The Detroit Red Wings qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this week for the 23rd straight season with their 4-3 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Maybe it's fitting that this year's squad gets in that way.  They've played in 14 shootouts this season, going 5-9 in them.  But that's not what this article is about.

I just wish, and think, that more fans need to appreciate the greatness of this franchise.  It's been that way since Mike and Marian Ilitch bought the team from the Norris family in 1982.  The Ilitch's then hired Jimmy Devellano away from the New York Islanders to be the General Manager, a year later they drafted Steve Yzerman, greatness has ensued.

You know how fans always say from time to time "Remember the good old days when..."? Well, for the Winged Wheelers, THESE ARE the good old days.  Six Western Conference titles, and 4 Stanley Cups in 6 Finals appearances since 1995.  Not to mention the 8 Western Conference Finals appearances in that time.  And of course, 23 straight seasons in the Stanley Cup Playoffs...and counting.

1990 was the last season that they did not make the playoffs, some of my younger cousins weren't even born yet.  They don't even know a time when this team didn't go to the postseason.  And since the Ilitch's have owned the team, they've missed the postseason exactly THREE times.  Remarkable.

Even in this brutally tough season with all the injuries that have kept many regulars out of the lineup like Datsyuk, Zetterburg, Ericsson, Howard, Weiss, Andersson, etc., they have found a way to stay competitive.  That's a tribute to head coach Mike Babcock, who's probably done his best coaching job this season and should get votes for the Jack Adams Trophy for the NHL Coach of the Year. It's also a tribute to GM Ken Holland.  He's made some mistakes over the last few years, but since he took over in 1997 he's kept them among the elite.  And it's a tribute to their scouting and minor league departments.  Without the Grand Rapids Griffins, their top minor league affiliate, being good (they won the AHL's Calder Cup last season).  This team would be completely out of it right now.

And of course, the players deserve a lot of credit as well.  Guys like Luke Glendening, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Petr Mrazak, Jonas Gustavsson, Thomas Jurco, Danny DeKuyser and of course, Gustav Nyquist, who's the team's MVP in my opinion, have stepped into the shoes of the starters and have gotten better as the season has gone on.

The Wings will play either Boston or Pittsburgh in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week.  They will give either of them a run for their money.

So fans, take a moment today, or whenever you read this, and appreciate one of pro sports greatest franchises.  They're right in your backyard, folks.  The players have changed over the years, but the mandate to win from management and the atmosphere of excellence in the dressing room hasn't.  That's something worth noting and celebrating.

That's all for now, this is Brock Palmbos....signing off.