Sunday, December 1, 2013

Unexpected Game Review: Wings-4:Senators-2

Since I started my first full-time teaching job, I haven't been able to watch much hockey or blarg about it. Part of that is due to the fact that I haven't had the time, and part of it is because I decided to spend money so that I could play hockey again instead of renewing my NHL TV package. It's a hard knock life.

Needless to say, I'm always excited when I go through the TV channels I do have access to and there's Red Wings hockey on. It usually means I have to watch shitty coverage from NHL on NBC or, in tonight's case, shitty coverage from the NHL Network. But at least I got to watch the game, and what a game it was!

Obviously the big story was Daniel Alfredsson's return to Ottawa for the first time since signing with the Red Wings. I'm obligated by sports writer/blogger law to make mention of it, so this will be the first and only mention of it. The tribute video was great, the fans response was great. Moving on.

The first period was a pretty even tilt between the two teams. Both teams seemed to have a lot of energy and intensity and speed. To go along with that energy, intensity and speed was a whole lot of inconsistency and chippy play. The Red Wings never really got the opportunity to set up the puck possession game they wanted to, but the Senators also sort of over-committed or pursued sometimes. They were running around, trying to lay the body on the Wings, and certainly racked up the hits, but it seemed without cohesion or a plan. It did, as I mentioned, disrupt the puck possession of Detroit, but they also couldn't turn it into goals and scoring chances.

The big story of the first period were the two penalties taken by Detroit. The interference call was fair, but as I tweeted, Darren Helm is the victim of those kinds of plays pretty much every shift and it isn't called. Speaking of Darren Helm, he had a couple of excellent chances while shorthanded, including a quasi-breakaway that he couldn't finish. The first penalty kill, the Wings had as many shots as the Senators did. The second penalty, a dumb too many men penalty, the Red Wings kept the Senators from even getting a shot.

The second period, the Wings really got their game going, and the two goals they scored were demonstrative of that. Franzen takes a good pass and just rips a shot past Lehner, and Drew Miller gets his first of two goals. The pass from Tomas Tatar was just... fuuuuuuuuuuck that kid is good. He's averaging a point about every two games, and is really only part of the story. He's hungry for the puck, makes good decisions with it, has been reliable defensively and showing a lot of poise and skill. At one point, he put on a damned near Datsyukian stick handling clinic, making the Senators chase the puck while keeping it away, and getting shot and pass attempts to keep the play alive in the offensive zone.

The second and third periods showed a lot of intensity from the Senators. They scored their first goal when the whistle should have been blown, but wasn't. They drove the net hard and when Gustavsson bobbled the puck after when the whistle should have been blown, they popped it free and eventually into the net. But they got a lot of scoring chances due to long, bad changes and/or smart passing. Gustavsson had to be good for the Wings tonight, and he continued to do so.

Let's hand out the first game pucks in a long time, and call it an evening.

The Bret Lebda Game Puck: Brendan Smith - He didn't have a good game. There was the huge, stupid turnover that Monster had to bail him out on. There was the dumb penalty he didn't have to take because he had already defused the scoring threat, and then just decided, "HERP DERP! LET'S HAUL A DUDE DOWN TO THE ICE!" I'm not to crisis point with Smith, yet, but he's continuing to struggle and it is a concern. 

The Kris Draper Game Puck: Darren Helm - The "best 3rd line center in the league" has become one of the better 2nd line centers. He's scoring goals, winning face offs and being all around awesome since finally returning from injury. Here's the crazy thing: he's getting 2nd line center minutes AND doing power play minutes AND doing penalty kill minutes and every shift he is still balls to the wall intense. That's just insane.

10 Points to Griffins-dor: Tomas Tatar - The orgasm above wasn't indicative enough?

The Perfect Puck: Tomas Tatar and Niklas Kronwall - Two perfect passes give Drew Miller his first goal

O' Captain, My Captain Game Puck: Drew Miller - Oh sure, he benefits from some excellent passes from his team mates, but he's positioning himself perfectly to receive those passes and putting the puck in the net. His second goal he had to skate to stick it at speed, which is not easy, and shoot those pucks perfectly. Plus, he's been consistently good for the Wings and has worked hard every game.

Last note: I caught a lot of shit awhile back because I said that if the Red Wings couldn't beat the Jets in regulation, they weren't a playoff team. People spent a lot of time ignoring the things I was saying and flipping out over things I didn't say. The point I was making is that there were a lot of problems with this team that needed fixing - and that horrible losing streak was proof of that.

Since that time, the Red Wings have improved most of the problems I was seeing - goal scoring, goal tending, and attitude. The last one first: When the game is in hand, you have to have the killer instinct to score one more goal and put it away. The Red Wings weren't doing that and losing games late because of it. Tonight, the Senators came within one, and the Wings got an empty netter right away to get the 2 goal lead back.

Scoring is getting better, and the kind of depth scoring that helped take the Wings to Stanley Cups in years past, has picked up. Goaltending has gotten better, with Gustavsson really showing he can be a quality 2nd goalie.

So I said tonight that THIS Red Wings team could beat the Jets in regulation; if they get the defensive struggles underway and keep plugging away with everything else, they will be a playoff team. I said specifically that they had plenty of time to do it, and I did expect them to. It's good to see it happen now and not in February and March.

Keep it rollin', boys. Let's go Red Wings

Friday, October 18, 2013

Red Wings won a game! And I was there!

In the immortal words of that one guy from that mid 90’s Snickers commercial: “Great googily boogily”. Here’s what I realized about going to hockey games and then trying to write about them: it’s really tricky to watch the game, live, as close to the action as I was, and simultaneously be a fan and a writer. I want to be snapping pictures and video the whole time but I also did not want to be that guy. You know that guy.

Yeah, that guy
I have to admit, I was a bit of that guy in the 3rd period. But for the vast majority of the game, during the game, the phone was in my pocket. So this post will largely be about my experience of seeing the Red Wings play in Colorado, live, up close and personal.

  • First, it has to be said that the Pepsi Center is actually a really nice arena. It’s big, clean, and well organized. The staff, despite us being in full Red Wings attire were all very polite, courteous and professional. Especially the little old lady who checked us in with our tickets. She saw us on our way out and smiled and congratulated our team and wished us a safe trip home. I don’t remember your name, but I will remember your face and kindness
  • Except I pray that the new Red Wings arena is not also shared with the Pistons. Watching hockey in a place where there are also basketball games played sort of cheapens the experience for hockey fans. I sat on a God damned folding chair.
  • Also, who the hell gets paid sponsors for their parking lots!? Named after Toyota vehicles. It’s pathetic. Especially when you drive a Dodge Ram truck onto the ice, idiots.
  • I don’t know how it looked or sounded on TV, but if it seemed like there were more Red Wings fans than Avalanche fans, it would have made for an interesting poll. To out right where Avs fans. To our left were Avs fans. There were Avs fans in front and behind, but A LOT of Red Wings fans all over the place.
  • When the Avs fans started chanting, they were REALLY loud. However, they could be drown out almost at any moment by the Wings fans. That being said, their go to chant was “Red Wings suck!” Which is just pathetic. Cheer your team on, boo a bit (like when Bertuzzi touches the puck? Totally fair), but an organized cheer about the other team sucking? See, this is why we look down on you the way we do.
  • When they would stop chanting, “Red Wings suck!” I would turn and show, “So does your mother!” and that did not make me any friends.
  • Except the guy sitting down and to my left, who was an intelligent Avs fan. They do exist. He complimented Monster’s strong play, and agreed that Datsyuk is the man. I gave credit for the Avalanche dominance in the 2nd period and mentioned my respect for Joe Sakic. It was civil and fun.
Now, there was a bit of a happening during the course of the game. I will let you be the judge and try to tell the story as objectively as I could. So like I said, my mentioning the fellating prowess of the Avalanche fans’ mothers did not ingratiate to me to many of the people around me. But, in my defense, at no point during the game did I try to lead a chant saying the Avalanche sucked. It’s just a massively unoriginal, petty and stupid thing to do as a fan base. Disclaimer: I’m sure there are Red Wings fans that would do such a thing. I’ve never heard it happen at any game I’ve gone to or watched, but it may have happened. If you’re one of the Red Wings fans who have ever done such a thing; fucking stop it. You’re a shit fan and you don’t deserve to wear the Winged Wheel. But, outside of that, I just tried to enjoy the game, celebrate when the Wings scored, talk with the guy in front of me and wife, and join in the “Let’s Go Red Wings” chant.

