Barring any miracle settlement between the NHL and NHLPA, the NHL 2012-13 season is essentially over.
The NHL season being virtually over also means that plenty of teams are left wondering what could have been.
The Detroit Red Wings are no exception.
With plenty of things to get excited for the season that has not materialized, Red Wings fans could come up with plenty of reasons to get excited about, here are some of the best ones:
The Red Wings had a would-be Vezina Trophy finalist last year in Jimmy Howard before he got injured following the All-Star Game.
Howard played just 57 games last year with a 35-17-4-6 record, a 2.13 GAA and a 92.0 save percentage.
At one point in the season, Howard was averaging less than a 2.00 GAA per game, but his Vezina Trophy hopes were derailed by a late-season injury.
The Red Wings also acquired Jonas Gustavsson via free agency last year after Ty Conklin proved incapable of getting the job done in the back-up role (via redwings.nhl.com).
Gustavsson had the Maple Leafs playing in front of him last year, so theoretically with a little bit better defense and a little bit more scoring, Gustavsson could have done better than his 17-17-4 record last year in Toronto with a 90.2 save percentage and a 2.92 GAA.
Gustavsson was (in my mind) ready to take the next step in his NHL career (he's only played in 107 total NHL games) by getting a veteran team that could help him develop as a goaltender.
Detroit's defense seemed like a mess after this past off-season.
Detroit was essentially short-handed, down to Ian White, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey.
Brendan Smith was going to play some NHL minutes, but the Wings still needed an insurance defenseman so they picked up Carlo Colaiacovo.
Detroit's defense was nothing special, but losing a seven-time Norris Trophy winner and a big-time shot-blocker didn't help things.
The defense might have been the biggest question mark on this team heading into would-be play this season. Having said that, most teams would trade for a few players on the Detroit defense, so the fact that the defense was the biggest question mark for Detroit makes the Red Wings would-be season even more special.
Detroit's forward group has made it a contender each of the past two decades. This year would have been no different.
With 16 different forwards signed to NHL contracts, it would have been interesting to see who would have made the NHL and who would have been sent down or assigned to waivers.
With the usual cast of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula and others, Detroit would have had one of the great groups of forwards in the league.
Add to that mix the speedy, shifty, goal-scoring threat in Damien Brunner (who signed with the Red Wings) and Jordin Tootoo (also picked up by Detroit), and re-adding the former Red Wing, Mikael Samuelsson, and the Red Wings had an excellent forward class going into this season.
The Red Wings have players that other teams cannot account for when they are playing their game.
The two players that stick out in my mind are Johan Franzen and Darren Helm.
Although Franzen seemed to take some games and shifts off, the shifts that he dominated were those memorable games that helped Franzen post 10 game-winning goals last season.
Darren Helm is special in his own right. When Helm is healthy, he is a monster on the fore-check and his speed allows him to shutdown passing lanes quickly and effectively. His skills also extend to the realm of shot-blocking which means that Helm is a crucial piece to the Red Wings penalty kill.
Only coach in the "Triple Gold Club" right now (2004 IIHF gold medal, 2008 Stanley Cup with Detroit, 2010 gold medal at the Olympics).
I think that's all that needs to be said.
Detroit would have had a fantastic season and once again be at least a top-10 contender in the NHL for the Stanley Cup if not higher.
Talking about past hypothetical situations is never really an ideal situation, but in this scenario it is essentially all that is left of this season.
Here's hoping the NHL Lockout gets settled soon so we can get back to watching hockey instead of reading about it.
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