While some dynasties have won a three-to-five-peat, an incredible feat, invariably these franchises disappear in to the loss column, and their fans are left twiddling their thumbs, wearing paper bags over their heads, waiting for...what?
Take the sweet and steady Red Wing 25 years of clutch play, any day.
The Red Wings – with their cool, classy uniforms – have, since the 1990-91 season, given fans superlative performances, great efforts. The next best NHL streak in this past quarter century is that of the Pittsburgh Penguins at 10 seasons.
Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, number nine, from the mid-forties to the end of the 60’s led the Wings but then saw, afterwards, his team drip to the bottom of the barrel: it became known as the “Dead Things” in the 70’s and 80’s.
Then the team drafted Stevie Yzerman in the mid-eighties and the team improved during Stevie’s early years.
This franchise has seen it all – and has nearly surpassed all franchises.
(Okay, the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Black Hawks, with consecutive playoff-bound, 29 seasons and 28 seasons respectively, are ahead, but Detroit is the best because it has won 4 Stanley Cups during its streak while Boston won just 2, and the Black Hawks won an embarrassing 0.)
Moreover, the Wings bravely put on their game faces and give yeoman efforts all the while watching their beloved, what was once an iconic, city...turn into nothing more than a poverty-tour town, hollowing out faster than have the cheeks of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Yet those few fans that still live there, do pack the Joe Louis Arena pretty near every night.
And don’t forget the NHL penalizes good teams, in the cause of parity, for putrid teams. Draft choices, barring trading up or down for picks, go to the most decrepit squads. In 1990 the team drafted 3rd, taking Keith Primeau. The next year it drafted Martin Lapointe in the 10th spot. But since then they’ve had a few picks in the first round, after almost all the other teams took the best, higher up in that round, or have drafted starting in round 2 through round 4!
(And like so many outfits, some of their picks never amounted to more than the proverbial cup of coffee.) But many of their picks did play for the Red Wings – and helped them become that year in-year out, consistently competitive team.
Prashanth Iyer, writing for The Hockey Writers, has two tables chock-full of facts proving the Red Wings's drafting prowess. But here’s the easiest stat to understand, a number we (who weren’t paying as much attention in school as Mr. Iyer was) can all appreciate.
Detroit ranks #1 at 61.6
That’s the number of points - by average - a Red Wings's pick tallied in the NHL.
Considering the number of years of drafting, the number of rounds, the number of years where the team took its first pick after 95% of other teams..(Montreal came second in this measurement, Pittsburgh third) Detroit's drafts have been primo, majordomo.
And what makes the Red Wings consistent excellence a marvel (and all other teams face this conundrum too) is knowing that their players – like all NHL players – are independent contractors. They play for themselves, their contract(s), their specific futures. Team play and cohesion occurs, but it isn’t the first, no pun intended, goal for its individuals.
Nevertheless, the team, from its minor league affiliates – the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Toledo Walleye - to the big club - play “Detroit Red Wing hockey.”
One facet of Red Wing hockey, is having had great coaches like Scotty Bowman and Mike Babcock. They served the longest during this decades-long successful span. Another is in the tutelage of players to play as a team, not as those aforesaid independent contractor individuals. (Weirdly enough, the Griffins do not have a GM, the Red Wings handle those functions for that team.)
Detroit is Hockey Town. And an Octopus: tossing-on-the-ice town. Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, may blather on about Chicago being THE Hockey Town, and the Black Hawks, with three Stanley Cups in six years have been amazing – but murder city is its moniker and makeup and stellar teams there, no matter the sport, won’t change that fact.
Toronto likes to think of itself as a hockey town, but the folks there should know, the "Buds", as a professional outfit, left the vicinity of accomplished play in 1968 and haven’t been seen since. Sure, this 2016-2017 season, they’ve got Mitch Marner and Austin Matthews – great rookies – but they are still scrambling to make the playoffs. The team is so awful it’s made the post-season once in the past 11 years. (Their team is why sweater tossing came to be.)
Meanwhile the Red Wings have made the playoffs for a quarter century in a row! In 1990 when the team started rising to the elite levels of the NHL, that year also saw the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope - for you kids who weren’t around then, or for you adults who’ve forgotten what happened way back when.
Since, hockey in Detroit has been heaven. And if we pray just a bit, the team this year, with its slightly below the equator playoff-eligibility record - might come up with a good trade or two at the NHL Trade deadline, March 1st - and overcome a difficult finishing schedule - to just find a way to make it to the post season again.