In this league, teams go through rapid changes. Front office personnel, management, and players come and go much more frequently than just a decade ago. The Detroit Red Wings are now just catching up.
This franchise is known for its history of success. There have been endless years where Wings fans knew that they will still be watching their team deep into April, but those times are starting to disappear. Since breaking the 25-year playoff streak, the franchise as a whole has made it their goal to try to be back into the playoffs as quickly as possible.
Just recently Ken Holland actually admitted to having to start a re-tooling process. Any GM that signs Trevor Daley and Frans Nielsen to longer than two years, has admitted that yet.
But now that this management group is showing signs of wanting to rebuild, there are other, more symbolic, actions that have and will take place.
Just one of those is the long-serving captain Henrik Zetterberg leaving this team.
It’s a painful pill to swallow, but with Zetterberg gone, there are no distractions from where this team should be headed. The young players like Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha are able to step up into a more prominent role and truly become the faces of this team.
I have no doubt in my mind that having franchise legends like Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall still on this team, pressured management to try to rush the process and be successful one last time.
Now that Zetterberg will be gone and Kronwall is eyeing retirement after the 2018-19 season, there will possibly be a clearer picture on what the future of the Red Wings will be. A future without players that have tasted Stanley Cup success in Detroit, will be a reality that fans and the front office will face.
Hopefully, there will be more of an emphasis on making the current young NHL players the Wings have, into similar franchise legends that have left recently or will leave them soon. No more balancing the past, present, and future – simply focus on the team that will give you that success much further down the line.
It’s unfortunate but necessary. As injury-ridden Zetterberg has been these last three seasons, he was still a highly-effective player and without a doubt the most important one. He took the brunt of the competition and was still able to produce the points that he did. There is no replacing Zetterberg both on and off the ice, but the Red Wings will have to make due and move forward. That is what must be best for them.
Other franchises move on from legends all the time – Brodeur, Modano, Alfredsson, Sundin – so the Red Wings are just experiencing it themselves. But look on the bright side, Zetterberg will not play for any other team in the NHL. It could have been much more emotionally painful.
The 2018-19 season is going to look much more different than we are used to – not only with the players on the ice but literally what is on the ice.
The removal of the classic “Hockeytown” logo has been much-contested over since it has been revealed that the Red Wings will no longer sport it. But this reflects where this franchise is and the mentality of its management.
Removing this logo is a symbol of the team moving forward. No longer looking in the past and putting everything down to tradition. The Red Wings are finally becoming a modern NHL franchise and it feels refreshing.
With the new Little Caesars Arena in place, the Red Wings must become a premier hockey franchise once again. Historically, that is not done by looking in the rear-view mirror and admiring what great teams you had decades ago.
The Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs from a few years ago were all victims of their management wanting to admire what they have done before. Or trying to always be competitive when they naturally should not be. Making trades or free agent signings that put them back years in the end.
It’s the Detroit Red Wings turn to be a forgotten team that gets high draft picks and then eventually lands that superstar talent and becomes a consistent playoff team once again.
It is certainly not that easy, but they are on the right path with the draft they had last June. Filip Zadina has the potential to be that world-class player for the Red Wings, but a franchise cannot turn around with just one good draft. It takes years of making excellent trades and being lucky.
Without the constant reminders of the 90s and 00s, the Red Wings can move forward and become successful once again. Looking in the past has never worked and without Zetterberg, Kronwall, and the Hockeytown logo, the Wings are on the right path to becoming relevant again.