The drive from Grand Rapids to Detroit is rather unremarkable. Flat land and clusters of trees pockmark the edge of the highway.
It has been a gradual change, but most things associated with the Detroit Red Wings work that way. In a salary-cap constrained hockey landscape, Detroit can no longer simply outspend other franchises; Detroit knew this eight seasons ago and began to stockpile talent through the NHL Draft.
Playoff success may be the Detroit Red Wings' calling card, but this season it was not just the NHL club that experienced an extended postseason run. The Red Wings took the Chicago Blackhaws to seven games before bowing out in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and this may have been a blessing in disguise for Detroit. A number of players were able to be sent down to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins, who are having the most notable playoff run in the organization; they are currently battling the Syracuse Crunch for the Calder Cup and hold a 2-0 series advantage after a pair of road victories to begin the series. Red Wings prospects also had significant success in the NCAA Tournament and the Mastercard Memorial Cup tournament.
Willie Coetzee refuses to use this year’s earlier NHL lockout as an excuse for currently playing for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye. There is a reason why the Detroit Red Wings decided to keep the 5'10”, 180-pound forward in the ECHL instead of letting him build off of his 2010 campaign (11 goals, 11 assists) with the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids, MI.