Monday, August 30, 2010

Name That Old Red Wing: Episode 3

Episode two should have been a little more difficult than one. Still, someone guessed him: Greg Stefan. I appreciate the feedback, just wish it wasn't anonymous. Feel free to drop your name.

Stefan sums up 1980s Detroit Red Wings goal tending. He didn't have an all-star defense in front of him. Yet, he managed a 3.92 goals against average - in the 80s. Not too bad considering how awful the team was for some of those nine seasons. However, his save percentage was at .868. Not so great. He had slightly better playoff numbers.

Overall, Stefan can be remembered for his record in career penalty minutes - more than any other Detroit goalie to date. There were a few more brawls back then.

Photo courtesy of www.GoaliesArchive.com.

Time to move on to Episode three's feature.

This Red Wing also played with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has a younger brother who is still active in the NHL. They both attended the University of North Dakota.

That shouldn't be too difficult.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kirk Maltby Back With Detroit?


Rumor/fact, whatever it is right now, says Kirk Maltby is going to be in Grand Rapids soon. In other words, he is going back to Detroit, but won't exactly be "in the lineup," for now.

Let me be really frank about this: Go away Maltby. It's time to leave. This is not a personal attack on the guy. I appreciate everything he has done for the team during the past 15 years or so. However, it is time for him to move on. It is time for the team to move on.

Maybe this is just temporary until he can find a job within the organization which doesn't involve playing hockey. I was thinking he would go play on another roster - where he might get some better ice time. Yet, it's clear now that he wants to stay close to Detroit. Moreover, I didn't know he is healthy.

I hope both parties involved make the right move.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Todd Bertuzzi Guelph Storm Player Card

Todd Bertuzzi Guelph StormI stumbled across this retro Todd Bertuzzi trading card. Yeah, randomly.

Bertuzzi spent four seasons with the Guelph Storm before moving up to the New York Islanders in 1995. In his final season with Guelph he set the club's all-time single season goals record with 54 - which is also his personal best with any team since 1990-91.

This card is from the 1992-93 season. In 1993-94, Bertuzzi notched 28 goals and a total of 82 points in 61 games with the Storm.

Hopefully Bert can officially get back into sniping form with the Red Wings this season. I have no clue how healthy he is, but he appeared in all 82 games last year with Detroit, so that's a good sign. He's 35, but he is in great shape. Just needs to get the hands working again. I have faith in this guy. He could really help make Detroit's second line the deadliest in the league.

Once a goal scorer, always a goal scorer.

Comparisons to 2002

Big Red Machine recently did a nice job of comparing the 2002 forward lines to the current Red Wings. Worth checking out.

No one can look at this roster and not compare it to the 2002 star-studded squad. However, the team has nowhere near as much depth on the blue line today. That being said, I think Big Red Machine will offer a comparison on the defense too. So, stay tuned to that blog if you're interested.

Pretty awesome.

Peace.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August is Pathetic

Let's all agree: August is pathetic. Everyone wants hockey. No one has it. All the news is bullshit and we have all heard enough about Ilya Kovulchuk. He can go Russia forever and it could be the perfect ending to a disgustingly epic post-lockout off season. Yes, that can be read as quite a sweeping generalization and dark viewpoint of future NHL off seasons. It can be.

I started to get a little interested in Brendan Shanahan's potential rule modifications camp. At first, the whole idea scared me. I can take change. Shit, I like a lot of change. However, hockey has always been a constant in my life - as a player, an official, a fan and a blogger. When I hear about radical changes to one of the most dependable things in my life, I start to worry a little. But, when I take a step back and think about the big picture, things started to look a bit better - as they often do.

One thing I want to comment on: The Detroit Red Wings raising ticket prices on certain games is shitty. Makes sense, I guess. A lot of shitty things make sense.

Soon we will be out of this month. Thank science.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Abdelkader Locked For 2

Justin Abdelkader is a Detroit Red Wing for at least two more seasons. No surprise here. However, as I stated before, he still has a lot of work to do. He needs to work on his consistency. When he is on his game, he is one of the quickest and strongest players on the roster.

