There were a lot of great things in the 1990s that no longer exist today. New episodes of Law & Order. Alicia Silverstone movies. A democratic republic free from fascism and scare-mongering. Those were good times, my friends.
The latest vestige of 1990s life that's about to get put on an ice float — wait, those are dying too — that's about to get put on some garbage and pushed into a rising ocean is the idea that the Detroit Red Wings are still a good hockey team.
Remember those 1990s teams that laid the foundation for success in the next decade? It was must-watch hockey. They had an actual, real-life rivalry with the Colorado Avalanche along with a cavalcade of Hall of Famers that made the team Stanley Cup contenders for two decades. Nicklas Lidstrom dragging that team to the playoffs in his final years were as compelling as anything he did in his prime.
Thanks to years of late-round draft picks no longer panning out, poor decisions in free agency and the element of time ruining the foundation, the Red Wings are shells of themselves and can now be considered a genuinely bad team. They replaced Pavel Datsyuk with Frans Nielsen this summer, which isn't unlike when Law & Order replaced Sam Waterston with Linus Roache in the final days of that show's existence.
Although, there's nothing to indicate Waterston is a homophobe, so maybe that's an unfair comparison. Apologies to the Waterston family.
Think what you will of Datsyuk's beliefs (they are bad), but his forced retirement before this season is starting to feel like the end. With 93 points and a minus-13 goal differential, a case can be made that Detroit was the NHL's weakest postseason team a year ago, and only by the grace of Datsyuk's on-ice gifts did the postseason streak reach a record 25 seasons.
The Red Wings have been downright terrible this season, and that's even with Jimmy Howard posting a miraculous .940 save percentage in nine starts. They enter Tuesday 26th in the standings with 17 points in 19 games and a minus-5 goal differential. They're ranked 24th offensively and 18th defensively, the latter a stunning number considering what Howard has done in half the team's games.
Maybe you're looking for hope in the underlying numbers; look elsewhere. Only the Arizona Coyotes, who may be secretly tanking, are below the Red Wings (45.6 percent) in score-adjusted Fenwick. If you think the Red Wings are due for a turnaround, their PDO through 19 games is 101.0, so that's not a strong indicator the bounces are going against them.
Is it possible Jeff Blashill isn't a good coach? It's tough to say considering the talent he's coached the past two seasons, but he's certainly not Mike Babcock. This is the equivalent of downgrading from Adam Schiff as district attorney to literally anyone else the show used over the years. So Blashill is either Dianne Wiest or Fred Dalton Thompson, mismanaging his ADAs but also working with inferior ADAs. If Blashill had a prime Jack McCoy and Abbie Carmichael, maybe he's winning championships.
There have been some injuries this season — Niklas Kronwall has missed 12 games, Thomas Vanek 11 games and Darren Helm will be out long-term with a shoulder injury, but that's a relatively new problem. And if losing Kronwall, Vanek and Helm proves this devastating, you weren't starting in a great place anyway.
Consider the Red Wings' 1-0 loss to the Capitals on Friday. The Capitals lost three top-nine forwards in the first period — T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky — and still found the winner in the third period from Jay freaking Beagle. The Red Wings played 18 vs. 15 for most of a game and still were outshot 28-25, which is a huge red flag that your team isn't good.
And I take no joy from this. I enjoyed the Jeremy Sisto/Anthony Anderson dynamic at the end of Law & Order. Clueless is a sensational movie. I'm a huge fan of democracy. I take comfort in seeing things from my childhood flourishing as I move closer to death. It's why Jaromir Jagr has to play forever. As long as Jagr is an active NHL player, I can pretend this lifestyle where I eat white cheddar popcorn for dinner is a normal thing for someone my age.
There's something comforting about being in your late-30s and seeing Zetterberg and the Red Wings flourish. You can trace him back to Steve Yzerman and Dino Ciccarelli, back to simpler times, when I had hair and the world wasn't on the precipice of neo-Nazis taking control of the American government. Those were great times, my friends. I can tell you stories some time.
But this Red Wings team is bad, man. And it's really no one's fault. It's a miracle this run lasted as long as it did. GM Ken Holland held it together for as long as he could. At the very best, he's got a wild-card team that's going to get pummeled by Montreal or Washington in the first round of the playoffs. More likely, he's got a team that will finish in the bottom-third of the standings in the coming years, which seems like the worst time for the Red Wings to descend into the NHL abyss.
That's because next season the Red Wings will move into a new $730 million arena, one that is being heavily funded with taxpayer money. It's never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever good when taxpayers are fronting a pizza billionaire's sports arena, but considering the Red Wings may be teetering on a rebuild, this is like throwing a max contract at a 38-year-old who just blew out both of his knees the previous season. It's dangerous to assume this will automatically be a profitable endeavor for the city because it's been nearly three decades since the city has had to support a bad team. Who knows what they will do two years from now when the team is being fronted by Dylan Larkin, who has six points in 19 games this season.
The only disappointing aspect of the Red Wings' decline is the one way it's different from every other great thing from the 1990s that's faded — we can't blame it on millennials, the people that never watched Law & Order and didn't get a single reference in here.