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What We Learned: What's the future for the Detroit Red Wings?

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy
Red Wings exit quietly after run to make playoffs
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Detroit Red Wings players, including Daniel Alfredsson (11), Niklas Kronwall (55), Brendan Smith (2) and Xavier Ouellet (61) gather around goalie Jonas Gustavsson (50) after losing 4-2 to the Boston Bruins in Game 5 in the first round of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs in Boston, Saturday, April 26, 2014. The loss eliminated the Red Wings from the playoffs. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

It's said just about every year at this point, but is this, at long last, “it” for the Red Wings?

When (insert star player here) left town, everyone thought that must bring their dominant run to an end. It didn't. When Nicklas Lidstrom finally retired, the thinking was that the Red Wings we think of were no longer the Red Wings of reality.

They were. For at least a little while longer.

But now the questions are starting to mount in earnest and it's not entirely clear that there are any good answers for them.

What, one has to ask, even was that?

Not only were the Red Wings dramatically outplayed by the Bruins in their five-game drubbing that anyone with a rational view of the sport saw coming from miles away, but they didn't even look like the Red Wings that at least put up a respectable stretch run to fend off a couple noisy competitors for that final playoff spot -- a spot that gave them the privilege to get shelled by the Presidents' Trophy winners.

If they're feeling particularly dishonest, they might be able to hang a lot of this paltry playoff performance on injury. Henrik Zetterberg clearly wasn't anywhere near 100 percent, Daniel Alfredsson was out, Jimmy Howard had a concussion, and so on. It would be the same old song and dance from the season, too. “If all these guys weren't hurt, they wouldn't have finished eighth.”

Maybe, but they did, and even if they doubled their goal total in these five games, they still don't have as many goals as the Bruins. No two or three players make that large a difference.

It was reported yesterday that the Red Wings' various unrestricted free agents (David Legwand, Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary, Kyle Quincey, and Jonas Gustavsson) will largely be allowed to walk without a second thought from Ken Holland, with only Alfredsson potentially being retained at what you'd think is a diminished price point. Probably wise. There's not an especially clear purpose to re-upping any of them, and a lot of those guys cost pretty decent money. Freeing that up might give the Red Wings more room to compete for the biggest-name free agents to hit the market this summer.

But the question, really, is why they would.

This is a team that is demonstrably on the decline. Getting 93 points from this Eastern Conference is really not very good at all, and that's after playing at just a 96-point pace last season. It's a far cry from the days of banking 100-plus points in the standings like clockwork, which they did in every season from 1999-2000 to 2011-12. We're starting to get enough information about the makeup of this team that it's not only no longer a Cup contender, but also a borderline playoff team, injuries or not — and one can credibly argue that mounting injuries are what you can expect when the bulk of your top-six forwards are north of 33.

You hear a lot about the “youth movement” in Detroit (a relative term considering the ages of guys who get their biggest minutes), but there should be a real point of concern about replacing Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall going forward. Those younger players they have on their roster are pretty good at this level, but expecting them to replace probable Hall of Fame talents up front in particular is a big, big ask.

Nyquist, for instance, is already 24 years old, and while he scored a million goals in the second half of this season, it was all because of an absurdly high shooting percentage that is not in any way replicable. His zero points in these playoffs isn't necessarily symptomatic of that, but he put up 48 points in 57 games, which only extrapolates out to 69 points in a full 82. And he needed to shoot 18.3 percent this year to get that much.

He's the guy who's going to carry the water when Datsyuk and Zetterberg are finally done? He's a good player, as are Tomases Tatar and Jurco and Riley Sheahan and Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith. But when you're comparing that “core,” if you want to call it that, to those of mighty Wings teams past, it's not very favorable at all.

The fact of the matter is that the youth movement is already fully here in Detroit; the Wings — mainly out of necessity, mind you — used 18 players who were 25 years old or younger this season. Few in anything resembling a major role, and none besides Nyquist and 23-year-old Tatar getting anywhere near even 40 points this season. Let's put it this way: Did you ever in your life think you'd see a season, for any reason, in which Niklas Kronwall was the Red Wings' leading scorer?

That having been said, Zetterberg and Datsyuk are still very effective players in the NHL. The grains of sand are falling down to the bottom of the hour glass with what seems to be a quickening pace, but that's how time works. The Wings used to pride themselves on being able to bring guys in slowly. Ride the bus in the AHL for two or three years, and you'll be ready, was the thinking. If that were true — and probably it wasn't, given that, at 24, this was somehow Nyquist's first full NHL season — it's certainly not a luxury this team has now. Not any more. Not after this.

In letting those free agents walk, this is the Red Wings finally acknowledging the writing on the wall. Maybe they bring in a big name if they can throw enough money at him, but the majority of this team is going to be made up of those under-25 guys, and who know where that gets you? Even if the big guns stay healthy next year, which isn't a guarantee.

What is all but assured is that these Wings, for better or worse, will look a lot different next year. (Probably not better, but definitely different.)

Will it threaten the famous playoff streak? Given what this playoff appearance produced, it really doesn't matter.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: I always wondered how you become a dentist for an NHL team. “Hockey players and their families are 20 percent of his clientele.” Seems like quite the racket.

Boston Bruins: The Bruins' first-round series with Detroit almost qualified as being in some way difficult for them, but not really. The Canadiens, on the other hand, should pose a slightly stouter challenge.

