bygone time now. You can probably throw Nick Kronwall in that mix too; Johann Franzen when “The Mule” is healthy.

The days of winning Cups with that nucleus is over, Rover.

Done. Finished. Complete.

Prolonging the agony by trying to make the playoffs in the final week of the season, like last April, simply doesn’t make a lot of hockey sense. The Wings are no longer built to win it all.

Now, I’m not saying the Wings are supposed to tank or return to the dreaded “Dead Wings” days of the mid-80’s. The year they finished with 40 points under the dual “leadership” of Harry Neale and Brad Park is this shy of horrifying.

“I plan on being coach here for a long time,” Park told me in 1986 when he took over for Neale who got fired after just 35 games.

A “long time” turned out to be 45 games and a 9-34-and-2 record. I guess compared to Neale it was indeed a long time.

Just four years later, the streak started.

NOBODY would have thought it would continue into the middle part of the second decade in the 2000’s. As it stands, it’s the fourth longest NHL streak of its kind in history.

Would it be so terrible if it ended in Blashill’s first season?

Yeah, I’m asking!

The only thing that bugs me about my question is that damn team in Alberta.

It seems like the Oilers have the first pick in the draft EVERY YEAR.

And still… they stink.

Only Buffalo and Arizona prevented the Oilers 62 crappy points from being the worst in the NHL last season. Third to worst despite having young studs like Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, etc. Add McDavid to that list and barring a shocker— they’ll still suck.

Obviously there are other reasons why Edmonton is brutal. Coaching has been bad. They’ve been cheap in other front office positions and seasoned veterans loathe the idea of playing in Edmonton in winter.

Still, they can’t even make the playoffs with that group? Not even be relevant past February?

So, when I say I’d like to see the Wings lose, miss the playoffs, end the streak and make a high pick in a draft for the first time since the FIRST Bush administration, I say it with trepidation.

I’m not looking to rain on Wings’ fans party. I don’t want to diminish a night out at Joe Louis Arena and inevitably “District Detroit” or whatever the new hockey rink will be called.

Look… maybe the new rink is a focal point.

Lose now and by the time that brand new facility is built, Blashill will be ready to lead a young group of Wings to a new streak.

As it stands, Blahsill will be coaching plenty of guys he had with him down on the farm in Grand Rapids. The days of spending huge money for free agents seems to be gone as well. There are no Luc Robitaille’s or Brett Hull’s coming on board to save the day.

NHL teams are tired of Wings’ domination and have all but stopped dealing with Holland to make the team better. Big name free agents are landing elsewhere.

The Chicago Blackhawks are now the dominant team in the NHL.

Who saw that coming six years ago?

Nobody unless you realized that Bowman was going to be helping his son Stan run the show in Chi-town.

Look out folks. It’s only a matter of time before Chicago gets testy about Detroit still being referred to as “Hockeytown.”

The Hawks showed this third, and latest, Cup run that they play a game the Wings are unfamiliar with. Giving Yzerman’s Tampa Bay Lightning a good push in the first round was cool but I have no misgivings saying the Wings would have been killed in the second round.

Babcock knew it when he booked for Shanahan and the Leafs.

There was nothing left for him to do here. He couldn’t roll through another stress-induced run to the playoffs only to get knocked out early in post season play. ONCE did Babs lead the Wings to round two since 2009.

Just once.

Dave Lewis was here two seasons before Babcock and then the lost lockout year of 2004-05 and was bounced in the first and second round. Babcock winning the Cup over the Penguins in ’08 with Chris Osgood in goal was magic. The parade on June 5th came just two months before the colossal USA market crash.

That crash mirrors the fall of the Wings.

Getting back to the Cup Finals in ’09, and nearly winning it, was just a reverb effect from ’08. Other teams like Chicago, Boston and the LA Kings were ready to pounce.

And pounce they have in the past seven seasons.

Right this moment, or since I began this column, Wings’ peeps have given me a collective finger.

They’ll say they have enough young talent to compete for the prize. Tatar, Nyquist, Abdelkader, Sheahan, Jurco, Ferraro, Helm, Glendening and DeKeyser are all 20-somethings that have NHL talent. This isn’t the “old Wings” anymore save for Pavel, Hank, Zidlicky and Cleary.

They’ll say… Dylan Larkin is on the way!

They’ll say Petr Mrazek can play goal better than a 31-year old Jimmy Howard and is good enough to be a Cup goaltender.

Blashill is the young buck of the coaching world. He can move mountains.

Really? You SURE about all that?

I’m not.

I would have LOVED to see Holland, Draper and Devellano up at that warm South Florida podium Friday night picking McDavid or Michigan’s Zachary Werenski. Maybe Jack Eichel from Boston U.

The Wings never get the chance.

No one will trade with them to move up and Holland’s desire for that always seems blasé at best.

Martin Lapointe. 10th overall pick. 1991.

No top ten’s since.


In September, Marty will turn 42. He works for the Montreal Canadiens in player development.

Lapointe played a long time. He didn’t retire until 2008. But, even THAT is now seven years ago.

Last time the Wings won the Cup.

Oh, so much symmetry.

Well, all I know is, the Wings finish the 2015-16 regular season on April 9th at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers. New York will most likely be a high seed in the east.

I kind of hope the Wings are just finishing the string at that point. No post season and a streak that doesn’t get to 25 straight years. Maybe even a top ten draft pick to get Lapointe off the hook.

Then, we can start it all over again.

Wouldn’t that be fun?

It sure would make the 2016 NHL draft more interesting in Hockeytown.