... for Red Wings fans. We're two games away from the season's halfway point and the Wings are on the bubble as far as the playoffs go... currently residing in ninth place in the West. Which is where they've been... more or less... all year. But there's reason to be hopeful. Here's Cassie Campbell, writing for CBC Sports:
Mike Babcock has to be a candidate for coach of the year!
I know his team, the Detroit Red Wings, is full of talent and is expected to be vying for a Stanley Cup every year, but right now they're in ninth spot, out of the playoffs in the Western Conference. The Wings are a team that has both the Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks thinking, 'Please get a lot better and move way up the standings or please get a lot worse and move way down the standings - just as long as we don't have to face them in the first round!'
If the Wings make the playoffs this year, Mike Babcock and his staff will have done one heck of a job. I mean, the injuries alone would probably decimate any other team, but he has found a way to keep his team competing while dealing with 180-plus man games lost.
Only three players have played in all 39 games - Bertuzzi, Lidstrom and Holmstrom. All have had injuries from the past that they are stilling dealing with. Injuries to Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Dan Cleary, Jonathan Ericsson, Jason Williams, Valtteri Filppula and Andreas Lilja have depleted the core of this team.
Babcock has had to try and find a way to get more out of depth players like Patrick Eaves, Justin Abdelkader and newcomer Drew Miller. They're not putting up big time points, but have been effective in improving a penalty kill that was a disappointment last season.
The Wings do not have one forward in the Top 25 in league scoring, nor do they have one defenceman in the Top 25 in defenceman scoring.
I've watched with great dismay as the Wings lost player after player to injuries this year and wondered if the unthinkable is actually thinkable, that being the Wings fail to make the playoffs for the first time in the last 20 years or so. But it's entirely possible if the parade of injuries continues or if the expected recovery of key players like Franzen, Zetterberg, Ericsson, or Filppula doesn't happen for one reason or another. Still and even, Ms. Campbell has a point: Babcock has done a brilliant job of making a
silk nylon purse out of a sow's ear. It's doubtful any other team in the league could have taken such massive hits to their roster and stayed in contention for a playoff spot.
Babcock has done a great job of coaching, but the Wings' persistence and resilience is also a testimonial to the depth of their farm clubs. There's some great young talent playing for the Wings in the AHL... and some of those guys are getting called up to the Big League a LOT earlier than expected.