Friday, July 31, 2009

Flying Referees and Fun With Shapes...

Apparently I’m not the only one whose mind has been wandering during these summer doldrums. Extreme boredom is the only possible explanation for some of the suggestions made by Jim Kelley here. Curving the blue lines? Really? I suppose that in theory there’s an upside to that, but even if we overlook the fact that it would be extremely difficult for the linesmen to judge offsides, it would look absurd on the ice surface. Seriously, between the faceoff circles, the assorted lines, and the trapezoid, if they add any more shapes, the ice surface is going to look like my little sister’s geometry textbook vomited on it. You'd have to bring a protractor to the game with you just to be able to follow along.

Another fun proposition was having the second referee sit between the benches to make calls from behind the play. This would apparently give him a better view of the ice and have the added benefit of clearing up some space on the ice. Personally, I think that if we’re going to take a ref off of the ice surface to give him a more omniscient view, we should harness him up like Beyonce here and have him fly along above the play. If nothing else, seeing him soar around will provide some entertainment to fans who are forced to watch Jacques Lemaire’s trap suck the soul out of the game. Not to mention the fact that according to this video, the Staples center is already equipped for that kind of thing, so the Kings already have a head start.

There was also discussion of allowing the higher seeded team in each playoff series to choose the home/away schedule for each round. This would presumably allow them to make a travel schedule that suits their needs best. Kelley also adds that, “it certainly would heighten interest with the fan bases in both cities as there would be endless debates regarding which way to go, even more so if it appears the wrong choices were made.” Because, clearly, as hockey fans, we need more to stress about during the playoffs.

Can it please be October already?

Anti-Wish List...

Our little Not-So-Happy Hudler had his arbitration hearing today. We’re still waiting on the official decision, but it couldn’t matter less. Now that the NHL’s finally conceded his loss, maybe the Wings can finally move on. Unfortunately, at this point in the summer, the pickings are slim. So thanks for that, Gary. Does anyone else find it ironic that the NHL, located in the heart of the West, operates under an artificial salary cap, while Russia’s KHL uses a free-market system? Obviously there are no nuclear bombs involved (unless you count this) but doesn’t it seem like a sardonic twist on the Cold War?

It’s tempting to make a free agent wish list describing the guys who are still out there and why they appeal to me, but at this point it’s irrelevant. There is one player who I absolutely do not want signed. His name? Todd Bertuzzi. His name has been tossed around by a few people, although the discussions/rumors haven’t sounded particularly serious. That matters very little to me. The mere thought of him once again donning a Wings uniform is enough to make me shudder. I have to believe that Kenny Holland is smarter than to bring him back, because let’s face it, he’s Kenny Holland, but rationality has never stopped us Wings fans from worrying about things before. I’m just warning humanity: if Bertuzzi signs, the news will also likely be accompanied by reports of a crazed grad student screaming incoherently and setting all of her possessions on fire in the middle of Ann Arbor. But enough about him.

There’s another former Wing out there whose name has been tossed around more seriously. And that has me slightly concerned. It’s not that Jason Williams is lacking in talent in comparison to the other guys who are still unsigned; in terms of value, a player of his caliber is all the Wings can hope for with their limited cap space. I have a problem with his attitude and his reaction to being benched before he was traded away. Now it’s no secret that I have no sympathy for whiny professional athletes (or anyone else for that matter), so I’m not going to waste time explaining myself here. Does anyone out there really think that he’s changed in the years since his departure from Detroit? I can’t shake the feeling that if he comes back, he’s going to have the same old issues with Mike Babcock. Babs takes a lot of pride in leading a bunch of classy, respectful players and I don’t see him putting up with a whole lot of complaining. Especially from a journeyman third-liner on a team full of hard-working superstars. While seeing him in a Wings uniform next year won’t cause me to have a fit like a Bertuzzi signing would, I wouldn’t exactly be thrilled. My philosophy is a lot like this: If you’re lucky enough to have the privilege to play for the Detroit Red Wings, you work hard, you keep a low profile, you definitely don’t complain, and if you stick around long enough, you’re bound to end up with a championship or four. And I don’t see Williams fitting into that framework, however rose-colored it may be.

