Joakim Nordstrom’s first-period goal proves to be the game winner for Carolina in a 4-1 victory over Detroit, who has a 25-year postseason streak snapped. (0:28)
Rob Vollman: The departure of coach Mike Babcock in 2015 and then Pavel Datsyuk in 2016 left the Red Wings on the brink of playoff elimination, but Detroit’s blue line was the straw that ultimately broke the camel’s back. Nicklas Lidstrom retired in 2012, which gave the Red Wings five years to reconstruct their blue line, but they chose to gamble $20 million long term on a top-four of Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall. Too few of these players could stretch into the ambitious roles to which they were assigned, and thus ended one of the most impressive active streaks of any major sport.
Joe McDonald: I blame Pavel Datsyuk. If he had not jumped ship to the KHL before this season, Detroit’s good-luck charm would have led the Red Wings back to the postseason. Honestly, the Red Wings were never able to replace his leadership on and off the ice. There’s no denying they missed his presence as a two-time Stanley Cup winner and three-time Selke Trophy winner as the best two-way player of a generation. He could do it all. I understand why he wanted to return home to play, but no doubt the Red Wings missed the “Magic Man.”
Craig Custance: Time finally caught up to the Red Wings. This was an amazing streak, one that we may not fully appreciate until years down the road, when time gives it the proper perspective. But with those playoff appearances and championships came contracts that rewarded previous accomplishments instead of future ones. With those successes came draft picks that were closer to the bottom of each round than the top. With those successes came a loyalty to players who management would have been better served letting go. Add in injuries, sophomore struggles from Dylan Larkin and a defense that needs serious work and the Red Wings are outside looking in. Still, it was an incredible run.
Corey Pronman: In a cap era, in order to stay great, you need to get consistent surplus value in the draft, and from research I’ve done, no team has shown they can do so. The Wings had some great drafts and a ridiculous run, but their good fortune could only be stretched so far before the cold reality of pro sports, with caps, drafts and similarly prepared competitors sank in. All competitors must rebuild at some point, it’s just a matter of time. (That being said, their last rebuild netted them Steve Yzerman at fourth overall in 1983.)
Pierre LeBrun: I think the right question is, how did it last for an incredible 25 years? My goodness, we’ll never see that again in the NHL, especially not in a salary-cap era. But to answer the question, the streak finally ended because after 25 years of being at or near the bottom of the draft, the Red Wings finally paid the price for never being able to select top-five talent. There’s only so many times you can beat the odds and draft really good players with the lower picks. The other reason is that great superstars such as Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan and the irreplaceable Lidstrom left and were replaced by good players, but not great ones. It’s hard to replace greatness with good. It has all caught up now to the Wings, who deserve the chance to rejig things — and GM Ken Holland will do just that.
Scott Burnside: There are a variety of factors, but what has sustained the Red Wings over this incredible streak has been the ability of the management team — which featured, at various times, Scotty Bowman, Jim Nill, Yzerman and, of course, current GM Holland — to adapt with the times. Before the salary cap, owner Mike Ilitch gave the Wings the resources needed to compete with the league’s major players. In the cap era, Holland and his scouting staff consistently found late-round gems and developed them patiently in the minors. But in recent years that inextinguishable pipeline of talent slowed to a trickle. Young players have not matured as expected, free-agent signings have not fulfilled expectations, goaltending has been less than good. All those threads that had weaved together for years to form a successful tapestry began to fray, and now the team must, finally, face its mortality. Sad? Sure. But let’s take a moment to understand the monumental work done by this organization in creating something that will never be duplicated.