By: Eric Thomas
It was an odd Red Wings season because we haven’t seen one like it in a long time. No one involved can responsibly take its measure, even now as the blood pressure slowly stabilizes. Good season or bad season? Fans and media members alike stand between the two buckets, puzzling over the evidence at hand, trying to decide which bucket this season belongs in.
It’s not your fault if you’re confused. The Red Wings have oscillated between ignominious playoff exit and deep Cup run for the last twenty years. If they’re knocked out in the first or second round, someone must pay and the office to demand an answer will be kicked in by people wielding weapons. If they make it past the second round, it’s minor tweaks in the off-season and only a bump on the road to a championship.
It’s difficult to augur this season, because we haven’t seen this in a while. There are no bright lines, no easy conclusions. It’s too early to say the Red Wings definitely have the pieces of an eventual championship. It’s too early to say they have another rebuilding season ahead. The results are so scattered that one cannot accurately say either, and we’ve all struggled with our positions.
It was easy to scream and yell about the front office or coach at the beginning of the season. Yours truly started the season with an enumerated article on why “The Wings aren’t good anymore.” The team congealed in the last four games of the regular season and found another gear when injected with the young talent in the playoffs. That’s encouraging, but a good run in the playoffs doesn’t mean a lifetime of success on the horizon. (cough, Franzen, cough)
The honest answer, with all the gathered evidence, is that the Red Wings are: Fine. That’s it. They’re fine. That’s not the definition of “fine” that’s usually screamed out of rolled down windows; it’s the version that’s delivered with a shrug. The Red Wings are fine. They’re not definitely on the road to a dynasty; they’re not cycloning into a drain where they dissolve into carbon. They’re fine.
Tepid descriptions are a death sentence on the internet, this blog might not even get enough attention to attract trolls, but it’s the truth. There were questions about Jimmy Howard heading into the playoffs, he played well. The defense was made up of young players and lost their second best defenseman early. They played awful at times, excellent at others. That’s a good sign. The fourth line played great. All of these signs, pulled to the middle of the Hold Em’ pile, add up to “fine.”
Most of us don’t know how to walk away from this, partly because the sting from game seven is still fresh. Most of our hearts were in our throats until the final goal, to have it end after going up 3-1 isn’t easy to swallow. When you zoom out, the analysis has to be taken with a granule of salt and a shrug. There are no sweeping assumptions appropriate, saying otherwise is manipulation and devoid of honesty.
The Red Wings are fine. That’s a lot better than where they started the season, so it’s an improvement.