Overall, I am glad he has been given the chance to prove himself with this club. It is always nice to have another Michigan boy with the team. I think Detroit is up to three right now - Brian Rafalski and Mike Modano.

Cheers. Time to relive my days at Michigan State.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

No-touch Icing, Pick Your Faceoff Opponent

Time for me to comment on a couple of these rule changes being discussed at the NHL Reserved Development camp. Brendan Shanahan and boys have been busy testing out some possible rule changes for the NHL. There are quite a few dealing with icing, offsides, face offs and more. Here's my thoughts on a couple of the potential rule modifications.

No-touch icing:

Amateur players know the drill - the play is dead as soon as the puck crosses the goal line. This is safer for players because it takes away high-speed chases into the end boards. However, the NHL uses touch icing in order to force the players to hustle until the end of the play. Some forwards take a lot of pride in beating defenseman to the puck. Of course, there have been some really scary plays and injuries due to this rule. And now there is a division of opinion among the rule makers in the NHL. The RD camp did some model-research in order to help decide whether to implement the no-touch rule in the NHL.

To be clear, this potential rule is not like the amateur no-touch. Officials will be allowed to make a judgement call. If the icing appears intentional, it's no-touch, no doubt. But if it's a missed pass, it's a race. Moreover, the defenseman has to make a play and cannot take advantage of the rule by letting pucks float into the corner. So, a lot of room for judgement on the official's side.

I am in support of this rule. I think it needs to be tried at least for a season. I don't think it will change the game too much. It might be a little more difficult for the officials, but in the end, I think it makes more sense. Yet, the conservative hockey fan in me still cringes at any rule change like this. I think if the league gives it a chance, fans might start to wonder how the game was played without no-touch.

The Face off Rule:

This rule deals with officials chasing guys from the face off dot in the offensive zone for cheating. The defensive center will be allowed to choose from any of the other skaters on the ice for a new opponent at the dot. So, most likely the center will choose an opposing defenseman to face.

I think this is ridiculous. Why put so much bullshit in the game? I do not want to see some kind of circus going on while the official is trying to drop the puck. If a guy cheats at draws (or even a winger cheats) just kick them out. I don't see why this rule is even necessary. Your center gets kicked out of the draw already, does there need to be a more severe punishment for this? No, absolutely not.

There are plenty other possible rule changes, equipment modifications and even rink/net dimensions being discussed. Most of it kind of scares me, but I think that's a normal response. I have to trust the men doing this research are acting in the best interest of the game. I know they want to make the play better for fans and players, but I personally care more about preserving the game and only making subtle, smart rule modifications.

Red Wing of the Week: Bob Errey


Bob Errey spent his best years - his prime - with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1983 to 1993 before heading to Buffalo at the end of the '93 season. After helping the team win back-to-back Stanley Cups, Pittsburgh dumped him, more or less.

Errey's career wasn't over after the 10 productive years he spent in Pittsburgh. However, he had to modify his style a little to find a role on rosters. While helping a young start-up San Jose Sharks franchise perform a first-round upset against a quick, talented Detroit team in 1994, Errey got Detroit's attention. Soon, he would find himself wearing a Wings sweater and in a position to earn a third Stanley Cup.

He landed in Detroit during the lockout season of 1994-95. He helped the Red Wings make a push to the finals - scoring six points in 18 playoff games. Of course, the Wings couldn't push through the New Jersey Devils, and 1995 became Errey's last trip to the finals.

Bob was a another important piece to Detroit's record 62-win season in 1995-96. He notched 32 points in 71 games. Yet, fate was not on the teams side in the playoffs that year.

Errey was let go before the end of the 1996-97 season in order to make room for a couple big names - Brendan Shanahan and Larry Murphy. He missed out on the next two years of glory in Detroit while with San Jose and Dallas. I definitely would have liked to see him celebrate with the club.

Bob Errey is remembered for bringing veteran depth to a relatively inexperienced Detroit roster - an important ingredient to the formula Detroit became known for perfecting. He didn't spend much time with the team, but definitely seemed to have an impact on the young players.

I will always remember Errey from the famous Yzerman goal. He was the first to embrace Stevie while he jumped around uncontrollably in the corner.

