It's rare that I am embarrassed to be a fan of the Detroit Red Wings.
I am 25 years old now and I've been rooting this team on ever since I was 6. I've always felt and been inspired by the heroics of the players on the ice and the personalities in the locker room.
Steve Yzerman, to this day, is my hero. Forget Be Like Mike. I wanted to grow up to Be Like Steve. I wanted to be the last guy off of the floor or ice no matter how tired I was or how bad my legs hurt because of Stevie. I wanted to lead my teams by example and quietly sacrifice the body for the sake of the game. I wanted my teammates to look me in the eyes and feel like lesser mortals if they failed to leave everything out there.
But something is bothering me lately about this Wings team. And I am going to tell you all about it… after the jump.
21 straight playoff appearances.
244 regular season victories over the last five years.
A central division title in eight of the last ten seasons.
At least one Stanley Cup Playoff series victory in seven of the last ten years.
Two Stanley Cups in the last ten years.
And you're telling me… that all it takes to throw the fan base of the Detroit Red Wings out of whack and off their rockers is a 7-6-3 start to a lockout shortened season? Is this some kind of joke? Some kind of farce?
I'm embarrassed to be a fan because of some of my fellow fans. I can't believe how entitled and spoiled some are acting.
I feel like I'm stuck in some kind of HBO version of the Truman Show where I'm the only Red Wings fan that hasn't gone completely bananas, just for the entertainment of the crowd. Am I the only one left here that hasn't lost faith? That believes that this is a team that is going to turn it around during the last 75% of the season that's remaining and make the playoffs?
I can't even believe the knee-jerky, outlandish and shortsighted things I've been reading across Red Wings-land these last few games.
Fire Mike Babcock? He of seven straight 100-plus point seasons with the Wings? What, the .731 points percentage since he came to Detroit isn't good enough for you? And then replace him with who? A shrug and a smile and nothing short of a change just for the sake of making one?
I've heard rumblings of people wanting to see the team's core put on a lift and rotated out of town for more youth. I've seen comments from people calling for Kenny Holland to be relived of his position. That he doesn't know how to run a team anymore and has lost his touch.
The ridiculousness of all the above, I could go on about for quite some time. I know that I'm trapped forever in the "tldr" era, so I'll make an attempt to keep short the reasons why you're zany if you're looking for drastic changes because of what has transpired in 2013.
That's the number of man-games lost to injury the Wings have through 16 games played this season. That means on average this team has been playing without 6.5 (ahhhhhh!!!! A half-hockey player!) regulars per game. I'm sorry, but that's gnarly.
Instead of dogging on this squad, we should be cheering them on and proud that they are in playoff contention at all. They lost two guys during their practice session before taking on Nashville for crying out loud. Mikael Samuelsson took a slap shot to the glove and is now going to miss more time despite only playing in one warm up before going on the IR again.
Has this team looked inspired so far? Despite the heroics of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit is a team that has by and large looked flat during most of their games… and that may or may not have something to do with them icing AHL players in the top-six because, well, everyone else besides the skate sharpener is injured.
Detroit's best players have been just that, and Detroit' in-over-their-heads rookie/youngster core have been just that.
The power play looks awful and that may or may not have something to do with the AHLers… and the rest of the team only having one week of training camp to adjust to life without two of their top five PP players (some guy named Lidstrom and some goon named Holmstrom) and to learn a totally new system.
Even the replacements of replacements can't manage to stay on the ice. I had to laugh when Kent Huskins went down as well.
So if you're freaking out because of 2013, I'm here to tell you to relax. And to support this team while they cope with one of the most viscous and untimely injury bugs ever.
Now is not the time to panic. Now is the time to take note of the efforts that are there and to watch the forced youth-movement take place in Detroit. This is suddenly a younger team with several top prospects playing and showing us what they can do.
If you're snorting and saying "I've seen what they can do, and I'm not impressed" then, frankly speaking, you need a reality check.
Did Datsyuk put up 75 points in his rookie season? Was Zetterberg thrust into a top-six role during his first year? No way! Detroit doesn't do that to players because it gets results like this season so far. Injuries chewing through the depth chart has disrupted the system entirely. These guys are supposed to be easing into their roles as NHL players.
Tomas Tatar shouldn't have any pressure on him to score at this juncture, but he does. That's un-Detroit-like, but they don't have any other options right now.
This is a team in full damage control-oh shit-scramble mode. I haven't been in love with every moment of the season so far, but I am encouraged by the tenacity the team has shown despite injury. Despite losing arguably the greatest defender of all time in the off-season. And despite parts of the fan base that want to tear the whole thing apart just because of a few bad weeks.