Well, July 1st wasn’t exactly a banner day for the Wings. I spent the better part of the day on Puck Daddy’s live “chatterbox,” a realization which has caused me to reevaluate my life a little bit. (I swear I was doing other things during those fourteen hours too. Things like being in class and writing papers and eating food. I swear.) It was hard to watch at times, as team after team nailed down free agents while the Wings just stood there and held the door open as Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, and Ty Conklin left for other teams. I felt like everyone else was improving their rosters while the Wings were just sliding backward. It’s not that I didn’t see this coming (I’m not that far out of touch with reality.), but there was a little part of me that was still hoping that things would work out better. By the end of the day, I wasn’t feeling particularly good about next season. But then I took a step back and remembered that the Wings are still going to be fielding a roster that includes the likes of Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Dan Cleary, and, yes, Darren Helm. And I don’t think there are a lot of fans in this league who wouldn’t be thrilled to have those guys as the core of their team. So I don’t think the Wings are in the dire straits that some would say. I also don’t think they’re going to be able to get away with cakewalking their way through the majority of the regular season the way they did last year, but that might not be the worst thing in the world. A little bit of a challenge is sometimes what you need to get your head in the game and go to work.
Also, I spent more time cursing the salary cap yesterday than at any other point in its existence. Of all the things Gary Bettman has done over the years, this is the one that I hate most. Of course I realize that it’s not entirely his fault, but let’s face it, he’s the fall-guy for anything and everything that displeases me about the NHL. Seriously, yesterday someone asked me to hand them their water bottle cap that had fallen on the floor by me and I might have let out an involuntary growl at the mention of the word “cap.”
First off: Hossa. Am I disappointed that he went to Chicago? You bet. It’s possible that that’s the last place I would’ve wanted him to go to. Seriously though, you know the line in the Most Interesting Man in the World commercials about how he, “once had an awkward moment just to see how it feels?” I think Hossa heard that and decided to make it his philosophy in life. But I can’t find it within my heart to begrudge his decision. He got the cash the Wings couldn’t offer, and actually has a legitimate chance at a Cup. It’s not a bad career move at least the way it looks right now. We’ll see how things go next summer when all of Chicago’s young guns are asking for raises. I was a little surprised that he got twelve years, but I would expect him to get bought out after his big money years are done. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of the guy. I respect him for the risk he took in coming to Detroit and all of the money he passed up, but…I don’t know. It’s possible that he’s the Slovak answer Dominik Hasek’s Czech crazy train. Not in the “what was he thinking signing there?” sense, but because his decision process is as inexplicable as the one used to dole out NHL “justice.” Although I’m disappointed to see him go, I still haven’t decided if I even wanted him to stay. A while back when I heard that he’d been floated a 10-year offer from the Wings, I was pretty excited, but I knew that the team would have to give up a lot to keep him. After spending several hours mulling it over, I just reverted to my default stance, which has become sort of a Wings fan mantra over the last little while: In Kenny We Trust. It was much easier to just sit back and let him go to work. I did find it interesting that Holland gave him permission to talk to other teams last week instead of trying to trade his rights as a kind of 'thank you' for taking a chance on Detroit last year. If you're looking for some Hossa-related brilliance, head on over to The Triple Deke. It'll be worth your while.
The upside of all of this? We’re much more likely to see Hudler wearing the Winged Wheel next season, which is good if for no other reason than that we might get another super-awkward intermission report on that creepy tongue thing he does with Ozzie after victories.
In other Chicago news, Kopecky followed his apparent BFF to the Blackhawks. I don’t have a lot to say about that move. Mostly because I don’t really care. Except for those few games when we though he might be the second coming of Tomas Holmstrom because he did a better than average job fronting on the powerplay, his time with the Wings has been entirely forgettable. Unless you count the fact that his tragic orbital bone injury during the playoffs this year inspired the now-legendary quote, “Don’t break your face!” which will be repeated every time a Wing is involved in a fight from now to eternity in my house. So thanks for that. And maybe try to avoid those pesky season-ending injuries in the future… (Okay, this sounds overly hostile. I really don’t dislike Kopecky. I just don’t have any particular reason to like him either.)
The Wings other free-agent loss thus far was Ty Conklin. This is the one I can’t wrap my head around. How can the Winter Classic go on this year sans Conklin? Someone needs to orchestrate a deal in which he’s leased to either Philly or Boston just for that one day. Or maybe the NHL will have a sudden change of heart and have the Blues play instead of the Flyers. Right now he’s slated to back up Chris Mason, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he was the starter there by the end of the season. With Conks gone, it falls to Jimmy Howard to be Ozzie's backup this year. That has to frighten all but the most steely-nerved Wings fans out there. Seriously, I just shuddered while I typed that sentence.
Other random free agent notes:
-Donald Brashear to the Rangers? Seriously? Are they planning on putting his locker next to Blair Betts’ too? Maybe they can room together on the road. Toss in Sean Avery, and their locker room is going to be like the set of a bad reality show.
-Rob Scuderi signed in LA. I have to say that I’m not unhappy to see him leave the Penguins. His plays at the end of Game 6 are going to haunt Wings fans for decades to come. It’s much better to tuck him away on an irrelevant team where he can’t do much damage to the Wings, even if he’s in the same conference now. Pittsburgh also lost Hal Gill, the human obstruction machine, so they’ve got some holes to fill too.
-No news on Sammy as of yet. I'm waiting for some foolish team to throw a few million bucks at him in the hopes that his aim magically improves over the summer.
-How did Marian Gaborik talk his way into that contract? Seriously. No way I’d be comfortable with that if I were a Rangers fan. His injury history is too ugly to merit that type of commitment.
-I’m eagerly anticipating hearing what the “real story” of what went down between Martin Havlat and Chicago is. There’s nothing like good NHL gossip to keep me entertained over a long holiday weekend.
-In the league’s other soap opera, I have to wonder what is going on inside Dany Heatley’s head. Seriously. Let’s recount his career: He started in Atlanta where he killed a teammate in a car accident. Then he asked to be traded so he could get out of there. Now that he’s in Ottawa, he wants to be traded again. Edmonton is doing everything they can to persuade him to allow himself to be traded there, but he won’t waive his NTC. Plus he just picked up a $4 million bonus from the Sens. My question at this point is: Why on earth would anybody want this man on their team? He’s a perennial malcontent and he has to be the equivalent of locker room poison. How can his fans or teammates in Ottawa support him after he publicly stated that he wanted out of there? And if he does end up in Edmonton, how are his new teammates/fans going to feel about the extraordinary lengths management had to go to just to convince him to come there. Not to mention the fact that now that Ottawa’s paid him his bonus, they’re going to want more in a trade, so whatever foolish team ends up with him is going to be weaker than they would’ve been if he’d made up his mind beforehand. There aren’t a whole lot of guys in the hockey world who I can’t respect under any circumstances, and Heatley’s proving once again why he’s one of them.