Weak Atlantic Division Provides Opportunity for Detroit Red Wings

Tomas Tatar
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 24: Tomas Tatar #21 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his powerplay goal at 4:05 of the third period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 24, 2017 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Red Wings 2-1 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

A weak Atlantic Division provides the Detroit Red Wings with an unexpected opportunity.

Exceeding expectations, it’s something we all strive to accomplish at some point in our lives. If the masses tell us we will never succeed, we want to prove them wrong.

The same can be said about professional sports teams. Every year a group of “experts” hop on their computers and project which teams are playoff bound, which teams are on the cusp, and which teams will be bottom feeders.

It would be foolish to think teams don’t recognize the expectations put on them by others. If they are smart, they will use these projections as motivation to achieve high expectations or surpass them if the bar has been set low.

The 2016-17 NHL regular season did not go well for the Detroit Red Wings. They finished close to the bottom of the standings, going 33-36-13. In addition, Detroit was stuck with a lot of unpleasant contracts that were untradeable. This provided little to no flexibility for making improvements over the summer. For these reasons, expectations for 2017-18 were generally quite low.

Weak Atlantic Divison = Shot at Playoffs

The team is currently suffering through a painful five-game losing streak. However, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Detroit is performing better than many thought they would through 25 games. Much to the surprise of the masses, the Red Wings currently find themselves in third place in the Atlantic Division with a 10-10-5 record.

Of all the teams currently in a divisional playoff spot, the Red Wings have recorded the least amount of points. Their 25 points are three less than the San Jose Sharks, who have the second lowest number of points among teams sitting in a divisional playoff position. In fact, Detroit actually has the lowest point total of all teams in playoff positions, wildcard included.

What does this all mean? To put it simply, the Red Wings are a part of the weakest division of the National Hockey League and need to start taking advantage.

After the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs, it is pretty much a toss-up as to which team will fill the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. Sure there are some teams with better chances than others, the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators for example. However, the other franchises are not far behind and could squeeze through an Ottawa or Boston and make it into the dance.

To this point, Detroit has shown signs of being one of those teams. They are getting solid play in net from Jimmy Howard and are receiving production from those players who are expected to make an impact.

Now is this team a threat to contend for a Stanley Cup? The answer is no. However, there is no reason the Red Wings cannot contend for a playoff spot in a less than stellar Atlantic Division.

Looking Ahead

If Detroit is to establish themselves as a team worthy of the postseason, there is no time better than the present to make that statement. The Red Wings finish off the month of November against the Montreal Canadiens at home and then start off December against the Habs on the road at the Bell Centre. The Wings will then spend the rest of the first half of the month at home, playing five consecutive games at Little Caesars Arena.

Whenever the bar is set low in regards to expectations, teams are always driven to prove the doubters wrong. The Detroit Red Wings have the opportunity to do that in 2017-18. Only time will tell if they are up to the challenge.

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