By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) — Remember the Detroit Red Wings? They were the Blackhawks geographical and divisional rival for most of the NHL’s existence. This summer, the Wings moves to the Eastern Conference, leaving the Blackhawks as the long Original Six team in the Western Conference.
When last we saw the hated Winged Wheel, Brent Seabrook was eliminating them in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Final. The Hawks had trailed the series 3-1, before storming back to win. The Wings took the eventual Stanley Cup Champions to the absolute brink. They must be rolling in the inferior Eastern Conference this season, right?
Detroit has struggled this season. They’ve been plagued by injuries to key players (203 man games lost).
Here’s a look at the Wings’ current injury list:
Pavel Datsyuk (lower body)
Jimmy Howard (knee)
Jonathan Ericsson (fractured rib, shoulder)
Johan Franzen (concussion)
Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery)
Daniel Alfredsson (groin, back)
Joakim Anderson (lower body)
Cory Emmerton (upper body)
The Wings’ home record is an abysmal 7-11-7. You think the Blackhawks are bad in the shootout (5-6)? The Wings are 2-7 in the NHL’s skills competition coin toss. Their 52 points have them on the outside looking in to the Eastern Conference playoffs, and in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the first time in 22 seasons.
For most Hawks fans, it’s hard to sympathize with the Red Wings. They’d been a thorn in the side of the Blackhawks for a decade plus.
Check out this graphic, courtesy of Comcast Sports Net Chicago’s Christopher Kamka.
I think it’s premature to write off the Red Wings, though. I still believe Mike Babcock is the best coach in hockey, and once they start to get healthy they should be strong enough to get over the playoff hump. They’re only 2 points out of the 2nd, and final, Wild Card spot.
Hate the Red Wings as much as you want, but it’s better for the league when they, and the rest of the Original Six, are contenders. Their old age is finally starting to catch up with them, and now that the Hawks are elite, free agents have their eyes on Chicago, when they had been on Detroit. Still, if I’m an Eastern Conference team, I’d like to avoid the Wings in a playoff series.