Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Still Hockeytown After All These Years

I haven't written in almost a month. I guess there are like voting stuff thingees happening or something. So, I'm jumping in here to talk for a spell…

…about hockey.

The boys at Melt Your Face Off be talkin' smack about your Detroit Red Wings, particularly in reference to the Wings' complete and total domination of the 2008 all-star roster.

Before I go any further, I first came across the MYFO blog after their drop-dead hilarious turn writing the NHL Closer for Deadspin last month. So, much respek MYFO. But… this Red Wings hatin' gots ta stop. And it stops now.

Putting aside jealous rivals, what is there to legitimately hate about the Detroit Red Wings? And even the rival jealousy is bullshit because the Wings have won a grand total of 10 Cups to Montreal's 24 and the Leafs' 13. For that matter, the Wings have only won 3 of the last 52. (3 of the last 10, I grant you, but still…) The Wings play a wide-open offense-based puck control game that keeps the puck moving end to end, which is exciting for fans of both teams. Contrast this with Minnesota or New Jersey and The Trap, the basic strategy of which is to do your best on-ice imitation of the U.S. in a World Cup soccer game by not scoring for 60 minutes followed by five more excruciating minutes of not scoring in overtime.

The Wings never field a team of thugs like Philadelphia and their stick-swingin' ways; like Anaheim with headhuntin' Pronger and Scotty Niedermayer (to say nothing of having a roster half of whom "unretire" part way through the season - we're at war, pick a side!!); like Colorado with the unholy trinity of Patrick Roy, Claude Lemieux and Peter Forsberg. [We're choosing to overlook Detroit's misguided and wildly unsuccessful foray into thuggery with the trade deadline pickup of Todd "I'll Break Your Neck" Bertuzzi. He's precisely the exception that proves the rule in that he didn't fit in even a little bit.]

The Red Wings' all-stars this year are Nick Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg. These men were actually voted in by the fans. This is notable for 2 reasons: the Wings have a well-rounded team rolling four lines, not allowing for the stat-padding of a Crosby or Ovechkin who play on teams where they're the only good player to speak of (or at least on the only good line). Secondly, Detroit is in a wild economic tailspin and people aren't going to the games. This means that the home vote is probably way down. Smart people who know their hockey, without just scanning the league leaders or picking the home team straight away, voted for Hank, Dats, and Nick.

Back to MYFO… They are acting as though the Red Wings have inherited a legacy of undeserved winning, or their deep pockets are buying championships ala George Steinbrenner. I'll first refer to not having won all that many championships, but also point out that these particular all-stars were drafted in the 3rd Round (Lidstrom), the 6th Round (Datsyuk), and 7th Round (Zetterberg). They were there for the taking; the Wings were the only team smart enough to take them. Back when the Wings grabbed Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Luc Robitaille, even back to Paul Coffey, sure, maybe it was the pocketbook. But the salary cap era has begun. And yet, the Wings still lead the league year after year. That's not entitlement. That's solid management, solid coaching, and solid scouting.

The drafting isn't just about stars either. It's about the right kind of stars. And that all leads back to The Captain, Steve Yzerman. I don't even think the playa-hatas at MYFO could find a bad word to say about Stevie. We all know his heart, his understated command, his determination to win. The longest serving captain in the history of all North American sports, the Red Wings have been Stevie's team for over two decades, and they remain his team even now that he's retired (with all due respect to Nicklas who carries on in true Yzerman fashion). He taught these Red Wings the values that they now embody. He demonstrated that winning and losing is about what's inside, not about running your mouth. This is a man who led the Wings to their 2002 Stanley Cup on one leg, in the twilight of his career and still managed to be the best player on the ice despite being surrounded by a roster full of all-stars. This is the man who had record-setting seasons stats-wise, and when his coach asked him to take on a more defensive role, he did so – and excelled. His quiet leadership brought the team to where they are today, and you don't hear about our superstars "makin' it rain" or wrapping cars around telephone poles. The Red Wings' proud tradition isn't just about the pride of winning. It's about being a team you can actually be proud of.

So I beg of you - without being intellectually dishonest, what bad can you possibly say about the Detroit Red Wings?


LeNoceur said...

It's not personal. We hate everyone.

Michael Grant said...

Indeed... And I think the DoGgers might enjoy the latest MYFO treatise, this time about Datsyuk specifically.