The current state of hockey in the Motor City is bleak, the Detroit Red Wings have taken just 17 points from 32 games. The season is still early, but it feels like 2019-20 is shaping up to be one of Detroit’s worst. Which begs the question, what was the Red Wings’ worst NHL season? And how do you measure this?
The NHL has changed a lot in the time that the Wings have won their 11 Stanley Cups, but one thing is consistent; if you’re not winning games, you’re not winning cups. To that end, lets use win percentage as our first metric. It isn’t perfect, but best/worst are emotive terms and can’t always be boiled down to just one stat. For our experiment though, it’s the one we’re going to use. Based on this, here are the Detroit Red Wings’ five worst ever seasons:
The Bottom Five
5. 1981-82: 26.3%
4. 1937-38: 25%
3. 1980-81: 23.8%
2. 1985-86: 21.3%
1. 1976-77: 20%
Where does the current season sit in this table? Right now the Detroit Red Wings are playing at a 21.9% win percentage. If the situation doesn’t change, then 2019-20 will be the Wings’ third worst season in franchise history. Given that the team have played 18 games in which they’ve conceded five or more goals, the tank is well and truly rumbling along.
Winning Isn’t Everything
The highest win percentage the Red Wings achieved was 75.6%, a season in which the team took 80% of the available regular season points. Detroit didn’t win the 1995-96 Stanley Cup though, the playoffs are a cruel mistress and the Red Wings were knocked out in the conference final by eventual winner, Colorado.
The following season saw Detroit’s regular season win percentage drop from 75.6% way down to 46.3%. But as every loyal Wings fan will remember, the team went onto the finals and won. This was the only cup-winning season where the team won less than 50% of its games. On average in cup-winnings season, the Wings finished the regular season having won 54.9% of games.
How About Points Percentage?
Let’s take a different metric, and look at how many of the potentially available points the Red Wings took and revisit the bottom five:
5. 1980-81: 35%
4. 1981-82: 34%
3. 1926-27: 32%
2. 1976-77: 26%
1. 1985-86: 25%
Unsurprisingly we’re seeing a few seasons from the infamous ‘Dead Wings’ era in these bottom five rankings. Surely the current season isn’t on par with those dark days? Yup, from 32 games, the Wings have taken just 17, or 27% of the available points. In Cup-winning seasons, the team averaged 64% of the available points.
Surely There’s Hope?
It’s extremely unlikely that we’re approaching a new era of barrel-scraping. In the late seventies the Wings had drained the talent pool, had no strong young players waiting to break through the system, and the Norris family were chopping and changing head coaches almost every season.
It’s true that win percentage numbers has fallen off a cliff this season, but we’re not looking at a dreadful team. There are flashes of hope when we look at Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha et al. We Detroit fans just need to trust the process, and have faith that Steve Yzerman has a plan to return his beloved team to their former glory.