Now that I’ve told you who I don’t want, you may find yourself wondering who I’d like the Wings to go after. (Or more likely, you’re just reading this to kill time at work and you really don’t care what I think.) Truth be told, I don’t even know. The guys out there who have the biggest upsides are just a little bit out of the Wings’ price range. I still have to pause to grumble every time I type something like that. I know I should get over it, but the salary cap flies in the face of most of the things I believe in, such as common sense, capitalism, and winning. I would really like to see them sign two lower-priced players so that Abdelkader has a chance to get some more playing time in Grand Rapids. The Wings’ system of player development is first-rate, and I’d hate to see him get cheated out of an extra year of seasoning in the minors just to play a few minutes a night filling a gap in the roster.

In all honesty, the two names that interest me most are Petr Sykora (Typing that disturbs me a little bit too, but such is the reality that we deal with in Gary Bettman’s perfect little world.) and Brendan Shanahan. I’m not ashamed to admit that my intrigue at the prospect of bringing Shanny back is rooted entirely in my nostalgia for the past. (During high school, there was a joke that he was my alter-ego. This was ironic because as much as I loved him, I was always a Stevie Y girl at heart.) From what I’ve heard, though, he’s not much of a Babcock fan either, and I’m thinking that he’ll most likely end up back in New Jersey.

It’s difficult to explain why Sykora interests me. I’m not sure that there’s any one particular reason. His called shot in triple OT will probably haunt me forever, but much like Max Talbot, I really can’t hate him. I really don’t see him ending up here either, once again thanks to the almighty dollar.

I have absolutely no idea where that leaves the Wings. In light of that, I have no choice but to once again fall back on the mantra that I’ve been relying on all summer: In Kenny we trust. It’s always worked for me in the past. We can only hope that he’s got some tricks up his sleeve once again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hockey is My Boyfriend...

Ever had a relationship irreparably damaged by your addiction to the Red Wings? Or, like my brother, do you suffer from a man-crush on Johan Franzen that is so consuming that it prevents you from having a real relationship? Maybe you had a girlfriend/boyfriend dump you because they couldn’t stand to hear you complain that the trap was ruining the sport for one more second. Or maybe they were too embarrassed to go out in public with you because you would impulsively scream things like, “HASEK! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GET BACK IN YOUR NET,” or “BAAAAACCCCKKKKCHECCCCKKKKKKK!” It also could have been the incessant hockey references that popped up during your conversations, like that time you tried to lighten the mood during a heated argument by saying, “wow, this is no place for a nervous person,” or when you told him/her that you weren’t blocking the TV, you were just “fronting.” You know it’s happened. It could have been that time he or she sprained their knee and you told them to “man up” and take it like a hockey player because it was nothing compared to what Steve Yzerman played through. Or maybe they just didn’t like sleeping on Red Wings sheets with your Henrik Zetterberg poster staring down at them, like some kind of bearded menace.

If you're like me, your friends have had a running joke for several years saying that the only real relationship you'll ever have is with the Red Wings. According to some, hockey has gotten me through more cold winter nights than any man every could. This says nothing good about the state of my life.

In any case, Wrap Around Curl wants to know about it. Send a message to wraparoundcurl@gmail.com if you want to take part in her survey. This type of research is a vital contribution to the hockey community. Your participation could change lives.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Inanity...

As I struggle to get through the summer, I find myself spending more and more of my life on youtube and assorted NHL blogs in order to get my hockey fix. It’s sad. I realize that. But on those slow news days of summer, I’m forced to scrounge around the internet for whatever Wings stuff I can get. As a result, I stumbled across this collection of scans from the Wings yearbook. I’d never seen it before, and I’m not sure how one would go about acquiring a copy, but they’re pretty awesome. Some of the pictures are downright hilarious. Especially Maltby. I don’t really even know what to make of his picture.

I also found myself browsing the NHL online store. As usual, there was nothing worth buying in women’s sizes, but that’s another rant for another time. On the other hand, if I were a man, I would totally need to buy these. Why is there no female equivalent?