Until two things changed.

First, the guys behind me started chiming in, right around the 2nd period when it was 2-1. Not sure what it was that sparked their ire. Seriously, I don’t think I did anything. Maybe it was after one of my “Your mother is a blow job queen” responses. I honestly cannot remember. All I do know is I hear people bitching at me from over my shoulder and I’m just trying to focus on the game. Then I hear, “Hey, Waldo, who the fuck wears a hat like that?”

It’s a Winter Classic hat, you incandescent twat waffle, and if your team is ever important enough to play in one, you’ll find out about it, too. And I don’t mean one of the 17 outdoor games the NHL is handing out to make people feel special. I mean the actual Winter Classic.

But I kept my thoughts to myself because I was enjoying myself otherwise and I really didn’t want to ruin my evening by getting thrown out.

Then sometime in the third period, during one of the “Let’s Go Red Wings” chants, I hear “Red Wings suck!” from over to my right, and one of the children – maybe 9 or 10 years old – is looking directly at me and screaming it. Over and over again. Mom isn’t doing anything. I ignored it to start with because I know better. However, after the Red Wings went up 3-2, the “Let’s Go Red Wings” chant starts up again. And one again, this kid is leaning forward, shooting daggers with his eyes, and yelling as loud as he can directly at me, “Red Wings suck!”

I know better, but I responded anyways, and pointing upwards, I holler back “Scoreboard! Scoreboard!” So yes, I did taunt back at a child.

My buddies behind me didn’t appreciate that at all and started up at me again. But I ignored them because, y’know why, as far as I’m concerned, if some kid is old enough to get mouthy and start talking shit, then he’s old enough to get put in his place. And he probably gained his courage and attitude from you dickweeds. So yeah, not my best moment, but let’s not act like you idiots are the pillars of the hockey fan community. It’s not like your fans or commentators would said exceedingly stupid shit just because you don’t like a certain player or team, right?

But then Datsyuk scored again, and they all pretty much shut up. So yeah, scoreboard.

Thanks to Doneta for snagging this pic. God I look awful.
Players I was Impressed With:
  • Datsyuk was all Datsyukian. Two goals, great net front work and lots of good puck possession and defense from him
  • Franzen was skating very well and seemed to really be motivated tonight
  • Ericsson was the much needed anchor after Kronwall went out. And shit is he BIG in person.
  • Alfredsson really wanted to score but settled for 3 assists instead. That's gotta suck, huh?
Players I’m Neutral About:
  • Andersson did have some good moments, but also had some moments of “does not exist”. I think with how hard Gleandening is working and with Helm’s return coming, Andersson may need to do something quick to stand out
  • Good on Drew Miller for standing up for himself and deciding to drop the gloves. Not so good with the tiring out really fast and getting your face punched a lot
  • Abby needed to hit more people
  • Monster played really well sometimes, making big saves and being smart when he handled the puck. Then he gave up two of the weakest, softest, most “You shoulda fuckin’ had those” goals ever. He’s been good for us but he still needs to be better
Players I was frustrated with:
  • Danny DeKeyser, I think, really tried to fill the skates left by Kronner when he left. I’m pretty sure DeKeyser got moved up to 1st pairing and certainly played a lot more minutes. But he made a lot of really, REALLY bad passes tonight. Shame on the Avalanche for not scoring off his turnovers. 
  • Weiss annoyed me. He didn’t do anything particularly bad, but I’m feeling like others are feeling: “Dude, we didn’t pay you Val Filpulla money so you could come in here and be Val Filppula” – plus the penalty he took was stupid. 
No autographs, but my wife high fived a lot of the players as they were coming to and from the dressing room. Plus pictures and video. Plus a Red Wings win.

Oh, and make sure you include Avalanche fans on the list of, “Fans who are so pathetic that when their team loses to a Detroit team, they have to shit talk the city because they are bereft of anything of value to say”

Let’s Go Red Wings

Friday, September 13, 2013

There Is Nothing Good About Dan Cleary Re-Signing

After the insanity of Dan Cleary Watch 2013 - and yes, this summer has been so devoid of anything important or interesting that we've resorted to waiting on baited breath to find out what Dan Cleary is going to do - it was announced that Cleary had signed a deal worth $1.75 million for one year to stay in Detroit.

I know we're supposed to have faith in Ken Holland and company, but this signing is just wrong. It's just objectively, scientifically wrong on all fronts. And I should preface everything that is to come by saying: this is absolutely not because I don't like Dan Cleary or think he's a bad hockey player. In fact, Dan Cleary has a lot to offer a team - just not the Detroit Red Wings. My take on Dan Cleary is essentially identical to my take on Tomas Holmstrom at the end of last year. Holmstrom (Cleary) made a lot of great contributions to the Red Wings during his time with us, and was essentially to winning the Stanley Cup, without the glitz, glammer and pomp and circumstance of some of the big names. However, Holmstrom (Cleary) is getting up there in age, the way he plays the game does take its toll on the body, and we've seen evidence of that over the past couple of seasons. Furthermore, Holmstrom (Cleary) stands in the way of some very important prospects coming up and getting the NHL exposure they need. So it was time for Holmstrom to step aside, and now it's time for Cleary to do the same.

To his credit, Cleary did manage to play the most games last season out of all Red Wings. His team leading 48 games is impressive, and during that time he managed to net 9 goals and 8 assists for 15 points. And this was while playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk, which arguably mean he should have racked up more. Meanwhile, Gustav Nyquist only scored 3 goals and 3 assists in 22 games played, with Tatar scoring 4 goals and 3 assists in 18 games played. So you might say, "See, Dan Cleary is better". To which I will respond with a rarely uttered phrase

Do the math.

Nyquist played 22 games fewer than Cleary and Tatar played 30 fewer. Goose averaged a goal once every 7-8 games (same for assists) and Tatar averaged a goal once ever 5 games or so. If they had played the number of games Cleary had played, Nyquist's numbers could have been closer to 7 goals, 7 assists for 14 points, and Tatar's could have been closer to 11 goals and 8 assists for 19 points. Meanwhile, in 44 games Damien Brunner put up 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points.

Nyquist, Brunner and Tatar all saw playing time on the 3rd and 4th line. While Brunner did get playing time with Zetterberg, that eventually came to an end and neither Nyquist or Tatar saw meaningful ice time in the top lines with Datsyuk or Zetterberg. Cleary did. Nyquist and Tatar also cost considerably less, are considerably younger, and have considerably more potential to become long term producers for the Red Wings. Dan Cleary does not.

"But Nyquist and Tatar fill a different role than Cleary does!"

And? For starters, if you told either Nyquist or Tatar that making the team and getting top line minutes would require them to be a corner/net front guy, they'd do it. It would be a drastic misuse of their talent and skill sets, but they would do it. And seeing as how Tomas Tatar is all of 5'2 and 110 pounds he may die in the process. But these guys are hungry to play.

Moreover, what does Dan Cleary bring us that Abdelkader, Miller, Eaves and Emmerton can't? They all have the ability to win corner and front net battles, they can all give us some depth scoring, they can all be defensively sound and responsible, and they can all do it faster and, arguably with the exception of Eaves, be more health in the process. Plus, they're younger, still with room to grow, which is the direction this team needs to be headed.

Let's not forget that Ken Holland doesn't buy the whole "The East is a more physical conference" notion, so the idea we need more guys like Cleary doesn't exactly hold water.

