DETROIT – In the time defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom has been with the Red Wings’ organization there’s been one feeling he hasn’t had to deal with … what it’s like to not make the NHL playoffs.
On Monday night, Detroit qualified for the postseason a franchise-record 21st consecutive, 20 of those season have been with Lidstrom.
“I’ve always made it so I don’t know how it feels not to make it so it’s pretty hard to answer that question,” Lidstrom said. “I’m sure it’s disappointing not playing in the postseason.
“It’s a relief to make it but it’s always something we come to expect here as an organization,” Lidstrom continued. “We’ve done it for 21 straight years. The bar is set high here. And we expect a lot out of ourselves here too.”
The Wings’ playoff streak is the longest current streak in the four major sports.
The next-longest active NHL playoff streak, which is seven straight, is owned by the San Jose Sharks.
“The first goal is making the playoffs,” Lidstrom said. “The Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal, but to get there you have to make the playoffs.
“It’s got to be disappointing to not make the playoffs to get that chance to go for the Stanley Cup,” Lidstrom added. “I’m very happy and fortunate to have experienced it every year in my career. It’s something we expect to make and we’re here again.”
The longest NHL streak is owned by the Boston Bruins, who qualified for the playoffs 29 straight seasons from 1968-96.
“It’s tough to imagine not getting in the playoffs because I’ve been fortunate to be around an organization that has been making it every season,” Niklas Kronwall said. “It would be weird if our season ended in early April. Every year we come into camp with the right ownership and leaders, from the general manager on down, they’re always giving us a chance to compete.”
The streak surpasses the 20-season streak established between 1939 and 1958. During that time Detroit won five Stanley Cup titles.
“I hope I never have to know that feeling,” said Tomas Holmstrom, who also hasn’t missed the postseason and has won four Stanley Cups along with Lidstrom. “We have pretty high standards here. First it’s the playoffs then win the Stanley Cup. There’s nothing else.”
In Drew Miller’s short NHL career, he also never missed reaching the playoffs.
“If you’re not going for the Stanley Cup I can only imagine it being a very long summer,” Miller said. “You always want to be part of the playoffs. When you get in the playoffs for the first time you can tell how the season ramps up, games are more intense and more important to play for. It’s not that 82-game grind, you’re fighting for your life every night.”
This will be Miller’s fifth time in the postseason, three of which have been with the Wings and two other times with Anaheim.
“Everyone looks forward to the playoffs and there’s a reason for that,” Miller said. “That excitement and buzz you get before. Those games are way different than most games during the regular season.”
Brad Stuart and Danny Cleary are just handful of players in the locker room that haven’t been in the playoffs each year of their careers.
“For me it happened when I was a young player and I don’t know if it hits you as much as you get older when you’ve been through it,” Cleary said. “I think everybody dreams of being in the playoffs growing up because all of your vivid memories are of playoff hockey. If anybody tells you that they’re happy with going home and not be in the playoffs, then that’s crazy.”
Cleary made the playoffs first with Edmonton during the 1999-00 season. The next time he made it was as a member of the Wings (2005-06) after winning the Presidents’ Trophy and then getting eliminated by the Oilers in six games in the first round.
“That sucked a lot,” Cleary said. “But even the last two years probably stung the most, you know? ‘09 was a heartbreaker, no doubt, but we knew we were a top team and losing twice to San Jose in the second round has been brutal.”
Stuart has missed the playoffs twice once with San Jose (2002-03) and the other time with Boston (2005-06).
“It’s disappointing when you’re finishing out the year with not much to play for, but you have to find the motivation somewhere,” Stuart said. “You’re still playing for your pride. You still have to put out a solid effort, but as far as the team goes there really it’s tough to find motivation.”
Todd Bertuzzi, Kyle Quincey, Ian White, Ty Conklin and Joey MacDonald are the other current Wings to have not reached the playoffs in every year they’ve been in the NHL.