In other news, it finally came out that Hossa was hurt during the playoffs. I suspected that there was something wrong with him all along, but this doesn’t sound like it was serious enough to have caused his complete disappearance. Some people are reveling in the irony of Chicago spurning the notoriously fragile Martin Havlat to sign an injured Hossa to a twelve-year deal. Ironic? Maybe. But worthy of revelry? I don’t think so. As much as I would’ve liked to have Hossa in a Wings uniform come October, I still can’t begrudge his decision to take Chicago’s offer.

There was a really nice article in the News about Jiri Fischer the other day. It’s such a shame that he can’t play any more. It sounds like he’s doing a great job with player development, and it’s good to see that he’s still able to play a role in the organization.

And for one final bit of randomness, the New York Daily News confirmed what we've known all along: The Wings have the "all-time coolest uniforms. Not that there's any doubt in my mind about that, but I was a little surprised to see a hockey team on top of the list, let alone two in the top five (the Blackhawks were ranked fifth).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fun With Words...

Disclaimer: This is completely unrelated to hockey, and mostly entirely for my own amusement.

I recently discovered the brilliance that is Wordle.net. You can paste in text or a link to any site with an RSS feed and it will turn your most frequently used words into a fun collage. I'm pretty addicted to it now, which is bad/sad/pathetic on a number of levels. Anyway, here's the official Snipe Snipe, Dangle Dangle word collage as of today.


Click for a bigger image, and please do make some of your own. They're quite amusing. Or a really good way to avoid doing things you'd rather put off.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The NHL Schedule and Video Madness...

So the NHL released next season’s schedule yesterday. This is always an exciting day for me because now I can plan my life for the next 10 months or so. My friends and family now know the 82 times between October and April during which they should not attempt to contact me. This is very important for them because over the years, they’ve learned to check the score of the Wings game before asking me for something. If things are going well, then they’ll hop on the phone asking for favors galore. If things aren’t looking so hot, they know to put off their requests until such time as I’m likely to be cheerful.

I’m really looking forward to the games in Sweden. If I had money instead of school, I’d totally be there. Unfortunately, that’s not how my life has worked out to this point. So instead, I’ll be chilling on the couch, celebrating the fact that the football game is away that weekend, and diving right back into my obsessive fandom.

I’m not going to go over the schedule. Enough people have done that already, and I don’t have much to add. Someone commented on Snapshots that the March schedule is brutal. I’d have to agree with that. I don’t think it’s going to be any different for any other teams though. The NHL schedulers have been lauded for not increasing the number of back-to-back games this year to account for the Olympic break. Instead there are just more one-day breaks between games. This is good for me as a fan, maybe not so good for the players. Remember last year when there was that five or six day-long gap in the Wings’ schedule for no apparent reason? That was miserable. None of that this year.

Other things of note: the Wings play Pittsbugh twice. I half expected the NHL to schedule them to play against the Pens in their home opener just so Gary Bettman could get the satisfaction of forcing them to watch the banner raise. Thankfully, the Hockey Gods aren’t quite cruel enough to allow that. They also play Alex Ovechkin and the Caps twice, which is nice since he’s only played at the Joe once before (Thanks for that, NHL and your misguided attempt to force teams into rivalries.). Other than that, it’s nice to see the New Year’s Eve game return. Not that the Winter Classic wasn’t worth it last year, but it was a little bit sad to miss that tradition last year.

Now that the schedule’s out, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Summer’s never been my favorite season. Some kids reveled in their summers, thrilled to be off of school and enjoying the weather. I spent my summers dreaming of ice and free agents and October. I realize that this isn’t entirely normal, but it is what it is. I can totally sympathize with this article, written by Paul Kukla of Kukla’s Korner fame for NHL.com. It’s pretty much the story of my life.

Snapshots pointed me to this video of Darren McCarty at the hockey camp at the Joe. Because, clearly, as a Wings fan, you needed another reason to love the guy.

I also stumbled across this on YouTube. It’s not necessarily Red Wings-related, but it made my friend and I laugh hysterically. There’s apparently a whole series of them on YouTube using the same clip. The Michael Jackson one’s pretty good too. In other amazing hockey-related video news, head over to Japers' Rink and check out these two videos. It’ll be worth your while. I promise.

