Posted by: Frank | April 19, 2012

What’s The Problem With The Red Wings?

So it’s Stanley Cup time and with it comes the annual mashing of teeth over the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are behind in their series with the Nashville Predators, and despite the fact that the Wings are the fifth seed and all but one national sports reporter picked them to lose to Nashville, Wings fans in Detroit seem to think they should be winning the Stanley Cup this year. Or at least not losing to Nashville.

With the Wings losing, the same old laments are being repeated. The goaltender (Jimmy Howard) isn’t good enough. They have had bad luck. The defense sucks. Etc, etc, etc…

I can tell you whats wrong with the Red Wings in two words, and I am shocked that nobody on sports radio seems to get it. The two words: Salary Cap.

Truth is, the Red Wings would have not won any of the Cups in the ’90s if it weren’t for significant free agent signings. Chelios, Hasek, Hull, Shanahan, you don’t sign those guys you don’t win any of those championships. What is the biggest free agent signing by the Red Wings since the lock out? Marian Hossa, for one year. It’s clear to me that the salary cap has prevented the Wings from buying the players it needs to win the Stanley Cup year after year.

Of course, this is by design by the NHL. It’s not that the NHL has it in for Mike Ilitch and the Red Wings, but it is because there are more teams in the NHL than the Red Wings and the league does better when all teams in it have a chance to win it all. You might call it parity, others call it good business. While the NHL may make more money from television if the Red Wings advance, Nashville will gain a bigger following and sell more season tickets if they advance. Full stadiums in every NHL city for the majority of the games because every team’s fans think their team can win it all is what Bettman wants and is getting.

Since the Salary Cap has been in place the Red Wing’s approach has been to grow from within via the draft. Developing your own talent is very important, and its the strategy that finds the diamonds in the rough like Datsyuk and Zetterberg, but it doesn’t enable you to quickly improve the team. It does make you competitive each year, but in a league where all the teams are equal, it’s one or two star players that makes a difference.

In order for the Red Wings to become serious Stanley Cup contenders next year they will need to sign a few significant free agents during the summer. Doing so likely means parting ways with some of our favorite players as I don’t think the Red Wings have the cap space to offer big, long term contracts, which is what the players want. Short of the Red Wings signing some free agents, Red Wing fans will have to be satisfied with a competitive team that goes into the playoffs as capable underdogs rather than sure things. Wing fans don’t like the fact that the Red Wings are just one of several good teams in the NHL rather than the best team in the NHL, but that became our reality when the lock out occurred


  1. Nice blog! Interesting perspective on the Red Wings

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