"But Cleary is a team guy! A locker room guy!"

Okay, but let's be honest, what player on the Detroit Red Wings isn't going to be a team guy? Do you think Mike Babcock would tolerate someone who is not ready to sacrifice for the team? Let's remember what he said to Stephen Weiss while they were still in the process of courting him. Forget the Babcock Death Stare, I'm sure he would bludgeon a player to death with his bare hands if they brought anything other than a team attitude to his locker room. Because that would be more fun.

Sure, Tomas Tatar's comments may seem selfish and unwise at first, but ask yourself these questions: Is anything he unsaid unfair or unreasonable, and if you were in Tomas Tatar's position, would you honestly feel any differently? And let's be clear here: he is saying he wants to play for this team, however, if this team is unwilling to let him play, then he wants to go some where that he can play.

His message isn't, "Fuck Dan Cleary, fuck Mike Babcock and fuck Ken Holland, I'm out" - although there is a tinge of that sentiment. His message is, "You drafted me to play for you, you trained me to play for you, I've worked hard, paid my dues, and helped bring your minor league team a championship. I am ready to play for you. If you aren't going to let me, then I want to go somewhere that I can compete at the highest professional level."

Again, I ask you to consider if that is an unreasonable request or if you would feel any differently.

All signing Dan Cleary has done is added some mortar to the logjam that was already present at forwards, made the cap situation that much worse, poured salt on a wound of an already aggrivated prospect, and sent a message to the rest of the kids in Grand Rapids that we will signing aging players instead of giving you an opportunity to play. If I'm Tomas Jurco, Martin Frk or Anthony Mantha, I sure as hell have taken notice of this signing. Obviously, I'm not saying that those players are doomed to never wear the Winged Wheel, and they have to spend their time developing and earning a spot. Doesn't mean they aren't scratching their heads a bit.

I sure as hell am scratching mine.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Old Man Hockey Fan

This has been a slow summer, outside of the initial crack and bang of the Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson signings. Everyone is looking for something to talk about, so much so that people got mad at Sidney Crosby for getting bumped to the front of the line at the DMV and the story had such momentum that instead of being laughed at, the CEO of the Penguins and others have come to his defense.

I've more or less implicitly supported Sidney Crosby, so I just want to point out
that this picture screams to have a giant penis photoshopped into his hand
So yes, we are all very bored and anxiously waiting for hockey to start up again, and we've got to find some things to talk about. I found something to talk about when I had one of those "I'm getting old and these kids are so young" moments. Getting to know some of my students here in Colorado, I asked who were hockey fans and one student raised his hand. I asked if he was an Avalanche fan, and he said yes. I snickered and said, "Well, y'know I'm from Michigan so I'm a big Red Wings fan" and the student stared at me blankly.

My students were born in 2001 and 2002. This means these kids weren't born yet, and if they were born, they were barely aware of the world when we absolutely destroyed Patrick Roy in Game 7. They never saw the Statue of Liberty debacle . They don't know to fear Mike Vernon and Darren McCarty. The Detroit-Avalanche rivalry is a fabled story told to them by their elders while burning incense.

It isn't just Avalanche fans that are going to suffer from this kind of issue. Thinking back over my years as a Red Wings, it occurred to me that there's a lot of big NHL moments that my students will have no personal knowledge or connection to. Let's take a look at some of what they missed, and what these damned kids these days are into.

  • While there's a great debate about retiring Sergei Fedorov's number among us older fans, it's unanimously against among younger fans because they only know him as "They guy who is trying to steal Pavel Datsyuk"
  • Thanks to the younger generations of fans, Patrick Roy will finally shed his reputation as the great, but batshit crazy, megalomaniac goaltender for the Colorado Avalanche and be able to cultivate his brand new persona as the great, but batshit crazy, megalomaniac coach for the Colorado Avalanche. 
  • Because they've not been hockey fans for very long, they're less likely to remember what hockey was like before the isosceles trapezoid was introduced behind the net. This means that they'll have no idea why the isosceles trapezoid was introduced. So that's something they have in common with the rest of us.
  • They were only about 3 years old at the time, so they only know the Steve Moore incident as, "The day Daddy screamed a lot and kicked a hole in the wall." 
  • When people complained about Russians in my day, it was because they suffered at the hands of another perfectly executed play by the Russian 5. Now it's because Alexander Ovechkin didn't score 23 goals in 6 games. 
And finally, now I understand the looks of derision and the claims that "You've never seen what real hockey is like!" when I tell older hockey fans that I am too young to have seen Gordie Howe play. 

When did I get old? 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hypothetical: Playoff MVP

What if the Red Wings had won the Stanley Cup? Of course, we would have all lost our damned minds, there would have been a week long bender of Red Wings fans, and between February and April of next year, there'd have been a slew of newborn boys named Gustav and girls named Joakina.

For the record, they'd make one gorgeous child together. (Photo: AP)
If the Red Wings had won the Stanley Cup, a question popped into my mind: who would have been the Conn Smythe winner? It may seem silly, but while we wait for more signings and camps and pre-season to start, might as well have a bit of curious fun.

In case you're unaware, the Conn Smythe trophy is awarded to the player who is judged most valuable to his team during the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs - and interestingly, that's based on the entirety of the playoffs. It could be awarded to a team that got knocked out in the first round. It can, and has, been awarded to a player of the team that lost in the Stanley Cup finals. Roger Crozier (Red Wings, 1966), Glenn Hall (Blues, 1968), Reggie Leach (Flyers, 1976), Ron Hextall (Flyers, 1987) and most recently Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Ducks, 2003) have all won the Conn Smythe as a member of the losing team. So if anything, the Flyers excel at doing a really great job while another team wins the Stanley Cup. That certainly explains the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter trades. 

For the purposes of this discussion, we're going to assume that the winner would come from the hypothetical Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings. Seeing as how both of the actual playoff series the Wings played in went to 7 games, I'm going to say that our hypothetical Conference and Stanley Cup final series both go to 7 games. I believe there are four players who would have been worthy of "nomination", so to speak, for the Conn Smythe from the Red Wings this year. I'm going to extrapolate their stats for a full 28 games, with one or two "X Factors" for each player that would have been proof of them having gone above and beyond for the team and made them worthy of winning. They are listed in no particular order. 

Contender #1: Damien Brunner
Actual Stats: 5 goals, 4 assists (9 points); +2 and 1 GWG (OT winner against Anaheim)

Potential Stats: Brunner averaged a goal about every 3 games, and an assist about every 4. He could have potentially had 10 or more goals, 8 or more assists for 18 or more points. We will also assume one of his potential goals would have been a game winner. 

Why Brunner for Conn Smythe: Brunner led the team in scoring over the playoffs, and based on the numbers that could have continued to be the case over the course of a full 28 game Cup run. He tied Pavel Datsyuk for 3rd in points during the playoffs in his first ever NHL playoffs. The Wings had signed Brunner to give them that scoring umph and he seemed to be doing so.

X Factor(s): Brunner seemed to be ignited by the playoffs, after slumping in the regular season. His goal scoring abilities could have been further energized from making it deeper into the playoffs and having a shot at a Stanley Cup. So my above projections could have been conservative. Also, we did not yet know he was going to bolt for free agency.

Why Not Brunner: It would seem strange to award a first year player on a one year contract the playoff MVP award. There's also nothing to suggest that simply being a hot goal scorer during the playoffs means you have the greatest "value" for your team. Sergei Fedorov led the team in goals, points and GWG's during the 1997 cup, and that Conn Smythe was awarded to Mike Vernon. Fedorov lead the team again in goals and came in 2nd in points in the 1998 Cup run, and that Conn Smythe went to Oh Captain, My Captain Steve Yzerman.

Contender #2: Henrik Zetterberg
Actual Stats: 4 goals, 8 assists (12 points) and a plus 3 rating. He also had 1 game winning goal. His 8 assists and 12 points were team leading during the playoffs, and he was tied for 2nd place in goals. 