Probert vs. Primeau in Practice

This is awesome. Bob Probert fights Keith Primeau in practice. Not sure why or how this started. If you recall, please share.

Name That Old Red Wing: Episode 2

I guess Episode 1 was not hard enough - somebody got it right about an hour after I posted it. The answer: Brent Gilchrist. I had difficulty finding a decent photo of Gilchrist in a Detroit jersey.

On to the next one.

Name this old Red Wing:

He played nine seasons with the Red Wings. During those nine seasons he appeared in 30 playoff games. He was a Detroit draft pick and turned out to be a pretty decent one.

Much like last episode's Red Wing, this guy suffered an injury which ended his career a bit early.

After his NHL playing career, he hung around hockey for a long time. He coached in the OHL for many seasons before moving up to the NHL - eventually winning a Stanley Cup while in a coaching position with another club.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Breakout Seasons

The term "breakout" is often used to describe a player hitting his potential. His breakout season is when he really starts to become effective on the ice. Sometimes it takes a few seasons for this to happen. Not everyone is Sidney Crosby or Steve Yzerman - both had 39 goals in their rookie seasons.

Breakout seasons are not always easy to come by on the Detroit Red Wings. This is mostly due to the veteran talent Detroit usually has throughout the roster. Young guys really have to battle for ice time. The best breakout seasons I have seen in recent years have come from Jimmy Howard, Jiri Hudler and Johan Franzen. Howard shined last season, while the Mule proved he is the true definition of a power forward a few seasons ago. Hudler, well, I never noticed how effective the guy was until he was gone. He had a couple breakout seasons.

Who is next? It should have been Valtteri Filppula last season if not for his wrist injury. Yet, I can't really complain. Filppula doesn't need to "breakout" in my opinion. He just needs to stay consistent and be smart. He's freaking good.


Darren Helm seems to have a huge following of loyal "Helmer" fans. A lot of people have pegged him as the next Kris Draper or Kirk Maltby - in their primes of course. Mickey Redmond may be his number one fan. But even Mickey must admit: Helm could be a lot better. Last season should have been Helm's breakout party. What happened? He played in 75 games, 12 playoff games with not the most impressive numbers - 11 goals, 24 points and one playoff goal. Let's not get too excited. With his speed and the amount of ice time he got last season, he should have had 20 goals. He may have done his job on the defensive end of the puck, but he still needs to prove himself as an effective offensive player.

With the signing of veteran Mike Modano, some fans complained this would take ice time away from developing players such as Helm and Justin Abdelkader. I want to remind everyone this is the Detroit Red Wings, not the Florida Panthers. Players like Helm and Abdelkader aren't simply given time to develop. They have to earn it. In my opinion, they haven't showed the consistency needed to be effective in this lineup every night.

It's not typically fair to harp on third and fourth line guys for points production. I am not saying Helm, Abdelkader, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller need to be scoring every shift. Not possible. But I do want to see consistency. I don't believe a forward's breakout season should be about scoring points necessarily. Yet, he needs to show he's capable of doing what it takes, every night.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Name That Old Red Wing: Episode 1

This is the first episode in a series of posts titled "Name That Old Red Wing."

I dug deep for this one. I wanted to start off on a strong, difficult note. So without further delay, name this old Red Wing:

He was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens back in the mid 80s. He had his best AHL season in 1987-88 with the Sherbrooke Canadiens, scoring 74 points - enough to get him a spot in Montreal's lineup the next season.

Four seasons of minimal playing time passed, yet relatively decent production, in Montreal before he landed in Edmonton, and then Minnesota soon after. Then, he joined Minnesota in their move to Dallas and four seasons later (1997) he was a Detroit Red Wing.

He suffered from a serious groin injury during most of his five seasons with Detroit - missing a lot of games and never really getting much attention.

Eventually, he was forced to retire in 2003 after a bout with the Nashville Predators.

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Series: Name That Old Red Wing

I will be starting a new series to hopefully complement "Red Wing of the Week." It will be called "Name That Old Red Wing." Basically, I will describe a former Detroit Red Wings player, coach or even someone in management. The reader will have to guess the identity.

I will post answers in a different location here at DRW.

