Hockeytown blues

This article appears in the Nov. 16 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

In Detroit, where changing times and a sour economy have taken a mighty toll, one city fixture has remained remarkably reliable: the Red Wings. In the past 17 seasons, the team has won its division 13 times, capturing a league-best four Stanley Cups. Last spring, the Wings came within a victory of a fifth title.

But thanks to the salary cap-induced, offense-draining free agent departures of forwards Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelsson and Jiri Hudler, plus early-season injuries to forwards Johan Franzen (knee, out at least four months) and Val Filppula (wrist, out six to eight weeks), the Wings are experiencing a rare bumpy takeoff. Taken by itself, the team's 4-4-2 start is worth only minor concern. But blown leads, inconsistent scoring and spotty defense have Hockeytown faithful wondering if this season will be ... different. "This is a transitional year," Detroit exec Jim Devellano conceded to a Toronto radio station. "Our goal is to try and compete, make the playoffs, then see what happens."