Potential Stats: Based on averages, Henrik Zetterbeard could have put up at least 8 goals and 24 assists for 32 points. We'll assume at least one of Hank's goals would have been a game winner and his point totals would have continued to lead them team.

Why Zetterberg for Conn Smythe: Well point production make him a solid contender, not to mention how big some of his goals were. Hank inherited the mantle of the Red Wings from Nick Lidstrom, who inherited it from Oh Captain, My Captain Steve Yzerman. Not to mention the added pressure of keeping the Red Wings playoff streak alive, Zetterberg had an insanely daunting task that he did not back down from. 

X Factor(s): Being the captain of the team certainly goes a long way. Yzerman in 98, Sakic in 96, Joe Nieuwendyk, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, and Jonathan Toews have also recently won the Conn Smythe as team captains. Also, Zetterberg's ability to not only produce big points for the Red Wings, but also to be a major shut down force for opposing teams' top goal scorers radically increases his value. 

Why Not Zetterberg: As I said with Brunner, it isn't just about goal scoring. We've seen several goalies win the Conn Smythe, (Tim Thomas, Johnathan Quick, Mike Vernon - hell Patrick Roy is the only player to win the Conn Smythe three times). Also, there is a pattern of players not winning it more than once. Steve Yzerman only won it once, Nick Lidstrom only won it once. Claude Lemieux won it once. I'm not saying that he should have won it more than once, I'm more perplexed that he'd win it over the likes of Scott Stevens and Martin Broduer and have to wonder if Professional Hockey Writer's Association wouldn't maybe like to have that one back. 

We're faced with two big questions: Was Zetterberg as valuable to the Red Wings in this hypothetical as he was in the 2008 win and/or was there someone who was more valuable?

Contender #3: Pavel Datsyuk
Actual Stats: 3 goals, 6 assists (9 points) and a plus 2 rating. He had zero game winning goals but he was third in goals, tied for 2nd in assists and third in points. 

Potential Stats: Pasha could have produced 6 goals and 12 assists for 18 points. There's a good chance at least one of those could have been a game winner. 

Why Datsyuk for Conn Smythe: Because he's Pavel fucking Datsyuk. Doesn't matter that he wasn't leading the team in goals or assists or points; all of his goals and assists were crucial. Not to mention we also rely heavily on Datsyuk to be a shut down man for the other teams' top lines, and he has achieved a Draper-esqe status for "Oh shit, get him in there for this face off!" in crucial game moments. 

X Factor(s): Having not won the Conn Smythe before - rightly or wrongly - some might feel that Datsyuk is owed or due. He's won Selkes, he's won Lady Byngs, he's won Stanley Cups; the Conn Smythe would be appropriate on his mantle, too. Also, because he does shit like this. Twice.

Why Not Datsyuk: While goals and points aren't everything, it can hurt a player's chances when the expectations are a bit higher. Some felt that Datsyuk did not perform as well as he could have and should have in the playoffs, and in particular against Chicago where some Datsyukian goals could have easily changed the outcome. If he continued to struggle, or was thought to be struggling, it may have slipped away. 

Also, Pavel may be the victim of "Yeah, he deserves it, but _____ deserves it more"

Contender #4: Jimmy Howard
Actual Stats: Save Percentage: 92.4%, GAA: 2.44. 1 shutout, but sadly, no points. 

Potential Stats: I feel that those numbers are very accurate for the level of play we got from one James Tiberius Howard during the playoffs. Those numbers are slightly worse than Corey Crawford's (93.2% save, 1.84 GAA). So it's safe to say that with those kinds of stats, Howard could have taken us to the Cup. I think we can add at least 1 more shutout in there, as well. 

Why Howard for Conn Smythe: Without Jimmy Howard, we don't make it into the playoffs. While you can't exactly take into account regular season performance, it's hard not to with Howard. He kept the Red Wings in games against Anaheim and kept giving them chances to win that they capitalized on. He certainly demonstrated why the Red Wings signed him to the contract extension.

X Factor(s): After the Red Wings were eliminated, Kronwall expressed sadness that they couldn't have gone all the way for Jimmy. His own team wanted to win the cup for him, which suggests his team thought him the most valuable. Also, I'm pretty sure Corey Perry was put on suicide watch after this save. 

Why Not Howard: Howard did let in some goals that he should have made saves on. Giving up a 3 game to 1 lead against the Blackhawks, part of that has to rest on the goaltender's shoulders. His stats were extremely good, but the two goaltenders who made it to the Cup finals had better stats. Often times, to qualify for the Conn Smythe, a goaltender has to seem as though he even more above and beyond than perhaps a forward or defenseman. A goaltender has to steal the playoffs, and some could maybe argue that Howard wouldn't have performed to that level.

So there you have it. I did my best to be fair and equitable to all four. I'm very interested to see who you think would have won in a hypothetical 2013 Red Wings cup run. If you think another player would have been more worthy of the Conn Smythe, or just want to make a case for one of the players I listed here, please leave a comment or sent me a Tweet. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Free Agent...uh...Distemper? 2013

I'm back! I apologize for my absence, folks. The job I was working was not conducive to watching Red Wing hockey, tweeting and blogging. So much so that I did not get to see a single game of the series against Chicago. However, as I announced on Twitter, I've accepted my first teaching position. Besides allowing me to follow my dreams, it also allows me to return to being a much more dedicated Red Wings fan and blogger.

But enough about me, let's talk about what happened today.

Produced by Michael Bay
First, let's sum up the situation. The Red Wings just came off an impressive and surprising playoff run. Having dispatched the Anaheim Ducks, something that was not supposed to happen, they took the eventual Stanley Cup champion Black Hawks to seven games - something else that wasn't supposed to happen, as evidenced by the fact that no other team in the playoffs did it.

They were all but written off by many. The last hurrah of a dying, fledgling empire. Except they didn't die, they fought and showed the NHL that they're still a competitive club. It was inspiring. How inspiring you might ask?

Bill Paxton did it better

There were a few things on the Red Wings to do list coming into free agency this year: Make sure they were secure in their 2nd line center, make sure they were equipped to score goals, and follow that classic Red Wings guideline of not spending too much for anyone. Let's review some of their moves heading into today.

  1. Re-Sign Pavel Datsyuk - This was a no brainer. It was leaked that Datsyuk was eyeing up returning home to Russia. Which basically made fans shit themselves for two reason. First, we wouldn't have Pavel Datsyuk anymore, and second, losing Pasha would have almost guaranteed a giant payout for Valtteri Filpulla. Datsyuk's three year contract extension gave us temporary relief to both of those problems. Pav did express that he does still want to return to Russia to finish his career, so this three year extension could be his last. Maybe he does the 1 Year Nicklas Lidstrom method or maybe not. But at least we don't have to panic quite yet

  2. Buyout Carlo Colaiacovo - Another no brainer. Now I want to say, this has nothing to do with Colaiacovo's skill and talent as a hockey player. When he played, he was a very reliable defenseman and played very well when his name got called in the playoffs. But the exact concern that we all had going into the season proved to be exactly the reason he had to go - Carlo Colaiacovo is made out of particle board and scotch tape. He just couldn't stay healthy to contribute to the team. Compounded by the emergence of Brendan Smith, Danny DeKeyser, Brian Lashoff and Jakob Kindl, Colaiacovo and Ian White became the odd men out. White was out the door as an unrestricted free agent anyway, so the buyout had to be spent on Cola. 
By Federal Law, I am legally obligated to post this gif since I mentioend
Carlo Colaiacovo by name.
So with those two big house keeping proceedures out of the way, what were going to be the moves by Ken Holland and company this year? Keeping in mind, there weren't huge free agents hitting the market like last year. There was no Parise, no Suter, not even really a Weber. A lot of good players were coming to the market, but nobody that made all others pale in comparison. 