The idea to do this comes from years of playing "name that old Red Wing" with friends and family. Most notably in college when my friends and I would sit around, have some beers and name off Red Wings of past. Yeah, we were that cool.

So stay tuned to DearRedWings.com in order to "Name That Old Red Wing."

Red Wing of the Week: Dallas Drake


Dallas Drake was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1989 - 6th round, 116th overall. Before that (and it amazes me how many Wings fans don't know this - especially after his resurgence in 2007) Drake was a star at Northern Michigan University. Under coach Rick Comley - current coach at Michigan State University - Drake and teammates earned the 1991 NCAA Championship. In his senior year at NMU, he scored 83 points. The Wings had some really high hopes for this low draft pick.

He performed well in his rookie season - notching 44 points and earning respect from Red Wings nation. Yet, his sophomore slump and a new-look, more "European" Red Wings was enough to get him shipped out to Winnipeg with teammate Tim Cheveldae.

Dallas became one of the more "hated" players in the league. This is no secret. He was known throughout the league as a hard-nosed, dedicated workhorse who wasn't afraid to scrap. Detroit fans got to know him best while he was skating against the Wings with Winnipeg, Phoenix and St. Louis. Most Red Wings fans would probably finger Drake as a hated opponent throughout most his years - which is why I chose the Blues photo. Yet, like many players, Dallas was welcomed back to the organization late in his career. The franchise had respect for him. Soon, the fans would too.

Detroit's 2008 Cup run included a star-studded lineup of players in their prime. Drake's role was to provide veteran depth and grit. Honestly, the 2007-2008 really proved how impactful this guy could be. He fit the role perfectly and without Drake's commitment to the system, I don't know if Detroit would have been the same team that year. He definitely earned his name on the Cup. It was a great end to a hard-fought career.

When I think of Dallas Drake, I think of hard work and determination. He truly is a testament to surviving in a league where snipers and playmakers get the headlines and the contracts.

The Team Faces Thing

If you're paying attention to Puck Daddy's "Mount Puckmore" features, you know there is a Red Wings one on the way. No, don't worry, I'll leave it up to them to do the picks. That will be a tough one.

But it got me thinking: Does it really matter? Some of these franchises have had some great players, yet no Cups to show for it - St. Louis Blues. And if the Washington Capitals never hoist the Cup, will any of these superstars matter?

So I am left wondering: Shouldn't we just focus on management? Building a Cup-winning team - a dynasty even - is not in the player's control most years. Chicken or the egg? Right? Well, that's a debatable subject. Too many questions: Does the player help form the team? Does the organization develop the player? Etc., etc.

Whatever, something to think about. But, I have enjoyed the Mount Puckmore series thus far - mostly because the pieces are written by actual fans. I am not here to dump on this.

The Rules of Hockey: Slap Shot

How about a little cinematic hockey fun while we wait for the season to start. Never gets old. I heard a rumor (a while ago and I never heard anything more) about a remake of Slap Shot. Please, don't let this be true.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Burying the Puck: Frustrating

This clip from a game against Edmonton last season is proof to support my previous post about the Red Wings making goalies look like gods. Now, this is a great save from Jeff Deslauriers. Yet, what the hell?!?! That's an open net. Bury the puck!

I would accept Kris Draper missing this. But Henrik Zetterberg needs to put this puck where no human can touch it - not right where you would expect a goalie to make a last-ditch effort for an improbable save. I'm talking about ripping it high.

Detroit fans know how often this seems to happen to the boys. They set each other up with pretty plays but seem to struggle to put the puck in the back of the net.

Is it too much to ask? This just makes me want to vomit.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Funny Mock Yzerman Story

I found this creative piece of Tampa Bay Lightning coverage over at DontTradeVinny.blogspot.com. One has to appreciate this stuff.

Well it's obvious: Stevie is taking what is rightfully his. He is probably going to have the Tampa Bay franchise back in the finals in a couple years. I can't say I am excited about it, but it's true.

He learned from some of the greatest.

As for the Montreal Canadiens: WTF?!?!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Willi Plett Tries to Kill Greg Stefan

I stumbled across this video while perusing for Tim Cheveldae fighting clips. This is one of the best. Definitely before my time.

