The Red Wings have missed the playoffs just twice in my lifetime, and I’m old. But now, at 22-24-10 and dead last in the Eastern Conference, they appear bound for the reckoning/rebuild that they’ve somehow escaped so many times over the decades. It is, for the first time since 1990, a lost season in Detroit.
The only life Detroit showed in yesterday’s 6-3 loss to the Wild was Gustav Nyquist jamming his stick into the face of Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon:
Nyquist, who was given a double minor, appeared mad about a cross-check from Spurgeon seconds before, but claimed the high stick was accidental.
“I didn’t mean to do that,” Nyquist said. “My stick gets caught, I am trying to get body position on him. I’m happy he was out there again. I had no intention of doing that. My stick gets caught.”
Nyquist will have the chance to stick to this story: Last night the NHL’s Department of Player Safety offered him an in-person hearing for potential discipline, a necessary step for DoPS to suspend a player for at least six games.
Nyquist has never been suspended before, and Spurgeon returned to the game (after getting stitched up), both factors DoPS seems to take seriously in its rulings. It’s a fool’s errand to guess suspension length, but I’m going with...five games.
However long Nyquist’s ban, the Red Wings will be without Jonathan Ericsson even longer. The veteran defenseman fractured his wrist on Thursday, and this weekend the team announced he needs surgery and will miss the rest of the season. Ericsson was not having a good year, but he was third among blueliners in ice time.
The absences of both will mean chances for Detroit’s young players to fill the gaps, and given how this season appears bound to end, that should really be the Wings’ main goal the rest of the way. It’s time for Detroit to do what literally every other franchise has been forced to do, and spend a few years building its way back to relevance.