  1. The Red Wings sign former Ottawa Senators Captain Daniel Alfredsson - This was a pretty blockbuster signing. Everyone - including the Ottawa Senators - thought Alfie would be back for one more year and then retire a Senator. And that's would have been a great story. However, Alfredsson said he wanted to win a Cup before he retires and was convinced Detroit would give him the best odds to do it. So he took a $5.5 million contract* to come here to do it. It should be noted that he was also wooed by none other than Red Wing captain and Confectionery Magnate Henrik Zetterberg, and the two have played on the international stage together. He also played with Red Wings forward and That Guy From Office Space Patrick Eaves when Eaves played in Ottawa. 

  2. It's tricky. 5.5 is a lot of money for a guy who is turning 41 at the end of the year. Granted, he is a proven goal scorer and point producer who still has a lot to offer a team. We do also benefit from what I've dubbed the Old Man Bonus Loophole. Basically, as it was explained to me by J.J. from Kansas - a player who is 35 years or older can have performance bonuses built into their contract. If they don't meet those benchmarks, they don't get the bonus, and their cap hit is their base salary. If they do earn the bonuses, the CBA allows those bonuses to exceed the salary cap up to 7.5%, or $4.8 million. The overage is then charged to your next season's payroll. It's sort of like charging it to a credit card and hoping you can pay it off later. Risky, but does help manage cap space.

    So is it worth it? Well it's hard to say. It is a risky move. It could pay off like snagging Luc Robataille or Brett Hull or Dallas Drake. It could also end up not working out at all, like Jerome Iginla, Marian Hossa (for Pittsburg and for us), and those slew of aging veterans who left their teams to chase glory. More importantly, the signing of Alfredsson has had a very serious repercussion, to be discussed later.

  3. The Red Wings sign former Florida Panthers Center Stephen Weiss - As I mentioned before, securing a stable center for the second line was a major priority for the Red Wings. Since the word "stable" was used, this basically disqualified Valterri Filpulla from consideration. Well, not exactly, but Weiss was a highly sought out candidate for being exactly that - he's a solid, stable point producer and would be a perfect 2nd line center for any team, this one included. Initially numbers around $6 million were thrown out for his contract, and it seemed to come down to us and St. Louis. Then the news came that a much more reasonable 5 year, $4.9 million cap hit deal was reached and the Red Wings gave one more middle finger to their division rivals before packing up to move east. 

  4. This signing has all the markings of a classic Ken Holland and Company move. A smart, affordable signing, snagging away a prized prospect from other teams because that's what we do. After missing out on the big names last year - really at no fault of his own - and staying quite at the trade deadline, Holland is definitely showing himself to still be a capable and top tier GM.

    If for no other reason than because...

  5. Valterri Filpulla signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning - Oh Captain, My Captain Steve Yzerman gave Filp the deal he was looking for, signing him to a 5 year, $5 million a year contract. No doubt looking to fill the void left by the Leclavier buyout, the Filp signing was actually a win-win. The Red Wings got to free up the roster spot for Weiss and save $100,000 a year, and Filpulla got what he wanted: the big payout he was looking for, and he no longer has to live in the shadow of much more talented, beloved and higher paid centers.

    Welcome aboard, Val! 
  6. What's the Deal With Damien Brunner? - This is the complication left by the Alfredsson signing. That $5.5 million could have been partly used to retain Brunner, not to mention the roster spot Alfredsson takes up is one that Brunner would potentially take - both are right handed shot right wingers. Granted, it could be that the reason the Red Wings pursued Alfredsson is because Brunner had already made up his mind to go elsewhere, or maybe Alfredsson was an insurance move in case Brunner didn't bite and the insurance policy paid out prematurely. Or this was an intentional decision made by Ken Holland. It has been rumored that the Red Wings made several offers to Brunner, and he turned them all down. Either way, there's been a whole lot of nothing said out of the Brunner camp so far, and not much in terms of rumors as to who has been speaking to him. All that we've heard so far is that he won't be coming back to Detroit. 

  7. The thing is, without a proven track record in the NHL, Damien Brunner could literally be another Ville Leino - tons of talent, tons of potential, and then runs off to another team for a huge payday and be roundly mocked for being a huge bust of an investment. Or he could sign a big payday with another team and end up potting 30, 40 or 50 goals a year. I made mention on Twitter today that the Alfredsson v Brunner signing could very well end up being the next Hossa v Franzen debate. It could also end up being one more example of why Ken Holland and his team are that much smarter than the rest of us. Either way, it is sad to see the Damien Brunner experiment come to an end.
So it was an eventual and interesting first day of this year's free agency for Red Wings fans. Some of the questions have been answered and some still remain, most notably are we really going to fucking re-sign Dan Cleary? Also, is it true that Sidney Crosby really called Cleary to try to woo him to the Pittsburgh Penguins? Either way, it did lead to one of the greatest Whoabot tweets of all time. But there's something I take from all this, and it makes me very happy.

Our playoff run did more for this team than we realized. I have to believe that teams and players around the league looked at the Red Wings team that was counted out and they took notice. That Red Wings team was good. Maybe not great, and maybe not a championship team, but a damned good one. They didn't win and compete because they were lucky; it's because they worked their ass off and had a lot more talent than people realized. 

Alfredsson and Weiss noticed and wanted to come to this team that may be "rebuilding" or "reloading" or whatever word you want to use, because despite challenges and set backs, they could have beaten the Black Hawks and threatened the Kings with being on the receiving end of an upset from a lower seed. With more hard work and dedication, and yes a little bit of luck, this team just might be a contender. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Offseason Musings: Date of Birth and Hockey Success

I love it when my wife comes to me with hockey stuffs. She picked up a book the other day by Malcom Gladwell called Outliers: The Story of Success because it peaked her curiosity as a math teacher. The book's premise was to search for mathematical patterns to people's success, perhaps outside the normal ideas of family, socioeconomic status. An early chapter discusses a correlation between the birthdays of hockey players who make it into the NHL, and the author specifically mentions Red Wings Gordie Howe and Darren Helm.

In fact, Gladwell attended a minor league game where Darren Helm played, and mentions him as his team's "top goal scorer". If that isn't mind blowing enough, there's more! Gladwell's wife pointed out to him an interesting trend - apparently hockey wives point out really interesting things to their hockey husbands - that there was a disproportional number of players whose birthdays came in the beginning months of the year. 

My wife did the number crunching and found that out of the 850 players listed on the rosters of the 30 NHL teams, 331 of them had birthdays in January, Februrary, March or April. That's means 39% of NHL players were born in the first four months of the year. Turning our attention to the Detroit Red Wings, at one point 14 out of the 27 players listed on the Red roster were born in the first four months. That's 51.85%

Terry Sawchuck, doomed to obscurity and mediocrity because of his birthday
Five NHL teams (Detroit, Carolina, Colorado, Minnesota, and San Jose) have rosters with 50% or more of their players being born between January and April. 7 teams who have 40% or more. Dallas had only 3 players out of 20 listed on their roster. Carolina and Minnesota are tied with the most at 55%. 40% of the league has rosters with at least 40% of their players having been born in the first four months of the year.

So what's the point?

According to Gladwell, the correlation is fairly simple. In Canada, the cutoff age for hockey leagues is December 31st. Meaning that players who are born January 1st, 2013 will be placed in the same league as a player born December 31st, 2013. A player born January 1st, 2014 will play in the younger league. Well there are spring leagues and there's workouts and training and camps and practices you can do all year long, the bulk of the hockey season is played usually between about October and April, similar to the NHL's schedule. That's when my hockey seasons ran when I played. Therefore, when puck drops for Midget Hockey in October, a kid who was born in January is playing with kids who were born in December of the same year. 