Then I found this funny statement on Willi Plett's Wikipedia page:

"... with Minnesota his role eventually changed from goal scorer to exclusively pugilist."

Well, here you have it: Willi Plett tries to kill Detroit Red Wings goaltender Greg Stefan - circa 1980 something.

Tim Cheveldae vs. Curtis Joseph Goalie Fight

This is a must see.

Carolina Hurricanes Piece at Puck Daddy

Puck Daddy recently did a piece on the Carolina Hurricanes called "Mount puckmore: The four faces of the Carolina Hurricanes." I suggest checking it out if you have any interest in learning why this franchise matters after the move from Hartford.

They mention the 2002 powerhouse that was the Detroit Red Wings - how they destroyed the Canes in the finals.

Overall, the piece pays homage to the fan base and ownership of the Canes. I really appreciate this type of franchise profiling. It's important for hockey fans to pay attention to the more obscure markets in order to figure out how they garner success and sustain a following. Doing this may help explain the NHL's push for new markets. When it's done correctly by the right owner in the right place, it works. The Carolina Hurricanes are the best example the NHL has. The Phoenix Coyotes are the worst.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ruslan Salei Adds More Depth to Blue Line

The signing of Ruslan Salei is ... who is Ruslan Salei? I think PuckDaddy said it best when referring to the obvious options Ken Holland had, and then the dude he went with. He seems to surprise often. Personally, I am not surprised with the move. I expected a veteran addition. I did not, however, expect Salei.

Who he is:

I remember Salei from the 2003 playoffs. He was with coach Mike Babcock's Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (Ah yes, starting to make sense). If you recall, Detroit made an early exit from those playoffs - a first-round blunder. Number eight Anaheim swept them. It hurts to go back. Salei had a hand in it. I remember the series like a nightmare. I can hear the commentators now: "Salei ... passes to Selanne, Selanne to Kariya, SCORES!!" Awful. But there he is. Forever. They made that 2003 run until the New Jersey Devils brought the hockey world back to reality. Scott Stevens almost killed Paul Kariya, etc. etc. You know.

Salei had five points in 21 playoff games that year. He was a big part of the fairytale Mighty Ducks.

But before 2003, there was an incident which sticks out. Salei was suspended by the NHL for ten games after putting a Dallas player's face into the boards. The player suffered a concussion and some other neck injuries along with a broken nose. Oh, the Dallas player was none other than Mike Modano. This was 11 years ago. No more hard feelings, right? See the PuckDaddy post for the video.

After spending the majority of his career in Anaheim, Salei moved over to the Florida Panthers (minor leagues) and then the Colorado Avalanche. He had a decent season in 2008-2009 before getting hurt, again. Yeah, he gets hurt a lot in recent years it seems. Can't wait.

Ruslan is kind of a badass. I mean, he's 35 now, and maybe a bit calmer with age, but in his prime he was kind of a spaz. I would enjoy watching him start some stuff out there this season. Detroit needs some more of that in the defensive zone.

Why Detroit has him:

Veteran depth on the blue line - the same old Detroit formula which never fails. Do not question this. I can't. No one can. Let us recall the plethora of veteran D-men who have helped this team achieve great things (*recalling*... this could take a while).

So it's a one-year deal. Well, he's affordable and will apparently work well under Babcock. Sounds like a winning move to me. As long as this guy stays healthy. Healthy has been a problem for him lately - much like Modano. After last season, I am paranoid about the health of players.

Fellow Wings blogger Red Wings Hardware mentioned Salei may be the first Belorussian to play for Detroit. I guess so. Cool? Hey, anything "Russian" is fine by me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Red Wing of the Week: Igor Larionov


Igor Larionov played eight seasons with the Detroit Red Wings (1996-2000, 2001-2003). He was an important member of the iconic Russian Five. He was a leader in the locker room. The man is known for his patience with the puck and awareness up and down the rink.

Although some would argue Larionov's best years were in the 1980s with the Soviet League, he made quite a name for himself in the NHL. He became the symbol of smart two-way hockey. In Detroit, he was simply known as "the professor."