Buffalo Sabres: Really interesting breakdown of the way the Rochester Americans use their young, puck-moving defensemen to dominate possession in these Calder Cup playoffs. If things go well, that might one day help them at the NHL level too. But let's not put the cart before the horse.

Calgary Flames: The Flames are going to be in a shoving match for any kind of good GM candidates given the number of teams (three plus anyone else who gets canned soon) that are now without such an executive.

Carolina Hurricanes: One of those GM-less teams will likely be the Carolina Hurricanes, as Jim Rutherford is finally going to stop running the show this week. Seems like Ron Francis will take over from him, as has long been rumored, because

Chicago Blackhawks: This was always going to happen. Man, what a team.

Colorado Avalanche: Pretty dogged stuff around the net for the Avs, and they only needed that huge hold by Andre Benoit to break up an empty-netter and tie the game. I will never get sick of Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny together, though. Never never.

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Columbus Blue Jackets: If the shot differential in a game is bigger than the number of shots you had you did not have a good game. That is my opinion.

Dallas Stars: The NHL Department of Player Safety is sending a pretty clear message in this postseason. Spear whoever the hell you want and you're going to more or less get away with it pretty much every time.

Detroit Red Wings: “Quietly” is putting things nicely. The Red Wings scored six goals in more than 15 periods of hockey, and allowed 14. Terrible stuff by a dramatically overmatched team. Lots to think about this summer.

Edmonton Oilers: Mark Arcobello was a fairly serviceable third-line option for the Oilers this season, but it's not entirely clear what they're going to do with him this summer. Edmonton, at this point, would be wise not to bail on any guys who are even decently competent in their own zone. He also scored 28 points in 15 AHL games, so he can clearly chip in on offense as well.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers have a bunch of good young centers. Some of them, logically, might get moved to wing so they can get some decent minutes. But who?

Los Angeles Kings: Hey look Jonathan Quick shockingly hasn't been terrible in his last two games and the Kings have consequently won them both. So weird how that works.

Minnesota Wild: If the Wild lose this series we're never going to stop hearing about that offside non-call.

Montreal Canadiens: Some really great stuff in 30 Thoughts yesterday (Nos. 15 and 16) on the dynamism Bruins killer Thomas Vanek brings to the Habs lineup every night. He's been very good for them.

Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: The Nashville Predators' farm team has trouble scoring in the playoffs, you say? Well there is something to be said for playing the same systems in the minors as the NHL.

New Jersey Devils: Speaking of the AHL, the Devils sent Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, and Adam Larsson down to Albany for the Calder Cup playoffs, which doesn't seem nice or fair to their opponents' forwards.

New York Islanders: The Islanders pulled $22 million in ticket revenue last season, and $84 million overall, and that's a lot more than most people probably would have expected. That seems like a good amount. Someone please put together that $370 million to buy the team from Charles Wang. Look at those revenues! Wow!

New York Rangers: The Flyers' defense and Steve Mason are positively baffled on this Brad Richards goal.

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Ottawa Senators: Daniel Alfredsson losing in the playoffs gave one Senators fan the chance to compare himself to Gandhi. What a sport.

Philadelphia Flyers: Yeah maybe shouldn't put the guy you healthy-scratched 76 (SEVENTY-SIX!!!!) times this season into a road game that could make your series 3-2. Maybe don't do that next time. Maybe.

Phoenix Coyotes: Sorry, Coyotes fans. You don't get your own license plates. Interestingly, the team itself would have had to pay the state $32,000 in production costs to help get them made. They should have asked the City of Glendale for it.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Would have been cool if the Penguins had said, like, “Nah Game 6 seems like it'll be a cakewalk. Who cares? It's Columbus. Haha.” But alas.

San Jose Sharks: If Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who didn't practice Sunday, misses Game 6 that's going to be huuuuuuuuge. He's terribly good.

St. Louis Blues: Yeah, great trade.

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Tampa Bay Lightning: We're still talking about this?

Toronto Maple Leafs: Gotta say, never thought I'd see a non-joke headline that said “Leafs were much better off under Pat Quinn,” but it's hard to disagree these days.

Vancouver Canucks: Are the Canucks targeting Boston assistant general manager Jim Benning for their vacant GM job? Well, get in line, I guess.

Washington Capitals: Well no kidding.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets put out a cookbook. There's a Dustin Byfuglien joke in there but he didn't make the signing because he's lazy and selfish, I bet.

Play of the Weekend

Oh my yes.

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Gold Star Award

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CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 27: Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Jaden Schawrtz #9 of the St. Louis Blues …

Just a massive, massive game yesterday by Duncan Keith. When Jonathan Toews is getting buried in possession and you're still at about 60 percent corsi, you were just phenomenal. That goal he scored to really rub St. Louis's noses in it was as deserved as any goal ever scored in NHL history.

Minus of the Weekend

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A shot by Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp, left, slips under St. Louis Blues goaltender Ryan Miller …

You know how they say goalies “want that one back?” Ryan Miller probably wants the two games he played this weekend back.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “Nuke” seems to have made everyone upset.

To: Edmonton
- Shea Weber
- 11th Overall

To: Nashville
- 3rd Overall (Reinhart/Bennett)
- Eberle
- Gagner

Signoff
I collect porcelain horses. I experiment with where I put them on my dresser.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is hereand his Twitter is here.

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