I’m not even going to touch the Jiri Hudler saga. That one’s just going to have to play itself out. I can’t shake the feeling that the Wings are getting completely hosed with the whole deal, but I’m not one of those people who thinks that it’s intentional on the NHL’s part. I think they’ve been looking for a chance to make this an issue for a while, and the Wings were just lucky enough to be the ones to get caught in the cross-fire. I really don’t see Hudler suiting up for the Wings next season. I just think it would be nice to be able to get something back for developing him as an asset. You’re not supposed to lose valuable RFAs for nothing. Unless you fail to mail their qualifying offers in time. Oh no, what kind of postal nightmare have I brought upon myself for daring to mock them again? I’m going to leave you with that while I go cower in a corner and await the terrible consequences of that last comment.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why We're Still Hockeytown...

I found this poll on ESPN (You have to vote in the first poll before it lets you go on to the next one. At present, it's the fifth one.).


It’s asking which sport has the brightest future in the US. MMA won. This makes me sad for humanity. I’ve never quite understood the fascination with this, but maybe I’m not meant to. Anyway, at least hockey beat soccer. I was amused by the fact that the only states that hockey “won” were Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont. The only state soccer won? Washington. I was also quite proud of the fact that Michigan had the highest percentage of hockey votes (by far), and was the only state in which hockey topped 50%. As of 1 PM, we were leading the next closest state by 10%. And to think that people were saying that we should lose our title as Hockeytown. It just goes to show that we do things a little better here in the Mitten.

The other day, I had a lot of work to get done. Naturally, this meant that I spent a lot of time on youtube procrastinating. Whilst flipping through the massive amounts of hockey-related videos out there, I came across these two beauties. They’re pretty much standard tribute fare, but if you’re like me, you need all the help you can get to make it through the off-season. If nothing else, they'll give you your daily Steve Yzerman fix.

Also, I finally got a chance to watch the Burn Notice from June 25th, and there was a pretty awesome Wings reference in it. Anyone remember Stacy Roest? It’s at about the 25:30 mark over at Hulu.

There’s not a whole lot else going on in the Red Wings universe. Snapshots has had some great recaps of the prospect camp (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4), and it’s always fun to read about the guys who could be the wave of the future. Make sure you check that out if you have the time. They’re rather lengthy, but worthwhile.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Preseason Scheduling and More of Jiri's Saga...

The Wings announced their exhibition schedule yesterday. This is exciting if for no other reason than that it gives us hockey fans a “light at the end of the tunnel” that we can look forward to. The real schedule is supposed to drop on the 15th or 16th, which is nice because it will give my friends and family plenty of advance notice for the 82 dates/times between October and April during which they should not attempt to contact me.

The Wings begin the preseason on September 16th when fan-favorite Chris Pronger and his elbows the Flyers come to the Joe. The Wings will also face the Rangers, the Sabres, the Leafs, and the Penguins before heading over to Sweden and playing Farjestads. Then they’ll kick off the real season with back-to-back games in Stockholm, which should be fantastically fun to watch.

The saga of Jiri Hudler continued today as the NHL filed some sort of complaint with the IIHF because they consider Hudler to be under contract with the Wings. Apparently filing for arbitration was an indication of his intent to play in the NHL next year. I find this all very ironic because it seems like not too long ago the KHL was complaining about NHL teams poaching players. My problem is that even if the IIHF were to rule in the NHL’s favor, would the Wings even want a disgruntled Hudler who felt like he got screwed by being forced to play for half of the money? I’m not sure I would.

The Examiner had a pretty good analysis of how the Wings can adjust for losing Hudler. I actually kind of like the idea of using Meech as a full-time forward. Especially if Lilja is able to play. The Wings don’t really need Meech back on the blue line, and he did a decent job at forward when he played there last season. I also like the fact that it would leave them with a little bit of cap room to play with at the trade deadline. If nothing else, it would give Kenny Holland a little while to adequately assess what the team needs instead of tying his hands now.

None of the options presented in the article are particularly spectacular, but thanks to the ever-lovely salary cap, there aren't a whole lot of options out there. All I can do is sit back and put on my "In Ken We Trust" t-shirt and know that he'll figure something out. (OK, I don't actually have a shirt like that, but you have to admit that it'd be pretty awesome if I did.)

