There are two ways to look at the Red Wings' 2011-12 season.
The first would be to focus on the fact that the Wings put together the league's eighth-best record and their 12th-straight 100-plus-point season. The team ran into a big, strong and motivated Nashville Predators team in the first round by virtue of tough match-up luck and got outclassed by a team that boasted one of the league's best goaltenders and two of its best defenders.
Another way to look at it would be that the team finished third in its division for the first time since 1990-91 and failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06.
The Wings remain one of the league's savviest and deepest organizations, so whether or not they will compete in 2012-13 is a question that likely doesn't need to be asked, but it will be interesting to see how the team responds to a season where the Central Division largely caught up to them.
Stop us if you've heard this before, but the Red Wings continue to find elite talent potential without the benefit of high draft picks. Brendan Smith (27th overall in 2007) and Gustav Nyquist (121st in 2008) both got extended looks last season.
The Wings have arguably more patience than any other NHL club and as such, can afford to take high-talent, low-risk players late in the draft and develop them properly. Petr Mrazek (141st in 2010) won the Best Goaltender Award at last year's World Juniors. Calle Jarnkrok (51st in 2010) was runner-up for Swedish Elite Rookie of the Year, Teemu Pulkkinen (111th in 2010) was a point-per-game player in Finland. Tomas Tatar (60th in 2009) and Riley Sheahan (21st in 2010) both got auditions with the Wings in 2011-12 and Tomas Jurco (35th in 2011) projects to be another top-six NHL talent.
The Wings further stocked the cupboard at the 2012 Draft, nabbing a pair of top talents as they slid down the draft board. The team nabbed Martin Frk (32nd in Bob McKenzie's final ranking) with the 49th pick and Andreas Athanasiou (60th in Craig Button's final ranking) at 110.
The Wings also saw a pair of prospects represent Canada at the 2013 World Juniors as defenceman Xavier Ouellet saw a second tour of duty with the national team. Saginaw goalie Jake Paterson (taken in the third round in 2012) also made the trip to Ufa as Canada's third netminder.
The Wings are one of the deepest teams in the league. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more talented or successful one-two punch than Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Valtteri Filppula had a career-best 66 points and the additions of Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo should add skill and grit to team at below-market prices. The Wings also showed belief in Jonas Gustavsson as an NHL goaltender, snapping him up to play behind Jimmy Howard on the first day of free agency. He may thrive in a new environment.
For the first time in 20 years, the team will not be able to look to Nicklas Lidstrom on the blue line. One of the NHL's all-time greatest defenders, Lidstrom had consistently been an offensive and defensive force for the Wings. He was both a perennial All-Star and a consistent Norris contender. Is countryman Niklas Kronwall - or anyone else for that matter - ready to fill the giant hole Lidstrom leaves on the blue line?
A look at where Red Wings players went during the lockout:
Damien Brunner (EV Zug, Swiss Elite), Carlo Colaiacovo (Team Canada, Spengler Cup), Pavel Datsyuk (CSKA Moscow, KHL), Cory Emmerton (SaiPa, Finnish Elite), Jonathan Ericsson(Vita Hasten, Swedish Elite), Valtteri Filppula (Jokerit, Finnish Elite), Jakub Kindl (HC Pardubice, Czech League), Drew Miller (Braehead Clan, British Elite), Jan Mursak (Olimpija Ljubljana, Austria), Gustav Nyquist (Grand Rapids, AHL), Brendan Smith (Grand Rapids, AHL), Tomas Tatar (SHK 37 Piestany, Slovakia), Henrik Zetterberg (EV Zug, Swiss Elite)