It's going to happen, likely as soon as next year. That would be the Red Wings missing the playoffs. The winged-wheelers and their fans take great pride in having made it to the post-season 25 years in a row.
In essence, given that fully half the teams in the NHL qualify for the playoffs, it translates to the Motowners being better-than-average for a quarter century. Impressive in one way, perhaps not so much in another.
This year in particular, the Wings squeaked into the playoffs at the last second -- again.
It should be noted that since their recent glory days during the Bush Jr. Presidency, the Red Wings haven't survived even the first round of the playoffs after some guy named Obama moved into the Oval Office. Let's just say it's been a while.
And this year looks to be no different.
Now down 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning, another early exit from the playoffs is almost assured.
While the Detroit faithful thought there may be a glimmer of hope after their heroes narrowly won Game 3 at home after falling behind 2-zip in Tampa, it was nothing more than a mirage. Fool's gold.
TB is clearly the far superior team, even with their two best players still out with injuries.
In Game 4 in Detroit, the Lightning out-skated, out-checked, out-shot, and all-around out-played the Wings from start to finish. The final score of a 3-2 Tampa victory hardly gives it justice. It shouldn't have been that close.
It's theoretically possible the Wings could storm back and win the next three games to move on -- but so could Jeb or Marco do the same to become the next President. One could get very long odds on any of those bets coming in.
Thing is, the future appears bleak for the Red Wings. Consider their two best players. Pavel Datsyuk will be leaving after this season to return to his native Russia. Though widely hailed as a superstar in Detroit over the years, his career stats belie such a notion. PD has played over 900 games and scored a little north of 300 goals. One tally every three games. On average, he found the back of the net about 28 times a year. Not bad, but hardly eye-popping.
Henrik Zetterberg is quickly approaching a Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant stage of his career. In other words, he's getting up in years and his production has predictably fallen off. It's likely a safe bet that won't get any better in the future.
Their goalie situation remains in flux. In Detroit, hasn't it always been so? One guy can be a hero for a few games, then get yanked after being shelled for the next few contests. Hero to bum in goal can happen quickly in Detroit. Even during their Stanley Cup glory years of yore, the Red Wings have historically been quite fickle with what guy they want between the pipes. Such a philosophy isn't exactly a confidence booster to the goalies involved.
Hey, Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers gets shelled once in a while himself, but you don't see them demoting him to the bullpen. Same with Mathew Stafford, the QB of the Detroit Lions. He stinks it up here and there with bone-headed throws and decisions, but he'll be right back out there for the next series and certainly the next game. If a guy is a team's #1 dude at a particular position, you don't kick him to the curb after a bad outing. It happens. Why should it be any different with goalies?
The Red Wings have a lot of young players -- sometimes called "prospects". They show occasional flashes of brilliance, but at other times are exposed as the mediocre wannabes they truly are. The pressure of Stanley Cup playoff hockey has a way of sorting out the men from the boys. Just flying around the ice at full speed won't get it done. There has to be a mental team aspect to the game as well to succeed. In that respect, the Wings are sorely lacking.
While they have only been outscored 11-8 through the first four games of the TB series, it likely should have been far more lopsided. The Lightning have clanged the goal posts repeatedly and carried the play throughout. To their credit, the Wings have capitalized on bang-bang plays here and there to keep it at least respectable.
But make no mistake. TB is vastly outplaying Detroit even without it's two best players.
And when this season is done for the Wings, which will probably be shortly, consider the "down" button on their elevator officially pushed.
It won't get any better next year, only worse.
Hey, they won a few Cups and had a good run regarding the playoffs in the last couple decades.
But all signs point to them going into a down cycle for a while. They've been hanging on by their chinny-chin-playoff beards for the last few years.
And let's get real. "Hockeytown" ain't what it used to be. As in everybody wants to play there. It's no secret many coveted free-agent stars have taken less money to play somewhere else in recent times. It's like they DON'T want to come to Detroit. Anyplace but that.
As Bob Dylan once famously sang -- times-- they are a-changin.
Owner Mike Ilitch can build his new arena, though it was totally unnecessary in the first place. There's not a damn thing wrong with Joe Louis Arena, other than he doesn't like the location.
So enter the dreaded "eminent domain" where a few hundred or thousand people get kicked out of their homes -- and many small businesses brushed aside. These will all be demolished to make way for the pizza billionaire's newest bauble.
The cruelest irony of all is these same people -- along with other fellow tax-payers -- will wind up paying for most of it.
But like one can put make-up on an oinker -- in the end it's still a pig. A sparkling new arena isn't going to help the Red Wings' become any more competitive in the near future any more than Kobe Bean or Eldrick Tont getting a new endorsement will rejuvenate their athletic careers
Sometimes -- it's just time.
The elevator has to go down eventually too, you know.