Detroit Red Wings forward Joe Veleno knows that his team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. But it doesn’t take away from them leaving everything on the ice when they head to Tampa Thursday.
“Obviously we want to put it all on the line,” Veleno told Trevor Thompson on Bally Sports Detroit. “We know we’re not making the playoffs. I think we gotta come out and finish the year off on a good note, on a positive note. I think we all want that, we want to show some pride.”
The pride has been hit a bit with Detroit surrendering 10 goals in its last two contests, and currently sliding into the season finale on a four-game losing streak. Fans keeping close notes on the draft lottery standings might be hoping for some luck as Detroit currently sits tenth, which garners a 3.5% shot at the #1 pick.
But if both Washington and Vancouver win either of their final games while Detroit loses, the Red Wings chances shimmy up to a 6% chance of winning the lottery.
Likely? Not if you peruse Detroit’s lack of lottery luck in draft’s past. But the Red Wings 4-1 loss to Carolina moved them closer to a chance of at least potentially picking higher.
For Red Wings, Pride in the Winged Wheel Supersedes Anything Else
While the fans are dreaming of that, Veleno and his teammates have a different approach.
“You never know what could happen in the offseason,” Veleno said on Bally Sports Detroit postgame. “For some of us, it might be the last time wearing a Detroit Red Wings jersey. You never know when it’s your last opportunity at any time. Every game you gotta take pride in and especially wearing an Original Six jersey. A lot of guys are gonna think about that one and want. to end this season off strong.”
Head coach Derek Lalonde’s message, when asked by Thompson, ran in line with Veleno’s assessment that many on the roster could be playing in a winged wheel sweater for the final time. Essentially, it boils down to playing a full sixty minutes as the season runs its course Thursday.
“With our last 25 minutes, 45 minutes tonight, just play the right way, win some battles and give yourself a chance. And we did that tonight. Hopefully we’ll do the same on Thursday.”
There’s no doubt changes are coming. Detroit has inched further away from a total rebuild, but sit in a curious position heading into the offseason. Questions surround the status of several players, and it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility that general manager Steve Yzerman takes a big swing to shake the team into a potential playoff spot next season.
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There’s been improvement. But they’re still several pieces away from not only a playoff spot, but true contention. Help is on the way with younger prospects like Simon Edvinsson, and Marco Kasper. Sebastian Cossa has been outstanding for Toledo in the second half of the season. Carter Mazur has played well in a handful of games for Grand Rapids.
Yes, the future is bright. Likely, Yzerman brings in more talent to get Detroit over the hump. Absolutely, some draft luck in Detroit’s favor would make decisions easier.
But circling back to Veleno, players won’t just roll over because of a chance at draft luck. He knows, as well as others do in the locker room, that if Yzerman is indeed going to bring more talent in, any one of them could be on their way out.
So while the fans scoreboard watch and hope for another potential three percent bump in the unlikely chance of landing Connor Bedard, the players are heading out to put their final stamp on the season.
Regardless of how it ends, both fans and players can agree the team is better now than it was a season ago. But as another offseason approaches, both fans and players can also agree the emptiness that is another season without a playoff appearance.