Who needs a playoff spot more: the Pistons or Red Wings?

Reggie Jackson and Dylan Larkin are two young players on the rise in Detroit. But neither man may be able to lift his team to the playoffs in 2016.

Reggie Jackson and Dylan Larkin are two young players on the rise in Detroit. But neither man may be able to lift his team to the playoffs in 2016.

One foot in. One foot out.

A phrase that aptly describes the playoff pursuit of two Motor City sports teams: the Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings in 2016.

Yet, both teams face different scenarios. The Pistons are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season when they lost in the first round to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers during LeBron’s first stint in Cleveland.

In sharp contrast, the Wings are trying to maintain the vitality of the longest active playoff appearance streak among teams from the four major North American professional sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL). They’ve qualified for the postseason 24 consecutive seasons, and have hoisted Lord Stanley four times during their run of sustained success. Their sustained success over the last two-plus decades has helped Detroit enjoy a 33-year streak of having at least one professional sports team in the postseason.

So, which squad currently needs the playoffs more? The Wings trying to push their playoff streak to 25 straight seasons or the Pistons trying to reach the playoffs for the first time since Stan Van Gundy took over as head honcho of the franchise?

I lean toward the Pistons because the Wings have become stagnant in recent years, with two straight first-round exits. If they miss out on the playoffs, they will benefit from being able to take part in the NHL Draft lottery, as they need to amass as much high-caliber young talent as they possibly can by the start of the 2017-18 campaign. By the way, that is when the squad’s new arena is expected to open.

It’s also important to note that the Wings seem to be playing without the fire and urgency that the Pistons currently are. Van Gundy’s Pistons have already clinched a winning record on their last significant home stand of the season, which at nine games is the longest home stand in franchise history. They play their last two home games against the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat on April 8th and 12th, respectively.

The Wings have experienced different fortunes. For instance, at The Joe this past Saturday, they were blown out by the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-2. How do you allow that to happen on your home ice when your playoff hopes are on the line? For me, the only way you do so is if you’re lacking the focus and energy necessary to qualify for postseason play.

This is indescribably bad and inexcusable for a team that’s trying to make a playoff push.

While the Wings’ young stars Dylan Larkin and Petr Mrazek would benefit from postseason experience, half of their core in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg already has that and more with multiple Stanley Cup Finals appearances on their resumes (Datsyuk with three and Zetterberg with two).

With their advanced NHL playing ages also taken into account (Zetterberg is 35 while Datsyuk is 37), it can be said that the two veterans would benefit from a shorter season.

Now, I know you want your two best players to have the chance to shine in the postseason as much as possible before they hang up the skates, which might be sooner than later.

However, we’ve seen past Wings players and franchise greats Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman retire later in their careers. “Stevie Y” hung it up after his age 40 season while Lidstrom called it quits after his age 41 season.

And among present NHL players, there’s no greater example that can be used to make you believe that Datsyuk and Zetterberg can keep playing at a high level going forward than 44-year-old Jaromir Jagr.

The leading active points leader and future Hall of Famer has put together a memorable season with the Florida Panthers highlighted by his selection to his first All-Star Game since the 2003-04 campaign.

The Wings can only hope for the same to occur for Datsyuk and Zetterberg, and the tremendous play of Jagr after turning 40 gives them hope that the same can be true for two of the greatest players in franchise history.

The Pistons, meanwhile, have a young core that has been largely deprived the taste of postseason experience. I’m talking about a group of players that is spearheaded by Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson and which also consists of Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Only one of them has playoff experience, and that is Jackson from his playing days in Oklahoma City, which is before he became the prime-time player and leading scorer that he is now for the Pistons.

Drummond, Jackson and KCP have each taken positive steps in their career progressions, and the next logical step is an appearance in the playoffs.

The franchise’s attendance could also use a boost, ranking 23rd out of 30 teams. And what better way to get more fans into the Palace for the 2016-17 campaign than a playoff appearance this season?

So, yes, for all the reasons noted above, the Pistons are in need of the playoffs more at this current juncture. And honestly, they also deserve a playoff appearance more than Wings head man Jeff Blashill and his lackluster crew at this point.

Thus, let me be the one to deliver the bad news to you, Wings fans: It’s time to say goodbye to this season and to start thinking about the 2016-17 season. The Wings will be better off for it in the long term.

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