Death, taxes and the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs. Those seemed like the only constants in life over the past 25 years.
Well, now the Red Wings are hot garbage, and yet, they may not be bad enough or have started being this bad soon enough.
After a pair of 4-1 thumpings at home at the hands of the Coyotes and Kings, the Red Wings are five points back of a playoff spot, and three points out of last place in the Eastern Conference.
That’s right, the mighty Red Wings are closer to last place than they are a playoff spot. And it doesn’t get any better when you dive deeper into their problems and playoff chances.
According to the fine folks at Sports Club Stats the Red Wings currently have a 5.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, in fact, only three teams have worse odds at the moment than Detroit; New Jersey, Colorado and the New York Islanders.
Hockey Reference isn’t much kinder, listing their current odds at 13.4 percent, ahead of only, again, New Jersey and the Islanders in the Eastern Conference.
Playoff Status has the rosiest outlook, with their odds at a whopping 18 percent. Think about that, the site that gives them the best odds is currently 18 percent, less than a one-in-five chance at making it.
Add those three up and the Red Wings are at 12 percent to make the playoffs and extend their streak.
So where did it all go wrong to reach this point?
There really isn’t one quick and easy answer. They haven’t drafted well, partly because for so long they were drafting late in the first round, their stars in Zetterberg, Datsyuk and others got old in a hurry, and then there’s Ken Holland, who has whiffed on every major free agent since Marian Hossa and for some reason employs Steve Ott. I mean, come on, Steve Ott! He of two goals this year, one of which was an empty netter.
Since ripping off six-straight wins earlier in the year for a 6-2 start, the Red Wings have won just seven times in their past 23 games. That’s 7-16, and to make matters worse, they’ve needed the shootout or overtime in five of those wins.
What’s it all added up to? A bad team by any measure, whether that’s basic stats, the eyeball test, or advance stats.
Let’s start with basic stats. The Red Wings have scored 72 goals this season in 31 games. That 72 total is the third worst mark in the Eastern Conference, ahead of only New Jersey and Buffalo, both of whom have multiple games in hand on the Red Wings.
Those 72 goals adds up to 2.19 goals per game, 29th in the league ahead of only Buffalo.
A quick look at the stats and there are ZERO players who have scored 10 goals this season, Dylan Larkin leads the team with nine, tied for 47th in the league. Should Larkin play every game this season, he’s on pace to score 23 goals.
The team’s leading scorer is the previously mentioned Zetterberg, who, should he play the whole season (not likely) is on pace for 53 points. 53 points at this point in his career and with that talent around him is actually pretty good, but it should not be leading the team.
And then there’s the advanced stats, which, while not a be all end all, do give some idea of why a team may be struggling.
In CORSI, basically any sort of shot attempt whether it’s on goal, missed, or blocked, the Red Wings are at 24th in the league at 47.8 percent. 50 percent is average, less than 50 means you are giving up more chances.
Fenwick, which is basically CORSI minus blocked shots, is even harder on the Red Wings, ranking them 26th and 47.3 percent.
Things could be worse this season if it wasn’t for the amazing play of Jimmy Howard, who is 5th in the league with a .934 save percentage. But Howard could be due for regression soon, as that .934 mark is nearly 20 points above his career average of .915.
Making matters worse, they may not even be bad enough. If the season ended today, they would have the 7th best odds at the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft, meaning they’re likely to miss out on the blue chip prospects.
Truthfully, the team should have started being this bad last year to speed up the rebuild process ahead of moving into a shiny new tax-payer paid arena next year, rather than be terrible again next year, but with a (likely) Top-10 draft pick on the roster.
Ken Holland should, but probably won’t, be trying to trade anything that moves prior to the trade deadline to start the rebuild. But there’s problems with that, because most of the players who he would want to trade, are terrible and have terrible contracts that nobody would want.
According to Spotrac’s salary cap numbers, Howard, DeKeyser, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson all make over $4.25 million per year. Outside of Howard, none are playing great this year and any trade would likely yield a minimal return as well as likely requiring the Red Wings to eat some of their salary.
So, long story short, if you don’t have plans this April, May and June because you were expecting the Red Wings to be in the playoffs this year, I’m going to go ahead and say you can book them, because you probably aren’t watching the Wings in the playoffs this season.