I watched the Los Angeles Kings kick the Red Wings’ butts in the first round of the playoffs like everyone else did, with the exception being that the Kings’ famous overtime rally (damn you, Adam Deadmarsh) occurred while I was in the hospital, trying to stay awake on a morphine drip while recovering from major throat surgery.
What does that have to do with Down Goes Brown’s discussion of the worst pre-Stanley Cup championship seasons for ten Cup-winning franchises. DGB suggests that the 2000-2001 Red Wings had it worse than the 1995-1996 Wings did, and here’s his rationale:
9. 2000-01 Detroit Red Wings
The 2002 Wings are one of my favorite teams ever. Just a roster stacked with future Hall of Famers, from longtime Wings like Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan to ringers like Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull, almost all of them old and expensive. It is, quite literally, the sort of team we could never see again in the cap era.
But if you went back to the spring of 2001, you’d have found plenty of fans who thought the Wings were all but done. They’d put together a strong 2000-2001 season, one that saw them rack up 111 points, tied for second in the NHL. But it all fell apart in the playoffs against a Kings team they should have beaten easily. The Wings cruised through the first two games with wins by a combined score of 9-3, then lost four straight one-goal games, including two in overtime. To make matters worse, Yzerman and Shanahan both got hurt in Round 1, building a narrative that the Red Wings were too old and beaten up to go the distance again.
No less an authority than Sports Illustrated was writing articles about how the 2001 postseason could be “the last dance for the NHL’s oldest team.” And it really did feel that way. But rather than hit the reset button, the Wings doubled down on even older names, and it paid off. And we mostly forgot about those disastrous two weeks the year before.
Down Goes Brown continues (paywall); I’ll stick with my gut feeling that the 1995-96 Red Wings team’s loss to Colorado required as much of a culture change as any other roster, as well as the blockbuster Shanahan deal, over free agent signings (including plucking Robitaille right off the roster of the team that eliminated them)…
But DGB makes a good case for the 01 Wings requiring a significant number of moves, and he doesn’t even mention the fact that the Wings traded for and then signed Dominik Hasek and waived Chris Osgood in order to make a significant revision to the Red Wings’ crease.
I will always remember the 2000-2001 season as the one I spent recovering from having my tonsils and uvula removed, my soft palate trimmed and my throat opening more or less gouged open via surgery addressing sleep apnea issues (and the surgery worked!), but it was most definitely also the precursor to the Summer of Ken, as the Chief called it, and the Red Wings could have gone in a lot of rebuilding directions had Holland not swung for the free agent fences.