Monday, March 26, 2012

Tomas Holmstrom for the Masterton Trophy

I think many Red Wings fans around the league were buzzing after the come from behind win against Carolina. To snap the losing streak at home through the sheer will to win and good ole fashioned hard work is the kind of inspiring story rarely only seen in Chrysler commercials. To follow up such a hard working, gritty performance, it was announced the following day that Tomas Holmstrom was nomianted for the NHL's "Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy", which is given to to player who "best explemifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game of ice hockey"

Professional goalie or not,
that CAN'T be pleasant.
Now I've been hard on The Demolition Man recently, saying things like, "...I can't for the life of me figure out what value this guy brings to the Wings anymore. Besides taking stupid penalties, and getting called for bullshit penalties, and doing absolutely nothing besides those two things..."

Hey, I've been known to say things in the heat of the moment and to be very hyperbolic in my analysis of things. It's part of my charm, and my seething desire to see the Wings stomp every other team into the dirt. So while I may be over the top in my comments, it doesnt change my frustration with Tomas Holmstrom's contributions to the team as of late.

However, that doesn't make me forget the long career that Homer has had in Detroit and the contributions he has made over the years. In fact, my comment reads, "I can't for the life of me figure out what value this guy brings to the Wings anymore..." And looking at the definition of what earns you the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, I think Tomas Holmstrom is a solid contender, and here I am to make the case for him.

Who is Tomas Holstrom?
"Tomas Holmström (born 23 January 1973) is a Swedish professional ice hockey left winger currently playing for the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League (NHL), where he has won four Stanley Cup championships. He is widely considered as one of the best in the game at screening goalies and causing havoc in front of the net." That information came from Wikipedia, which means that this blog post has all the credability of a high school essay.*

Homer came to the Red Wings and was immediately hounded by opponents and coaches alike. Scotty Bowman constantly was on Homer's case to improve his skating abilities. And you could tell that as the years went by, Holmstrom definitely became a better skater, a better puck handler, and even developed some offensive skills. Still, that couldn't deter him from his true calling: standing in front of the net. Let's look at some major moments in Tomas Holmstrom's career.

1996: Tomas Holmstrom is drafted by the Red Wings. When asked about the draft choice, Red Wings General Manager Ken Hollands says, "We're decided to give this whole 'drafting Swedish players' thing another shot to see if it'll finally pan out"

November: Foreshadowing things to come, Holmstrom gets his first goal (11/16/96 against San Jose) and his first assist (11/27/96 against Toronto), both on the power play. Holmstrom is confident his contributions were noticed and he'll have a long, uninterrupted stay in Detroit.
December: Holmstrom is sent down to the AHL

January 1997: Holmstrom is reassigned to the Wings because apparently at the time, Ken Holland had the decision making abilities of a cat faced with an open door.

June 7th: Having finally reached, as his team mates explained to him, "the biggest goal" in hockey, Holmstrom temporarily disrupts the presentation of the Stanley Cup to (OCMC) Steve Yzerman by standing in front of it and obstructing its view.

1998: In an impressive performance, Holmstrom is 3rd in playoff scoring behind (OCMC) Steve Yzerman and Sergei Federov. Upon being questioned about his lack of scoring, power forward Brendan Shanahan gave a mono-toned, albeit reasonable explanation that nobody in the hockey world was willing to accept.
"Y'see it's a problem of motivation, Bob. If I work my ass off
to make a fair and reasonable suspension, people throw things
at my family in public. So where's the motivation?"
June 13, 2003: Apparently reliving the past, Holmstrom once again tries to the screen the Stanley Cup. Taking offense to his behavior, 'Canes defenseman Glen Wesley tackles Holmstrom, knocking him into the Cup. Despite him obviously being pushed into the Cup, Holmstrom is blamed and penalized for the incident.

2005-2006 season: Holmstrom scores a career high 29 goals, earns a career high 30 assists and 59 points. And won a goal medal. Go ahead and read that again.

2007-2008 season: Only plays 59 games for Detroit. He would have played more, but he took an arrow to the knee.

2007-2008 playoffs: Leads the team in playoff penalty minutes with 26. We'll leave it as an exercise for the reader as to what the majority of those penalties probably were for.

To date, Holmstrom has scored 240 goals, earned 285 assists for 525 points. He's +32, with 119 of those goals coming on the PP and 38 of his goals being game winners. Over a career spanning 15 seasons and 1,019 regular season games and four Stanley Cups. I may harp on Holmstrom, I may be disappointed that he has a hard time doing his job anymore. Some of that is his fault, but a lot of it is not.

Pictured: Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather
Fredrik Holmstrom, reporting for work. Little known fact:
Holmstrom comes from a long line of bakers. 
In today's league of "protecting players", it is still completely legal to cross check, slash, tackle, shove, and punch Tomas Holmstrom. So much so, he has to wear extra freakin' padding just to get by! And despite all of that he's tried to be a better hockey player and an asset to his team. The guy teams a bigger beating than Dalton and just like Dalton, he still shows up for work.

So maybe it is getting time for Holmstrom to hang up the skates and pass the torch to the next generation of hard working, gritty, unappreciated forwards who'll go to the corners and the front of the net to fight battles that Ville Leino is too chicken shit to fight. But before he goes, he deserves another trophy on the mantle.

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