Odds and Ends...

I have a couple of odds and ends that I haven’t had a chance to mention yet, so here they are presented in glorious bullet form:

--The Philadelphia Flyers just gave Chris Pronger a seven-year contract. I literally laughed out loud when I read this news. Especially in light of that whole “35 and up” thing in the CBA. It’s almost depressing to see all of these other teams throwing dollars around foolishly while the always-brilliant Kenny Holland is handcuffed by the salary cap and can’t even make a mediocre deal.
--The Handshake Incident really won’t go away. I have a sneaky suspicion that my grandchildren are going to be hearing about this. First there was an interview with Kris Draper posted on Snapshots that dealt with it, and now it popped up again today over at THN. Seriously. Move on people. There’s plenty of stuff going on in the world of hockey that we don’t need to keep talking about this. And if there isn’t anything the hockey world that can hold your interest, there are plenty of other things going on in the real world that could occupy your time.
--There was a really nice article about Vladdie posted on the Wings website. I had never heard the story of how he defected from Russia before. It blows my mind to think of the risk that he and other Russians (like Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Mogilny) took to come here to play. Also, all these years later, it still brings a tear to my eye to see Vladdie. I only really got to see him play for a couple of years, but I still remember sitting on the couch in my family room watching news coverage of the crash as a 10-year-old.
--I stumbled across these icons (or avatars) in an NHL icons community on LiveJournal (don’t judge me). They’re pretty awesome even though only one is really related to the Wings. Please do check out both links, as anyone familiar with the NHL should get a chuckle or two out of them.
--I walked into a hardware store in Ann Arbor the other day, and the owner had hung a copy of the Kronwalled poster behind the counter. It made me smile.
--One of my professors announced that she’s from Pittsburgh and went on to talk about how it’s the City of Champions and the Penguins won. This was just another in a long string of FML moments that I’ve been enduring lately.

Don't Mess With the Post Office...

I wasn’t going to write about the Chicago Blackhawks’ little RFA Incident because I didn’t really care about it. Especially now that it’s a moot point because they re-signed all of their guys anyway. However, recent events have caused me to rethink my reaction to this situation, and I want to present my traumatic tale as a word of caution about why you should never tempt karma.

When I first heard the news about the late qualifying offers, a little part of me was happy at the thought that the now slightly scary Blackhawks might lose some of their RFAs to UFA status. Then, when I heard that the reason the offers didn’t arrive on time was because of the postal service, I had a good laugh. It’s possible that I even made a joke about the fact that while neither rain nor snow will get stop the postal delivery, they’re apparently no match for a sunny day in July. This is where I went very, very wrong.

You see, I am expecting two important school-related packages in the mail. A couple of days ago, I became impatient waiting for the one I had ordered first to arrive so I contacted the seller and got the tracking number for the package. Upon looking it up on the Post Office website, I discovered that the package had been recorded as having been delivered. After spending an afternoon on the phone with my local Post Office during which they told me that I was pretty much out of luck, I was given the number to the United States Postal Inspection Service so that I could file a mail theft report. I got to spend my whole lunch break yesterday haggling with them, and while they claim that they’re going to investigate, I have a feeling that I’m going to be dropping another forty bucks to replace the textbook. On top of this, I needed the contents of my other package for a class yesterday, and it was supposed to be delivered by Monday. Somehow it ended up getting “missent” to Philadelphia instead, and it’s unclear when I might be graced with its presence. Seriously. This is not a joke.

While I realize that nobody reading this blog actually cares about the plight of my textbooks, I wanted to present this story as a little parable/fable/moral lesson. That lesson? Never mock the Post Office. Bad things happen when you do this. It’s too late for me, but I hope you remember my tragic tale in the future should you find yourself tempted to poke fun at our excellent and dedicated mail carriers. I’m tossing around the idea of taking up stamp collecting in an attempt to reverse the bad mail karma I’ve apparently brought upon myself.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Quoteless Joe and The Turtle...

In all the drama surrounding Jiri Hudler yesterday, I didn’t get a chance to mention a couple of noteworthy retirements. Former Wings rivals Joe Sakic and Claude Lemieux both announced that they are calling it quits (Lemieux for the second time). While I realize that it’s long dead, I came of age as a Wings fan during the heat of the rivalry, and there is a part of me that will always hate the Avs. Also, the title I chose for this post sounds vaguely like one of Aesop's Fables...