When you consider the religious status that hockey has in Canada and other parts of the world, you understand why it is that kids who want to play hockey (or parents who want their kids to play hockey) start off at a very young age. Some kids learn to skate along with learning to walk. So the kids born January through April have four months of development and practice before the kids born later. This means when it comes time to join organized hockey, the early kids are slightly bigger, slightly faster, slightly more developed than the later kids. Of course, since they have the edge, those are the kids who will get the attention from coaches, and be pushed to develop that much more quickly. They're more likely to be selected to go to the elite leagues in Canada, which radically increases your chances of being drafted to and playing in the NHL.

So how do the Red Wings break down? Well when we look at the roster of players who were featured this season:

In the 86 years the Red Wings have been in existence, 37.66% of all the players who have played for Detroit were born in the first four months of the year; 334 out of 887. Notable Red Wings who fit the bill: Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Gordie Howe, Larry "This is a Guy" Murphy, Vladimir Konstantinov, Sid Abel, and Mike Vernon. What about some of our Red Wing greats who don't? Chris Osgood, Sergei Federov, Mickie Redmond, Slava Kozlov, Igor Larionov, Shawn Burr, Ted Lindsay, Terry Sawchuck, and even Oh Captain, My Captain Steve Yzerman.

So what asinine conclusions can we come to from this information? Well obviously Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg need to be traded immediately, along with Nyquist, Tatar, Eaves and Lashoff, but we should definitely keep Val Filppula. And we should never draft anyone born past April 31st. But in reality, what would be interesting is to find out the age cutoffs for leagues in Europe and Russia and see if they follow the same pattern as Canada.

Naturally, you can't gurantee that a certain birthday will bring hockey success, and of course, when we look at guys like Hank, Pav, Goose and Eaves, the obvious conclusion is that with some luck and a shit ton of work, you can overcome the odds.

Having said that, I think what we can certainly conclude is if you want to give your kid the best shot at making it into the NHL, especially if you're a Canadian, you should do the bulk of your fucking between April and July. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Looking Back: Expected Bitterness and Unexpected Joy

I was unaware that Mike Ilitch was building an amusement park, but that's the only explanation I have for the roller coaster we all got to ride this year. The ups and downs, twists and turns; moments of sheer terror mixed with unmitigated joy that spiraled into confusion. I know there were several moments when I thought I was going to die.

We all know that this season was something unlike anything Red Wings have had to endure for years. Sure, there'd been loses, seasons of disappointment. But never since I've begun following hockey have I ever known the terror of not making the playoffs. I've never known being the Red Wings being the underdog. We're always the favorite, or at least a contender. This was different. Sometimes different is good.

And sometimes different is painful
The Red Wings almost missed the playoffs, but didn't. They rallied and made it in. They weren't supposed to beat the Anaheim Ducks, but took it to seven games and won. They were supposed to get rolled over by the Blackhawks, but they didn't. They took it to seven games and lost in overtime. So I guess if you were to say anything about this team this season, it could be, "They were supposed to, but..."

So what do we take away from all of this? Well, I figure there are three good things and three bad things we can take away from this abbreviated season.

The Good: The Kids Got to Play

And I don't mean they got to play the classic kids game of "Peg your buddy in the nuts with a soccer ball because it's fucking hilarious" - but the young kids who we have been desperately clamoring for got some ice time. Damien Brunner, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Brendan Smith who were expected to get ice time did. We saw the unexpected emergence of Brian Lashoff and Joakim Andersson. The added bonus of Danny DeKeyser made the youth movement that much more explosive and impressive. While line jumbling and ice time caused a lot of confusion, when the Andersson-Nyquist-Brunner line came together and clicked, we got a real glimpse of the Red Wings' future. That line could be a future first or second line, with some combination of Lashoff-DeKeyser-Smith possibly filling 3 out of your top 4 defense men.

That's extremely promising. Andersson was just supposed to come up for a couple games but earned the right to stay. The only reason he could have been sent back down is if Darren Helm came back, and with the nagging injury, who knows when that will be. Brunner was streaky, but was puck hungry and scored some goals. He amped it up in the playoffs and should be back next year. Goose, despite having his eggs smacked, played like the top six forward we know he can be.

The Bad: There's still "veterans" in the way

The reason that the kids got to play was because Bertuzzi, Helm, Samuelsson, Ericsson, White, Quincey, Coaliacovo and Filppula got hurt. As the injuries dissipated, some of the kids got to keep playing in favor of some of the vets. Coaliacovo and White continued to sit, as did Samuelsson. Bertuzzi was back and the gone and then back and then gone again. Some of these guys have value - Helm, if he can stay healthy, Ericsson has proven his worth, and even Coaliacovo played well when he wasn't broken into thirty pieces.

Questions arise around guys like Bert, Samuelsson, Cleary, Coaliacovo, White and Filppula. Re-sign? Buyout? The question for some (Kevin, RE: Samuelsson) is easy, while guys like Bert and Filppula are trickier. What do you do with guys like Nyquist, Andersson and Tatar chomping at the bit? Can you win after sacrificing some of your tried and true veterans?

The Good: The defense was better than people expected

The biggest stories for me of this defense were Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl. They both made stellar improvements over the course of this season and could very well be the next veterans on this team. For a guy who was nicknamed Riggy Shitbox and someone who was thought to be out the door, those two guys showed to be some of the better guys on the blueline for us. Brendan Smith played well for the most part, Lashoff was great until he struggled in the playoffs, and Kronwall eventually grew into his role as the new defensive leader on the team

Even Kyle Quincey started to be...not so Kyle Quincey.

We won't ever see again the kind of perfection that Nicklas Lidstrom brought to Detroit, but anyone who counted this team out because of the defense was wrong. This young defense is going to grow into one that will continue to keep the Detroit Red Wings as a contender.

The Bad: Turnovers 

I'm not entirely sure if it was the result of new defensive strategies, or was simply the result of a lot young kids trying to adjust to the NHL level, but we killed ourselves with sloppy passes and turnovers, forced and unforced, that led to scoring chances and goals.

There's a lot of work that's going to have to be done this offseason. Part of it will be conditioning to make sure that Wings can come out of the gate and "start on time" as Mike Babcock is fond of saying. However, they are simply going to have to work on the basics. Passes have to connect tape to tape, even under pressure. The puck has to get out of the zone on the first attempt, especially on the penalty kill. We have to gain the offensive zone cleanly and get second and third chances on net. There were far too many one and done plays, especially on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Red Wings allowed at least 5 shorthanded goals this season. You can't give up shorthanded goals and expect to win hockey games. Not only are you allowing goals, but it completely neuters your power play. Granted, we ended the season with 18%  on our power play, but imagine how much better it could have been had the Red Wings been more responsible with the puck.

The Good: Our leadership 

Henrik Zetterberg deserved to be the captain of this team, and he definitely demonstrated it throughout the season, especially when it came down to the wire. He scored huge goals late in the season and in both series against the Ducks and the Hawks. When he wasn't scoring, he still had the throttle down almost every game. There were times when I was frustrated with him, and he definitely has to be a scoring threat every night, but he has shown that he has the mettle to lead this team.

If for no other reason than this
Kronner showed why he's an alternate captain and why he was tapped to lead this team's defensive corps. He struggled early on for sure, but he got his feet underneath and started playing smarter hockey. He even started to throw his body around more often, which is what we expect and need from him.

I've written definitively on the need for Jimmy Howard. That talks about his skill in net and his ability to win big games. But if Roberto Luongo hadn't shamed the goalie as team captain thing years ago, I'd make the case that Jimmy could wear the C. Every game he takes stock of what he did to help win or lose the game. He takes responsibility for his mistakes, and immediately sets out to improve upon his weaknesses. He'll ask Chris Osgood for help, work harder every night to keep the Red Wings in games, and show the utmost of respect and support for his team mates.

He doesn't even take total credit for his own shutouts. It's mind blowing the amount of poise and leadership the guy has, even while his team is hanging him out to dry.

And always remember this: Kronwall, Datsyuk and Howard have never been kicked out of a hockey game for throwing a temper tantrum. Henrik Zetterberg has never had to have one of his team mates put their arm around him while he sits in the penalty box for his third penalty of the game.

