What a season for the Detroit Red Wings, putting up probably their most improbable run into the post season in their last 23 years. Adversity was in no short supply this year, making a run into the post season extremely difficult and prompting fans to wonder if the longest streak of consecutive playoff appearances in pro sports (22) might finally come to an end this year. Injuries were the main issue at hand for the Wings this season, with the team having lost over 400 man games to injury, placing them at the top of the league in this category. No team came close to the Wings in terms of having to deal with injuries this season. Due to this, the Wings were forced into a massive youth movement, dressing and incredible 9 different rookies, Alexy Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, Landon Ferraro, Teemu Pulkkinen, Mitch Callahan, Adam Almquist, Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan. Truly remarkable, especially for a team that likes to, in the words of GM Ken Holland, “over ripen” their prospects in the minor leagues.
The last time the Wings hadn’t competed in a playoff run was in 1990 and this resilient squad got better and better down the stretch and began to believe. The immense breakout of rookies, Gus Nyquist and Tomas Tatar immensely aided the process towards the end of the season with clutch plays by the two when it mattered. So many different parts interconnected to keep this improbable run alive, and now we will take a look at 10 crucial elements that aided this team in making the playoffs once again this season. Enjoy!
10 “The Monster” Stepping Up
9 Howard Stepping Up When it Matters
8 Zetterberg Carrying the Team in the First Half of the Season
7 Adding Legwand at the Deadline
6 The Walk-On Luke Glendening
5 Youth Beginning to Shine at the Back
4 Kronwall’s Play
3 The Kid Line
2 Nyquist Breaking Out
1 Babcock’s Coaching
Red Wing fans will be the first ones to tell you, none of this would have happened if not for the outstanding coaching of Mike Babcock. The Wings bench boss could have easily packed it in when his 2 franchise players Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg went down to injury, but he decided not to. Instead he got his team to believe in his system and more importantly, believe they were good enough to compete with any team on any given night, despite their youth and injuries in the line up. Babcock never made any excuses and he executed as well as he could with what he had at his disposal. For Babcock, his main concern was opportunity; opportunity for someone new to step in and make a difference, and this is exactly what happened with so many fresh new faces this season. The team bought into what Babcock was selling. Mike believed in this team all year long and still believes heading into the postseason that his team will be “a tough out” for any opponent. Perhaps, we have seen Mike Babcock coach his best year ever, winning a Gold Medal in Sochi, playing a defensive minded system and bringing his depleted Red Wings back into the playoffs for a 23rd straight year. Not to bad, I’d say. When asked about how it has been, coaching all these young players this season, he responded in typical Babcock fashion, "I’ve never had this much fun in my career."
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