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Rossi: History not on Red Wings' side

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Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009

Who wears red and white but is black and blue all over•

Why, the Detroit Red Wings, whose reputation as the NHL's undisputed power has taken several blows this month.

At 4-4-3 before a game Saturday night at Calgary, the Hockeytown Heroes appeared more has-been than would-be.

Sure, the smart money is on them finding their footing and challenging for another Central Division title, if not a third consecutive Western Conference championship. Four Stanley Cup victories since 1997 should be enough to quell concerns in the Motor City over the Red Wings playing like fried octopus in October.

Still, don't sports dynasties burn out, not fade away•

The NFL's Steelers had won four Super Bowls in six years by 1980, but they didn't win another title until 2006. The NBA's Boston Celtics' 2008 title was their first since a run of three titles in six years ended in 1986. Baseball's New York Yankees are chasing their first World Series win since claiming their fourth in five years in 2000.

Many hockey writers have cited reasons for the Red Wings' recent fall upon hard times — from an aging roster to offseason losses to injuries to a hangover from losing the Stanley Cup Final to the Penguins.

However, a quote uttered last postseason by their assistant general manager, Jim Nill, seems to confirm my suspicion that after winning the Cup in 2008, the Red Wings spent much of last season tip-toeing on the fine line between confidence and arrogance — and erroneously crossed it in the playoffs.

"Sometimes, you're a product of your environment," Nill said last April. "This year, our team is so good that one night it's (Pavel) Datsyuk, and the next night, it's (Henrik) Zetterberg; one night, it's (Nicklas) Lidstrom. And it goes on and on. And some of these other teams, it's (Evgeni) Malkin and (Sidney) Crosby, and that's kind of their team."

"Their team" kind of won the Cup by taking the last two Stanley Cup Final games, holding all those great Red Wings players to two combined goals in those contests.

Nill added that "it goes on and on" with the Red Wings, but he's wrong. History suggest it just ends one day for dynasties — often when they least expect it.

After all, it takes a lot of arrogance to believe that what goes up doesn't eventually come down.

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