Red Wings truly best of the best

Off the top of your head, who do you think is the best franchise in professional sports today?
And I’m ruling out the amazing Barcelona soccer club from Spain in this discussion. Although the team is, without a doubt, the best in their field, I’m sure most of you will be turning the page if I do another rambling column about soccer.
Among the “big four” sports in North American, parity is the name of game, with leagues promoting the fact that any given team can come out victorious on any given day.
Even if a team backs into the post-season on the final day of the year (such as the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 and the St. Louis Cardinals last season), once the playoffs begins, anything goes and that team which struggled for the entire regular season could explode at a moment’s notice to win it all.
More often than not, though, the teams that perform strong in the regular season year after year are the ones that become the best in their sport, with the New England Patriots and San Antonio Spurs doing exactly that over the past decade.
However, there is only one team that has been to the playoffs in the last 20-consecutive seasons, winning four championships during that span and going to the final two other times, in addition to being a conference runner-up two other times.
That team—and my choice as the best dynasty in modern sports today—is the Detroit Red Wings.
To realize how big this run by the Wings has been, let’s look at the longest post-season streaks currently in progress for other leagues.
Besides the Red Wings, no other team in the NHL has been in the playoffs for at least the last 10 years, with the San Jose Sharks being the closest to that at the moment with seven-straight appearances.
In baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies are the current pace-setters among the 30 teams with five-straight playoff visits. In the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens have been to the last four post-seasons, which is quite paltry compared to the Red Wings.
The only team that can measure up to the Wings’ current run is the Spurs. But even though they’ve won four NBA titles during their run, they’ve only been to the playoffs 14-straight times.
Let’s put it this way—the last time the Red Wings made their way out to the golf course at the start of spring, my younger brother was five months away from being born.
And we aren’t talking about a team that backs into the playoffs, either. The Wings have won a staggering 14 division titles during their incredible run, against some of the most dominating and dynamic teams in the NHL.
Not bad for a team that only made the playoffs twice from 1967-83.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the run is how seamless the transition has been between those players who were part of the Cup winners in 1997, 1998, and 2002 to those who were part of the roster of the 2008 championship squad to those on the current squad.
Franchise legends such as Steve Yzerman, Paul Coffey, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, and Chris Osgood are long gone from the Motor City, with Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan Franzen now leading the way in “Hockeytown.”
The only constant during this time has been the ageless captain, Nicklas Lidstrom, as the 41-year-old defenceman continues to lead the way for his team and has been the steady back-bone the Red Wings have relied on both on and off the ice.
The main reason the Red Wings have remained one of the best in all of sports, though, is the way that they find prospects through the NHL draft.
While many teams end up having poor drafts, and wind up seeing their teams flounder for many years, the Red Wings are the masters of finding some “no-name” European prospect in the mid-to-late rounds, who then go on to become NHL all-stars and multi-time award winners.
If you watched this year’s world junior hockey championship, for instance, you may recall Czech Republic goalie Petr Mrazek, who became well-known for his over-the-top celebrations as his country eliminated the United States during the round-robin in addition to his solid play between the pipes.
Well guess what? The Red Wings selected him in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, which means that in about five or six years time, he’ll already have won three Vezina Trophies.
Having grown up right on the border with Michigan, I’ve known quite a lot about the Red Wings’ run of success and how amazing it has been. But it’s continued to amaze how much it hardly gets talked about among most sports fans.
Maybe it’s because in the American media, hockey is hardly talked about. Or here in Canada, a lot of attention always is paid to the Canadian teams, which is as it should be for those who support teams like the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, or the Jets.
But when a team is so good, for so long, even if you may hate them with a passion, all you can do is just tip your cap and say “Bravo.”
And hope that at some point, your favourite franchise will learn from the Red Wings on how to build a dynasty.

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