The Bad: Uncertainty

There's obviously still so much unknown about what's coming our way. We're headed to the Eastern Conference next year. We're going to be seeing the likes of the Bruins, Penguins, Canadiens, and Flyers. These are some very good teams, and I really get the sense that the Eastern Conference is going to be a much harder fought, grittier, more physical experience than the Red Wings have been used to.

We've had these nagging injuries to a lot of our players, and we don't necessarily have the physical presence that some of these other teams have. We'll once again be up against the age old question of what kind of teams can win the NHL, especially the playoffs - skill or grit? When we lost to New Jersey back in 95-96, everyone thought that the Red Wings, loaded with their soft, finesse European players could never win against hard hitting North American players. As a result, the Red Wings went and got some of those guys and came back in win back to back Stanley Cups.

We're going to have to wait and see who gets left behind and who gets tapped to be a Detroit Red Wing next year.

And now to hand out the Season Awards. They're going to look very suspiciously like the game pucks and the series pucks, but they're totally different.

The Bret Lebda Game Series Season Puck: Mikael Samuelsson - It has to be. Some might say that it's not fair to give this award to Samuelsson simply because he was a useless, injured nincompoop all season long. Sure, injuries aren't exactly a player's fault, but he's just such a schmuck. He wanted to come back to Detroit and got a no trade clause and ended up being a complete and utter wretch. If Samuelsson is still on this team next season, Red Wing fans should riot. And by riot I mean bitch and moan on the Internet. 

The Kris Draper Game Series Season Puck: Patrick Eaves - Statistically, this should probably go to Justin Abdelkader or Drew Miller. More ice time, more goals or points. More games played. All of that is true of either Abdelkader and/or Miller. But Patrick Eaves came back from a crippling concussion and broken jaw. He played his ass off in every game he was in. He had as many points during the regular season as Miller did while playing 10 fewer games and had a better plus/minus rating. Plus he got rid of that terrible handlebar mustache. 

10 Points to Griffins-dor: Gustav Nyquist - This was actually a hard decision to make, because Damien Brunner was so good. And Joakim Andersson and Brian Lashoff were such amazing surprises. Tatar was impressive in his time with the Wings this season, and Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser were great as well. But it has to be Goose. He scored some big goals, really earned his spot on the team and the respect of Mike Babcock. Plus, he gave us #BroLaunching.

The Perfect Puck: Pavel Datsyuk - There were so many great Datsyuk goals this year, but I have to go with his "Fuck You Nashville" NHL 94 style.

O' Captain, My Captain Game Series Season Puck: One James Tiberius Howard - I wanted to write about why he had to be the season MVP. I've basically already done it. I don't really think there's anything else that needs to be said. But if you did want to know, I'll leave it to Kronwall:

"I wish we could have won that series for [Howard]. He really deserved it."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Series Re-Cap: Wings Win in 7

Wow. I mean, what else can you say? Can you imagine if that had been the Stanley Cup Finals? Shit, even the Western Conference Finals? I'm pretty sure I'd either be dead or have found myself in a Federal "Pound Me in the Ass" prison because I probably would have burned half of my city to the ground and then gotten out early on good behavior for handing out free kittens and teaching disadvantaged convicts to believe in themselves.

 It was a crazy series I think is what I'm going for here.

But in the end, when it mattered most, the boys in the Winged Wheel got the job done. I had tweeted that I was afraid of a specific outcome, and I would not mention it before the conclusion of Game 7. I admit to being superstitious and also acknowledge it to be completely irrational. My fear was if I said it out loud, it would come true. My fear was that after the whole series without a goal and acting like a world class punk, that Douche Canoe would get the game winning goal. It didn't happen.

This picture is the sound track of my summer. Or something. Thanks Kevin
Going to knock out some bullet points for the series and then hand out Series Pucks. They will look suspiciously like game pucks, but they're completely different.
  • I will admit that the Ducks are a dangerous team. They have a lot of scoring potential, they're very strong on the puck, they have solid goaltending and they aren't too shabby defensively. I don't mind that they play on the edge, I mind that their leadership and strategy seem to hinge on playing on the edge, then shoving the other team over the edge, flopping on the ground and screaming to the refs for a penalty. It'd be easier to stomach if that behavior wasn't spearheaded by their captain, their alternate captain and beloved 42 year old veteran, and their super star goal scorer. 
  • That being said, I'm excited for and scared of Emerson Etem. That kid has some honest to God talent and if he can avoid becoming...well... an Anaheim Duck, he could a very bright future in the NHL. Instead of looking to your team leaders, Etem, look to the leaders of the team who just beat you. They'll show you how to become something special with integrity. 
  • How good is the line of Andersson-Nyquist-Brunner? Having played in Grand Rapids together, you'd expect Goose and Andersson to be good, but Brunner has just slid right in there. And it's such an interesting look for a line that traditionally is supposed to be your checking line. Granted the NHL has evolved where that's not really the case, but damn. Two game winning goals in OT, a lot of great puck control and pressure. Andersson had a couple of chances last night that he couldn't quite capitalize on. I don't know what's going to happen to that line next year, especially with Darren Helm hopefully returning.
  • Also, I'm curious if that line could handle being the second power play unit. Andersson has been great on the penalty kill, and so the minutes might kill him. But it's an intriguing thought.
  • Justin Abdelkader. Like I said on the podcast, had you told me he was going to be a young Tomas Holmstrom only better on the top lines, I'd have given the kid way more slack. He obviously has the drive and the energy and even the skills to play with guys like Datsyuk and Zetterberg. He just has to understand his role in that lineup: skate harder and faster than you ever have, hit people really hard, drive to the corners and the front of the net, and heads up because Pavel Datsyuk just dropped you a dime pass. 
  • When Zetterberg took the over the glass penalty, I thought we were done. When the puck went in off Ericsson's skate, I knew we were done. Then we weren't, and I was wrong, and I was okay with it.
  • A lot of us feel, including myself, that this team accomplished something great this season. Everyone thought that this team's best days were behind them. Sure, maybe. Some of the talent that we've had that has left or is aging will never be replaced. But what is still here, and what is yet to come is pretty damned impressive. This team showed a resiliency that the Red Wings haven't had to show in years. Back against the wall in the regular season? Four straight wins. Back against the wall in the first series? Back to back wins, one of them in over time. Hell, 3 OT wins in a playoff series that went to 7 games.  
We're proud of our boys. We're happy to have shot down the Ducks. We're happy to have made it to the second round. Some of us look at Chicago and go, "Well, good year guys. Let's get ready for next season" and maybe that's the correct perspective to have. But this team is still exceptional, despite it's flaws. I called this team a sleeper pick against any team in the playoffs, so long as they play their game. As long as they play like they did those last four games of the season. Like they played last night.

The last couple weeks the Red Wings had duck for dinner. The table is being set for some Hawk. Stay hungry boys.

Series Awards:

The Bret Lebda Game Series Puck: Brian Lashoff - I have to be honest, the guy did not have a good series. He made a lot of rookie mistakes that cost us goals in the three games he played in the series. Obviously, being put against someone like Bitch Fist in the playoffs was a tall order for Lashoff, and despite all of the good things he did during the season, he was not at his best for the playoffs. I still have a ton of hope and faith in Lashoff. He'll be back and better next year.

The Kris Draper Game Series Puck: Justin Abdelkader - "But Mike! He's been playing on the top line! He's ineligible for this award!" Ah, but you're forgetting about the Tomas Holmstrom Addendum, wherein a player who would normally be slotted in the bottom six is moved up to the top 6 and rises to  the occasion. Also they're my rules, I make 'em up. And if you don't think that Abdelkader has been a crucial player for this team, then you probably also think Jimmy Howard is a bad goalie, and we already know what happens when you think that.

10 Points to Griffins-dor: Gustav Nyquist - OT gaming winning goal? Check. OT game winning assist? Check. Power play time? Got it. Everything that we're hoping Gustav Nyquist to be was on display during this series. He's been stronger with the puck, making good decisions and using his speed to be a problem for the other team. A lot of great rookies doing a lot of good things, but Nyquist was the best.