Larionov was a dependable playoff performer. He earned 97 points in 150 playoff games. Maybe the most memorable professor moment came in a triple overtime game in the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals. Larionov roofed a backhander over a sprawling Arturs Irbe to end the long game. I remember screaming in the early morning. My father had gone to the bathroom for the first time all night when Igor ended it. Quite hilarious.

Larionov ended his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils in 2004. He finished his pro career in 2006 after a couple seasons in Russia and Europe.

Igor may go down as one of the best hockey players to have so much success in both Russia and North America. The Detroit Red Wings franchise is lucky to have him for eight years. He was a dynamic part of three Stanley Cup teams.

I leave you with this:

European Puck Possession: It's Science

The Detroit Red Wings are known for their "European" style of puck possession hockey. This is a style which has been embedded in the organization over the past 20 years. The Russian Five, Team Sweden, etc., have all made this franchise something of a Euro-dream.

It makes sense. Hockey, like other major team sports, is a battle for possession. The beauty of the sport is there is no guarantee each team will even touch the puck. Of course, that's a long shot, but technically speaking, a team could play keep away for 60 minutes. Sometimes, and Red Wings fans know this, it seems Detroit is doing nothing more than playing keep away. This feeling is due to the lack of high-percentage shooting - which is largely due to peppering goalies until they are red hot and ready to stop anything while blind-folded. Moreover, lately, teams are becoming shot-blocking machines. So the Wings just skate around with the puck. Of course, that's an exaggeration. However, some games feel like that when I'm watching from the couch.

I like to compare this type of dilemma to football. Say a team has an impenetrable defense. I mean, they're forcing teams to go three and out, to fumble, to throw interceptions, safety, etc. However, the team's offense can't score. They have the ball a lot - the majority of the game. They put together huge drives - 10/20 plays even. But they suck in the red zone and their kicker often shanks the ball. This is a tragedy. This can be Detroit Red Wings hockey.

I guess the word is execution. Following through ... other words for not choking.

Alright, I am in no way calling the Red Wings choke artists. Far from it. They just get on these terrifying snake-bitten lulls. It's terrifying in all sense of the word.

How can this be fixed?

High-percentage shots. Not trying to do too much in the offensive zone. Going to the net. Being Tomas Holmstrom. Just to name a few solutions.

When it's the fourth quarter, you've had the ball for 40 minutes and it's only 3-0, you're giving the other team a shot at making you like like a fool. And it happens in hockey. I say it often: Shots on goal is the most heartbreaking statistic in sports, right next to time of possession.

It's about executing. The Red Wings need to do that this season.

Comparing Some Detroit Teams

Last night I re-watched the championship DVDs from 2002 and 2008. I needed some hockey on the TV. Going back and watching these made me realize how solid these teams were. Talk about veteran depth.

Then, I started thinking about Mike Modano and how he represents the veteran depth found on the great Detroit teams of past. In 2002 everyone was freaking old. Igor Larionov was about 70. I think the average age of that team was like 55. But seriously, I could go back and figure it out, but I think the average age was mid to high 30s. That's old.

Anyway, Brett Hull said it best: "I'd rather be old and smart than young and dumb any day." True, wisdom does seem to come with age. But does it matter if guys are too old to even keep up? Where is the line?

The Red Wings have never been too worried about that. Every time I see Larionov's game two, triple-overtime goal from the 2002 finals I think: Man, he made that team (Carolina) look like fools. The guy was 41. He looked 25 out there in the third OT. Unbelievable. The stuff of legends.

To be completely honest, I think Detroit is looking at a very well-constructed roster this season. It's similar to the 2002 team because of depth. Of course, most of the guys don't have the super-star careers behind them like the 2002 crew had. However, the talent and experience is there. I am ready to see how the rest of the NHL responds to this lineup.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mike Modano Will Be A Red Wing

It is not official, yet. However, according to Helene St. James at the Detroit Free Press, Mike Modano is ready to join the roster on Thursday. This means he will be accepting the one-year deal presented to him last month.

This means Detroit has their third-line scoring center and veteran depth has been added to the offense. I am excited, to say the least.

More importantly, I think Mike Babcock is excited. It's important to recognize how much Babcock loves having veteran depth up front. He is the right coach to make it effective. He knows how to use guys like Modano. This relationship has awesome potential.

