"Tanking" implies losing on purpose. Whether it's players underperforming, coaches using the wrong players or strategies, or management making moves to make the team worse, it's done with the intent of finishing lower in the standings and getting a higher draft pick. Draft lotteries were invented to reduce the chances of this strategy working. It was done more often in other sports, where high draft picks almost always become impact players right away. The Indianapolis Colts' "Suck for Luck" season is one of the most recent examples.
The Red Wings did not tank to get Steve Yzerman, and there are two obvious reasons why: 1, the Wings had been terrible for almost two decades, making the playoffs twice in 17 years and only winning one series. They didn't lose on purpose in "82-'83, they just couldn't win. 2, the Wings were heavily targeting local product Pat LaFontaine with the #4 pick, but he went #3 to the Islanders. Yzerman was the consolation prize.
They didn't tank. They tried but went through a drought anyway. The whole notion of tanking is mostly a cap era phenomenon anyway. Therefore it's arrogant of you to just assume the Wings tanked the team in order to get a guy like Yzerman when you weren't even there. Because that's not what happened, and Stevie, even though he's heralded as such, was not the savior of this organization. He very well could have been the first coming of John Tavares had Wings not played their cards almost perfectly.
In regards to your above statements. Hindsight is 20/20. Just because we didn't win a cup those years doesn't mean the wings couldn't have. And the organization as well as most of us believed, and still do believe, they had a fair shot. Playing older vets kept younger players, like Nyquist, in the minors to build their confidence and develop their game better than they would being rushed into the NHL. Since vets, like you said, got essentially the same points that a rookie would have, there was more good done than harm.
I'm glad you're well-rounded in most sports. It means you obviously know that most hockey players aren't normally ready until 24, 26, or sometimes even 27, unlike most American sports where the ready-age is between 18 and 22. This organization is going to continue sheltering prospects as best they can until they hit those years despite anyone's impatient clamoring. Aside from the rare few who can truly squeak in at an earlier age.
Also, Wings players have routinely expressed their pleasure with Ken always putting together a veteran team.
Tanking has been around for much longer than salary caps. I think it's tougher to do today, between the cap and roster/player movement limitations.
Also, I think your "ready age" numbers are considerably off. http://www.sbnation....es-age-analysis