The Perfect Puck: Pavel Datsyuk - I mean...hold on I just need a moment to... uugggnnnnnn fuuuuuuuck just watch it


O' Captain, My Captain Game Series Puck: Henrix Zetterberg - This was a hard choice to make. I could just have easily said one James Tiberius Howard and been able to write all about the big saves that he made, his recovery from adversity and how stellar he has been for us all season long. But so has Zetterberg. He deserves to be the captain of this team, and when we needed our captain to lead by example, to carry his team to victory and score big goals for us, Hank was there with not one, not two, but three goals. I was never really disappointed with him at any point, despite him taking awhile to put the puck in the net. We all agreed in the podcast he needed to step up and score for us. Hank responded perfectly. Also, he has a better beard than Howard.


Something weird happened last night that is worth mentioning because it happened twice. I said this...

And then two minutes later, Justin Abdelkader scores a short handed goal. Then later I said something similar, and then 7 minutes later Filppula scored, and we went into the third period with a two goal lead. I've been trying to become psychically linked with the cosmos for years now. Believe me, had I discovered this power earlier, I'd have been using it only for good.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dollar Hotdog Power Hour Podcast #14

It's time to turn it around, boys!
Wednesday's loss was a tough one to take. So I brought together Michelle, Kevin and Nick so that we could figure out what went wrong and try to come find as much positives as we could. We took a few more questions which gave us to do something very positive: talk shit about Corey "Douche Canoe" Perry. Listen in for some of the other colorful things Michelle called him. We made some suggestions of what could happen in terms of lineup changes with Abby coming back as well as some tactical changes.

Brian Lashoff should sit, Brendan Smith needs a wake up call, and in my endless amounts of rage with the ineptitude of the NHL Disciplinary Department, I stop just shy of saying I want Jordin Tootoo to kill someone.

Kevin's Blog and Michelle's Blog should be checked out and shared, as usual, and Nick can be found viva un van, circe de un rio. We hope you enjoy it and as always, you should share it will your friends, family and complete strangers. They'll appreciate it.


Editor's Note: We have a fairly low limit for space on our Podbean account, so I may have to delete/archive older podcasts. If for some reason you want to hear past episodes that aren't working normally, let me know and I can somehow get you the original mp3 file.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dollar Hotdog Power Hour Podcast #13

First every playoff edition!
We have a special podcast this week. As per usual, I have Kevin and Michelle with me but we're joined by our good friends Nick, Josh Howard and Peter. This edition of the podcast was very much likes the classic "Whose Line is it Anyway?" skit called Scenes From a Hat. We asked you, our readers, to submit questions. I took the good ones, put them on the podcast, and we argued about them for like an hour.

What changes should we expect for tonight's Game 4 matchup? The discussion was plugging along smoothly until I suggested Jordin Tooto on the top line for Abby, and then, as you would expect, a fight broke out. We sing heft praises for the Grand Rapids Griffins and some guy named Yarncock. We lament the Gryba hit and the Abby hit. We also tell you out right who won't be on the team next year and fight over Damien Brunner's contract.

I want to thank Matt Lowry, Sprout, Joe Joey Joe Joe Jr Shabadoo and Sir Todd Argus for their questions (and non-question) - we had a great time answering them.

Kevin's Blog and Michelle's Blog should be checked out and shared, as usual. Josh can be found at Winging it in Motown and Nightmare on Helm Street. Peter can be found at Octopus Thrower and Nick can be found wherever fine sundries are sold. We hope you enjoy it and as always, you should share it will your friends, family and complete strangers. They'll appreciate it.


Editor's Note: We have a fairly low limit for space on our Podbean account, so I may have to delete/archive older podcasts. If for some reason you want to hear past episodes that aren't working normally, let me know and I can somehow get you the original mp3 file.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Howard Haters: A Rhetorical Conversation

Our good friend Michelle came to Jimmy Howard's defense on Twitter today. She was right to do so. Howard had a rough game last night and the Howard Hatred Coalition has come out in full force. We aren't exactly hearing anything new: Howard chokes in the playoffs, he's made of Swiss cheese, his contract costs too much money, it's way too long, we shouldn't have resigned him and gone after a big name free agent, bring up Petr Mrazek right now, etc.
A photographic representation of what many Red Wings fans are doing to Jimmy Howard.
Photo Credit: Nhat V. Meyer/San Jose Mercury News
So what I've decided to do is have a rhetorical conversation with members of the Howard Haters Coalition. Effectively using the Socratic method to demonstrate why they're stupid and wrong and need to stop spreading their bile.

HHC: Jimmy Howard is a terrible goalie! Every time he has come into the playoffs, he ends up choking, letting in weak goals and costing the Red Wings games! We were stupid to resign him!

3RDP: Terrible? Don't you think that's a little harsh? He's been one of the better Red Wings for a few years now

HHC: Wrooooong! Didn't you see those goals last night!? They were weak!

3RDP: Oh sure, the second goal that trickled through under his armpit, he should have squeezed it off. And the third goal got ripped past his glove that he had in the right position. He has to snag that.

HHC: Exactly! He totally blew the lea-

3RDP: Except on the Getzlaf goal, DeKeyser didn't play it correctly. He let Getzlaf come out of the corner, in front of the net and let him get that shot off. If DeKeyser can force Getzlaf off the puck, or at least steer him away from the front of the net, that shot never happens.

HHC: Okay, well, maybe that's true but STILL HOWARD HAS TO MAKE THE SAVE!

3RDP: Oh, I agree, but you also acknowledge he's not completely responsible. And what about the big saves he's made in the first couple of games. For every "weak" goal he's allowed, there's been 2 or 3 big saves that he's made to keep pucks out of the net.

HHC: Well. Okay, he does make big saves but...

3RDP: And we're using a couple of weak goals in two playoff games as a barometer for whether or not a goaltender is good. Or just the idea that they're struggling in general during these playoffs. What about Jonathan Quick?

HHC: What do you mean?

3RDP: Well, Quick is making more money than Howard and has a much longer contract. He's let in a couple of weak goals, and a huge misplay by him cost Los Angeles the first game of the series against St. Louis. 

HHC: ...well, so?

3RDP: So by your logic, Jonathan Quick is a horrible goalie who has a stupid contract and should be traded and the Kings should go looking for a replacement. This is the same Jonathan Quick who won the Conn Smythe the same year he won the Stanley Cup during an amazing run. 

HHC: But...

3RDP: Henrik Lundqvist is also struggling a bit in New York in his first game against the Capitals. You know, Vezina winning and Hart nominated Henrik Lundqvist. 

HHC: We were talking about Jimmy Howard though and Howard is awf-

3RDP: We were talking about Jimmy Howard - a goaltender who ended this very rough season with a 2.13 GAA, 92.3% save percentage, 5 shutouts and an assist in 42 games played!

HHC: Well...those are pretty good stats, I'll admit.

3RDP: Not to mention that when the Red Wings' playoff streak was on the line, and they had to be perfect in their last four games, Howard posted four wins, only allowing 3 goals to be scored, and posted two shutouts. 

HHC: Really?

3RDP: Yep. Wouldn't you agree that without that level of performance, the Red Wings would probably miss the playoffs?

HHC: Yeah...I mean if it had been Gustavsson in net, or even Mrazek, there's no guarantee we win those games, especially so decidedly, and make it into the playoffs, let alone with the kind of momentum we need to win hockey games.

3RDP: And if we don't make the playoffs, none of the goals you're complaining about happen because there's no Red Wings in the playoffs for them to happen.

HHC: That's very true. I mean, when you put it that way...

3RDP: Yes?

HHC: ...Jimmy Howard is a necessary and integral piece of the team that will ensure short term and long term success for the Detroit Red Wings

3RDP: Doesn't it feel good to be right?