While I wait for the season to start, I am a bit more comforted knowing Detroit has Modano locked up. It's the right move.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fake Fans

I am ashamed. I own a Montreal Canadiens hat. I wear it sometimes. I wore it all throughout the playoffs last season. I wanted them to beat Pittsburgh and Washington. Thanks for that guys.

But here's the problem: Owning this hat brings down my credibility as a Detroit Red Wings fan. I was made aware of this yesterday at a restaurant in Santa Monica. A Maple Leafs fan confronted me and of course asked if I was from Montreal.

"No, actually I'm from Detroit."

"That's sacrilege."

Yes, he was right. It is wrong for me to be frolicking around under the Habs hat. Yet, I own it for a decent reason, I think. Montreal and Detroit are nowhere near rivals anymore. I hate Pittsburgh so much that I am willing to support any team which can possibly knock them out of the playoffs. Montreal is a storied franchise. I respect the team. I respect the fans. I want them to beat up on teams I hate in the East - which is every team in New England - except the New York Islanders - Pennsylvania and D.C.

Still, this whole episode bothers me. I will never be able to wear it again, in public, without feeling like a traitor to my kin.

I appreciated the hockey banter at the bar - something I seldom get to indulge in. I just wish I was wearing a Detroit Red Wings hat.

Let this be a lesson to all.

Detroit Red Wings Destroy Turco

Marty Turco has played his part in some great Detroit Red Wings games and goals. Remember the Pavel Datsyuk breakaway goal which made Turco look like a pee wee goalie with dull skates? Yeah, I used to watch that clip weekly. Never gets old.

Before getting picked up by the Chicago Blackhawks this week, Turco spent the previous ten years in Dallas - where he started his NHL career. Before that, he played in the IHL with the Michigan K-Wings (Kalamazoo Wings). Before that he wore maize and blue.

Here is a guy who has never gotten over that metaphorical hump. He puts up decent regular-season numbers and not-so-decent playoff numbers. He is a household name (to most avid hockey fans) but one must wonder why. He has some really bad lulls which seem to plague his career. It's quite sad, really. So much talent and potential, yet he seems to be his own worse enemy.

Some of his worst lulls have come against Detroit. Some of his most embarrassing games between the pipes have come against Detroit, and better yet at Joe Louis Arena. Why? No real reason. I think it's just a head game.

Joining Detroit's division must be on his mind. I mean, it has to be. The guy is about to be part of the rivalry now. If he seemingly couldn't handle the pressure in Dallas, what the hell will happen to him in Chicago? - where Detroit is enemy number one. This isn't just shits and giggles anymore. I'm afraid he could actually get killed by some crazy Hawks fans.

Mostly, this post is meant to be a reminder: Marty Turco sucks against the Red Wings. There is no way around this. His record is something like 6-12-5 all time. I don't care why and I don't care how. It just is. And now, he has to play them more. He has to battle for Detroit's division. He has to play in Chicago where the weather does actually get cold enough for ice.

I'm not sure this was a great move. But man, Detroit fans have to love it. Let's embrace the stigma. Let's get in his head and stay there.

Things to Avoid From 2009-10

The Detroit Red Wings had a relatively awful season in 2009-2010. There is no denying this. The team got injured early and never fully recovered. What Detroit did in the last months of the season and into the playoffs was more than any human could expect. They managed to make the playoffs - having an outstanding post-Olympics record. While this was an impressive run for a nearly ruined roster, I still have my qualms.

I will break it down between offense and defense. Everything I speak of here should be things to avoid starting this fall. I am focusing on the negatives, clearly. I can't help it. This is the pessimist side of me shining through.

Red Wings Offense Negatives:

Goals For:

The Red Wings scored 223 goals last season. This put them at fourteenth best in the NHL. In a year where goal scoring seemingly increased throughout the league, fourteenth best is not something to brag about. Twelve teams scored more than 230 goals. Five scored more than 249. While this may seem like a lot, it's actually less than the previous season - in which Detroit was first with 289. Of course, Washington led this past season with 313. Yet, the average goals for was much higher in 2008-2009.

The Red Wings lost a lot of goals for - 66. This was due to a few guys exiting the roster and many key offensive leaders getting injured for a substantial part of the season.

