The NHL has enjoyed flipping jersey color assignments throughout its history.
In the 1950s, home teams wore white. Then in the 1960s, the league decreed that home teams would wear dark jerseys.
Not to be outdone, the 1970s came along and home teams went back to wearing white jerseys. This remained the norm until after the lockout, in 2005–which is where we are today, with home teams back to wearing dark sweaters.
Maybe the Red Wings are confused.
In their past eight games inside the cozy–and outdated—confines of Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings are 1-5-2. In contrast, on the road, the team is 7-1 in the month of January.
Simple solution: have the Red Wings wear white sweaters at the JLA. Because apparently they’re color blind.
Winning on the road in any professional sports league is supposed to be a challenge. The goal is usually modest—break even on the road and try to clean up at home.
But Jeff Blashill’s team is doing this backwards—it’s running roughshod over opponents in their own buildings.
And the Red Wings are performing at the Joe like hockey’s version of the Washington Generals basketball team.
All that’s missing is the sound system blasting “Sweet Georgia Brown” when the Winged Wheelers’ opponents step onto the ice at JLA.
This schizophrenic on-ice behavior presents a classic glass is half-full/half-empty conundrum.
Should we admire the Red Wings’ ability to storm into opposing arenas and mop the ice with their foes, or should we be worried that the good guys are losing at home more than a husband trying to win a fight with his wife?
The half-full scenario is that in the playoffs, winning on the road is a must. No team wins the Stanley Cup by going undefeated at home and playing miserably away from it. So the Red Wings’ current hot streak away from Detroit is a good sign, right?
But wait—if the team soils its own ice surface, then how can it have a true home ice advantage this spring?
The Red Wings won another in foreign territory on Monday night—cleaning the New York Islanders’ clocks, 4-2. It was the team’s last game before the upcoming All-Star break.
The schedule was very home-heavy for the Red Wings pre-Christmas—and they played very well at JLA for the most part in 2015—so with all the road games looming in the 2016 portion of the schedule, the team knew, to a man, that the effort would have to be stepped up in order to keep its playoff path on track.
But 7-1 on the road and 1-5-2 at home in January? Isn’t that taking things to the extreme?
“If we weren’t 7-1 (on the road), who knows where we’d be,” said Brad Richards, who opened the Red Wings’ scoring on Monday night with a power-play goal.
“There was a lot of urgency, a lot of realization we had that good schedule heading into Christmas and we would have to come out of it on the other side and put together a good effort on the road – and we’ve done that,” Richards, a two-time Stanley Cup champion—including last year with Chicago—added.
OK, so the Red Wings seem to have this road thing figured out, but how about taking advantage of some home cooking now and again?
What do we have to do—toss coney islands and bottles of Vernors onto the ice instead of octopus?
But this is probably nothing more than a mid-season anomaly. The NHL is a long, 82-game season and teams plow through it like salt trucks after a blizzard. You’re going to get hot and cold—at home and on the road.
In the playoffs—where the Red Wings (25-16-8, 2nd in Atlantic Division) appear to be headed for a 25th consecutive year—you can pretty much toss teams’ home and away records out the proverbial window anyway. The Stanley Cup playoffs have always been sports’ shaken-up Etch-a-Sketch—everyone gets a clean slate and unlike the NBA, low-seeded teams can worm their way into the Cup Finals—and win.
But it wouldn’t be a bad thing if the Red Wings, after the All-Star break, won a home game here and there.
Break out the whites at the Joe!