Red Wings: Montreal’s Run Shows that Patience is Important

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Since April 19, 2019, it’s been all about the Yzerplan for Detroit Red Wings fans. Tear it down.  Acquire Skilled forwards (Lucas Raymond). Build a solid, smart blue line (Moritz Seider). Find the right netminders. Build for longevity.

Ultimately, it’s about doing things the right way and having that patience throughout the process–from beginning to end.

As the Montreal Canadiens have punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final, the Athletic’s Arpon Basu wrote an outstanding piece chronicling how the Canadiens got here after a disastrous season three years ago.

Marc Bergevin had been questioned every which way and yet here they are, four wins away from the Cup after knocking off heavy favorites in Toronto and Vegas.

As the Habs wait for either the Lightning or Islanders, it’s interesting to see how the last decade’s worth of winners each built in different ways.

  • The Chicago Blackhawks owned half of the decade, winning Cups in 2010, 2013, and 2015 utilizing speed, skill, and underrated goaltending.
  • The Boston Bruins knocked on the door beyond their sole win in 2011. Built on heavy forwards and defenseman, the Bruins also had solid goaltending with Tim Thomas and then Tuukka Rask.
  • The LA Kings lifted the Cup in 2012 and 2014 on stingy defense, Jonathan Quick, and timely goal scoring.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins won in 2016 and 2017 riding a goalie tandem, two generational players, clutch scoring, and a blue line many questioned in spite of winning back to back Cups.
  • The Washington Capitals finally broke through with their biggest players scoring timely goals. Not to mention a commitment to two way hockey.
  • The 2019 St. Louis Blues were considered a “heavier” team that came out of nowhere, all but dead in January before lifting the Cup five months later.
  • 2020 in all its bizarre glory saw Tampa Bay finally win–using that high end scoring, a strong vicious blue line and terrific goaltending.

So What’s the Lesson for the Red Wings?

It’s been humorous to watch some fans bicker back and forth about how mathematics are overrated and the Canadiens run proves this. This is faulty reasoning because everything can be re-applied in the playoffs and certainly the circumstances–especially with scheduling this season–are different.

Advanced stats or not, everyone can agree Mark Stone is one of the greatest players in the league. This is a combination of depth, and game planning. And math is a major part of this, too. Those trends that are identified in the regular season through the use of xGF/60 or oZS% or CF% are only scrutinized and studied more once a team is in a best of seven series. To write the math off is foolish–the math is used to help get an edge in a tight playoff series.

What it speaks to is just how there appears to be more and more no “right” way to build a team. It truly breaks down to implementing a vision, utilizing a blueprint, and then executing it. Yzerman spoke to this not too long ago when asked about the rebuild timeline:

Somebody will ask when will you make the playoffs. What’s your timeline here or there? I simply can’t give one. It’s a guess.”

He adds later:

We stick with the method, our methodical approach, we continue to draft. Hopefully we get really lucky one year and get four or five players or even three players that speeds it up a bit. Unfortunately, it does take a long time and if you get it done quicker, you were luckier than most.”

This last bit resonates because the crux of Basu’s article centers around how Bergevin “reset” after the failings of 2018. Ken Holland talked a lot about rebuilding on the fly but failed at assessing talent, especially when it came to free agency and trades.

Who knows how the trajectory changes if Detroit knocks off Tampa Bay in 2015 instead of falling short in seven games.

But that’s hockey. Montreal has certainly had some luck in their favor, but that’s just another part of the whole puzzle.

I’ve marveled watching this playoff run because of the teams who looked like contenders: Toronto, Vegas, Colorado, and Edmonton are watching from home. Of those four, two were bounced in the first round. Each were built in different ways. Each had defining moments where if the puck bounces a different way, they advance.

Toronto fans were rightly furious after another let down, and team president Brendan Shanahan addressed this by saying they lacked a killer instinct–that changes would occur but wouldn’t necessarily be sweeping. This was criticized by some, but it speaks to the point that Montreal has shown through these playoffs. It’s changes here and there–but not straying too far from the initial plan. In short, patience.

The Red Wings will turn the corner at some point. There will be bitter disappointments in the playoffs that result in knee jerk reactions–God knows I’ve had my share of them. But as Wings fans stare down another playoff-less year, and watch teams like Montreal flourish, perhaps there’s a message we’ll need to remember one we’re there again.

Maybe along with the process, the building, and even the luck that occurs–it’s the patience throughout the journey that eventually yields the success.

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