DETROIT — For the Detroit Red Wings, first-round playoff exits in two of the last three seasons just isn’t good enough.
Making the playoffs for the 23rd straight season was an accomplishment in light of the numerous injuries, but it wasn’t what the Wings want or expect.
"Obviously, we’re proud of our playoff streak, but not going deeper than we have, it’s not fun and we gotta change that," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We’re an organization that are not happy just to make the postseason."
Coach Mike Babcock agreed that the Wings have to get back to the Cup-or-bust mentality.
"When you go back, our best years since I’ve been here are seven, eight and nine (2007-08-09)," Babcock said. "In that time, we won 11, 16 and 15 playoff games, if I’m not mistaken. We’ve got seven a couple times since, and we’ve never been to the final four. So that’s a five-year drought the way I look at it.
"You can’t always be on top, but you can be going in the right direction. So we have to get things moving that way again."
The Wings were forced to play many young players in pressure situations as a result of the injuries, but that could work to their advantage in the future.
"It was a good learning curve," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "These guys know what to expect a little bit more, and hopefully, all of us in here need a big summer training and be ready to go when the season starts."
PAV AND Z ON THE MEND
Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg were two of the injured players this season.
Datsyuk battled a knee injury after playing in the Winter Classic, but he’s uncertain about offseason surgery.
"I need to do MRI and I need to do testing, and we’ll see," Datsyuk said. "Not sure yet."
Zetterberg returned from Feb. 21 back surgery to play the final two games of the playoffs against the Boston Bruins.
"Still a little rehab to do, but obviously, I’m feeling pretty good," Zetterberg said. "Those two games I played didn’t create any setbacks or anything, but still I’m not really there yet.
"Obviously, it’s going to take some time here to fix that and have a healthy summer to build myself up again."
The back injury also led to some nerve damage in Zetterberg’s foot.
"We still had some weakness down in my foot that we dealt with a little bit," Zetterberg said. "And that will come back, but it’s tough to say when. It could’ve been a week, two weeks, a month, two months. "We don’t really know when that will come back, but it will come back, and other than that, I felt good."
Babcock has one year remaining on his current contract, but said he’s comfortable at this stage of his career going year to year.
"I’m real comfortable with the owner and the manager," he said. "That’s not a concern for me one bit. When you’re at the stage of my career that I am, I’m real comfortable with whatever they want.
"I want them to be happy. If they’re not happy, then I’m not happy."
General manager Ken Holland has one year remaining plus a team option.
SOME WINGS GOING TO WORLDS
Four of the Wings have decided to participate in the World Championships in Belarus from May 9-25.
Jakub Kindl (Czech Republic), Tomas Tatar (Slovakia), Gustav Nyquist (Sweden) and Justin Abdelkader (United States) will extend their hockey seasons.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who played for Team USA in the Olympics, isn’t going — and for a good reason.
"My wife is eight months pregnant, so she really doesn’t want me to be over in Belarus just in case anything happens," Howard said. "I’ll be sticking around here for a while."
Danny DeKeyser is considering playing.
"I’ll sit down today and maybe talk to a few people and then think about it, just to see if I want to play another three weeks in Europe," DeKeyser said. "I think the team is leaving this weekend, so pretty soon here I’ll make a decision."
FRANZEN SAFE, BUT WINGS COULD USE BUYOUT
Wings fans are down on Johan Franzen after he failed to score in the playoffs and down the stretch in the regular season.
But they can forget about the Wings using their buyout on him.
"I don’t have any plans to buy Mule out," Holland said. "I don’t know where you go replace these people. I like Mule.
"He’s a big body. When he gets on a roll, he can carry a team. He’s a streaky scorer."
But that doesn’t mean the Wings won’t use the buyout.
"I guess the name I’m going to bring up, I talked to Kevin Epp (Tootoo’s agent)," Holland said. "Jordin Tootoo has a year to go. Toots doesn’t want to be in the American League. We don’t want him to be in the American Hockey League … so I got to figure out a way to get Jordin Tootoo back to the National Hockey League."