Detroit cannot afford to score less than 250 goals this season. Too many teams are stacking their offense with pure goal-scoring talent. If 223 goals gets a team fifth place last season, it will undoubtedly get the same team ninth place this season. The Red Wings need to widen the margin between goals for and against. This may seem like obvious commentary, but there is more to it. Detroit lost a lot of games due to shoot outs last season. It's no secret this team needs to avoid overtime and shootouts. They can't afford to win games by one goal. It's not their style. They need to get leads and hold them - something they struggled with last season.

Turnovers in the Neutral Zone:

I must have spent hours writing about Detroit turnovers in the neutral zone - specifically at their own blue line - last season. While I can't seem to find the turnover statistic (I think it exists?), I am certain the Wings had a starling record. So many games were lost due to turnovers. It's easy to blame the defense when the turnovers happen at their blue line because they are the ones with the puck on their sticks last. However, so many times it was the winger's and center's fault. Guys were out of position or just not communicating. I am not sure what it was, but the Wings had such an awful breakout last season. The offense has to take a lot of blame for it.

If they did get out of their zone, getting into the other team's was not always a sure thing. The Wings often tried to get cute in the neutral zone. This isn't a dump-and-chase team, and I'm not asking for that, but so often guys tried to make ridiculous passes at the blue line which did no one any good. Chip-and-chase? Darren Helm does the pass-to-himself play a lot. A lot of players wont do this and it's terrifying. Not everyone is Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk.

Shots:

This may be the most misleading statistic in sports. Example why: Detroit was second in shots last season with 2,737. Toronto was fifth with 2,671. We know how this turned out for both teams. Chicago was first. Washington was third and Pittsburgh was fourth. So how the hell does Toronto end up fifth? A misleading statistic, that's how.

All season I watched Detroit take terrible shots. I mean, awful shots. Eyes closed and rip it. I was dumbfounded by some of these shots. "You can't score if you don't shoot," "Never a bad play to put the puck on net," and etc. Yet, what about aiming and making your shot worth it? And what happens when you pepper a goalie and get him hot? What about your crappy shot just becoming another turnover - of the worst kind because your team is looking for a rebound while the opponent is shooting up the ice. This happened to Detroit a lot. There comes a time when quality, not quantity, has to be the focus. Or, a happy medium at least.

Overall, I just need to see this offense play smarter.

Defense: How It Was Abysmal

It may appear the Detroit Red Wings suffered mainly on offense - few goals, poor shooting percentage and utter confusion through the neutral zone. However, there was an effluvium coming from the guys on D. It seemed quite contagious all season. What the D lacked was consistency. Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidtsrom brought it every night. But then there were guys like Brad Stuart and Nicklas Kronwall who basically lost games for Detroit. Sometimes they showed up, but when they didn't, bad things happened. Very bad things.

Is this the fault of not having decent play up front? I think not. I blame some terrible defensive awareness. Again, this is contagious. Jonathan Ericsson was a main catalyst. He gets some slack for his age. He received a lot more ice time than anyone probably expected. Mistakes were sure to be made. However, Stuart and Kronwall have no excuse.

This defense coughed the puck up in the corners routinely. This single-handedly lost the series against San Jose.

Less turnovers. More smart play with the puck. Getting to the center red line and dumping it in when there is no pass: All this needs to happen more often.

Overall:

A lot of the above is obvious signs of a team struggling from injuries. Guys were playing injured or filling bigger skates. It's difficult to play to a potential under this circumstance, clearly. However, the bad habits which began last season need to be highlighted and then corrected.

Marty Turco to Chicago

Marty Turco is now with the Chicago Blackhawks. He signed a one-year deal. This is rather interesting news to me. I thought Antti Niemi was their man.

As a Detroit fan, I look forward to Turco's play in this division. The man doesn't exactly have the greatest record against the Red Wings. He absolutely cannot play at Joe Louis Arena. In his veteran career, he is 6-12-5 against Detroit.

Of course, there is no guarantee he will have the starting position. Although, he does only have a one-year deal. He has to get out there sometime.

Whatever Chicago, not the move I would have made. Yet, who am I to question the Bowman's?