DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Red Wings’ playoff drought has lingered so long that they’ve tied a team record, seemingly stuck in a rebuilding mode that has allowed apathy to set in with at least some fans.
Steve Yzerman is trying to spark a change.
The Hockey Hall of Famer and Red Wings general manager finally felt that making major trades and spending significant money in free agency made sense for the franchise after seeing a couple of years of some progress.
Detroit desperately hopes to snap its seven-year playoff drought, which equals an awful run in the 1970s, and becomes part of an NHL trend.
Since the league’s current playoff format started a decade ago, at least five teams have been in the playoffs each year after missing out the previous year.
The Vegas Golden Knights were among the recent examples and they ended up wining the Stanley Cup in their sixth season, a year after not making it to the postseason for the first time.
Detroit doesn’t suddenly seem like a title contender, but it should be able to compete for a spot in the 16-team field after Yzerman made improvements at forward, on defense and in goal.
Yzerman sent signs over the summer that his patient approach was over, signing 2022 Stanley Cup-winning forward J.T. Compher to a $25.5 million, five-year contract in free agency and later trading for 2022 All-Star forward Alex DeBrincat from Ottawa.
“Players are no different than coaches and fans,” Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde said. “You add some pieces, it gets guys excited.”
The newly acquired players, captain Dylan Larkin along with third-year pros Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond give Detroit its best chance to end its skid in years.
“I’m trying to build a nucleus of a team that can make the playoffs on an annual basis,” said Yzerman, who was hired in 2019 to turn around the franchise. “You squeak in one year and you don’t have the foundation to sustain it, we’re going to be sitting here a year or two years from now and wondering again.
“We did what we could in the offseason to improve without mortgaging any part of the future. We’ll continue to try to get better and hopefully sooner than later we’re a playoff team.”
Here’s a look at other teams that have a chance to earn a postseason berth after falling short last season:
The five-time championship-winning franchise had the longest active playoff streak in North American sports until finishing one point behind Florida for a wild card in the 2023 Eastern Conference playoffs.
Sidney Crosby and Co. are expected to bounce back well enough to earn a spot in the postseason, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
It’s easy to see why.
Penguins general manager Kyle Dubas was bold and bolstered the chances of competing while Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are still skating.
Dubas, who was hired in June shortly after he was fired in Toronto, acquired reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson in a blockbuster deal two months ago after trading for veteran forward Reilly Smith.
The Predators were just three points behind Winnipeg for the final wild card in the Western Conference and they have a player in net talented enough to close the gap.
Juuse Saros was 33-23-7 last season and had a 2.69 goals-against average. He finished fourth in voting for the Vezina Trophy, getting some credit for facing more shots and making more saves than any goaltender who played in at least 30 games.
General manager Barry Trotz, succeeding the retired David Poile, added some winners by signing 2019 playoff MVP Ryan O’Reilly to play up front and two-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Luke Schenn to help on the back end.
Ottawa has given itself an opportunity to end its six-season drought.
The Senators signed defenseman Jake Sanderson with an eight-year, $64.4 million contract extension last month after a pair of win-now moves in the summer.
Ottawa signed goaltender Joonas Korpisalo to a $20 million, five-year deal and wing Vladimir Tarasenko to a one-year, $5 million contract.
After setting an NHL record by failing to make 12 straight playoffs, the Sabres seem to have a shot to end a record-breaking drought.
Buffalo finished a point behind the Panthers in the race for the last playoff spots and improved its Rasmus Dahlin-led blue line by adding veteran defensemen Connor Clifton and Erik Johnson.
More importantly, the Sabres have a star they can lean on.
Tage Thompson, a 25-year-old center, ranked among NHL scoring leaders last season after becoming the first Sabre to score 47 goals this century.
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