I can honestly say that the one Avs player who I never quite grew to hate was Joe Sakic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I wanted him to score against the Wings, but it never seemed to make me as angry as it did when other Avs found the back of the net. In their analyses, a lot of other fans are suggesting that part of the reason we never hated Sakic was because of his similarities to Steve Yzerman (mostly that they were both long-time captains who wore #19), but I never cared about that. I always had a grudging respect for him that prevented me from achieving the level of hatred that I had for the rest of the Avs. There was something about him that always struck me as classy. Even back then when I was a little kid. I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t have a few laughs at his expense after the Snowblower Incident last year, but I kind of did feel bad for the guy. I’m not going to write up some big career eulogy comparing his numbers to those of The Captain because, frankly, we all know which player I would choose. Sakic’s a nice guy and all, but I’m a Wings fan, and with that come some insurmountable biases. Namely the belief that Steve Yzerman is as close to a deity as I will ever see don hockey skates. But that being said, for someone like me who spent the better part of my formative years despising the Colorado Avalanche, it says a lot about Sakic that I always respected him and am a little sad to see him hang up the skates for good. And there’s really no higher compliment that I could give him. Except maybe for calling him a near-deity in hockey skates…

On the other side of my hatred scale is the other notable former Av who announced his retirement. Claude Lemieux. It’s been thirteen years since that fateful day when he rearranged Kris Draper’s face with what was one of the nastiest checks I’ve ever seen, but simply hearing his name is still enough to make me groan in disgust. I do have to give him credit for one thing: he taught me how to hate. There was literally no one in the world that I despised as much as Lemieux back in the day. Actually that hasn’t changed at all in the intervening years. He remains the most celebrated cheap-shot artist in recent memory (although to be fair, Chris Pronger’s giving him a run for his money), but even worse, he had this terrible knack for coming up big against the Wings. It was like he would lie low until the Wings came into town and then find a way to elevate his game three notches and drive me absolutely batty. Some might say that this is a compliment to his abilities, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Puck Daddy had a big post celebrating his career today. It was the most distasteful thing I’ve read on a hockey blog this side of that Pens Blog post making fun of Vladdie. That famous picture of Darren McCarty absolutely destroying Lemieux while he huddled into a turtle position is tied for my favorite hockey image of all time. There’s a reason that it’s hanging on my bedroom wall. One of my saddest days was when I lost the Free Press comic that featured Lemieux’s head Photoshopped onto the body of a turtle. It was stuck in my mirror for years before it finally disappeared.

When Claude popped back up in San Jose this year, I was a little upset. At that point, it looked like the Sharks were going to be the biggest obstacle to the Wings repeating as champs. The thought of Lemieux having a hand in that once again was far too distasteful for me to accurately put into words. Oh how silly and na├»ve those thoughts seem now as I look back in retrospect. There are some guys for whom I would feel bad if their final season ended up with a massive first round upset. Claude Lemieux is so far from making that list that he couldn’t even read it with a telescope.

Now I leave you with this little beauty. Because, really, is there any other way I could end this post?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What is This?...

I definitely didn't see this coming. Seriously?

I hope this is just a negotiating tactic on his part. Otherwise...I don't even know.

UPDATE (7/9/09 12:50 AM):
Listen up, folks. The Wings’ off-season just got a whole lot worse. I fully expected Hossa, Kopecky, and Samuelsson to leave, but I figured they’d at least be able to hold on to Hudler. I’m not entirely sure what he’s going for here since he says that he still plans on going to arbitration with the Wings. On one hand, there’s a part of me that hopes this is all just a negotiating tactic to get more money out of Ken Holland, but on the other hand Happy Huds is quickly plummeting off of my list of favorite players. Holland sounds pretty convinced that he won't be back with the Wings. To think that part of my excitement at Sammy’s departure was due to the fact that it made keeping Hudler much more likely…

UPDATE (7/9/09 2:27 AM):
So anyway...I guess it's time to move onto the discussion of which free agent the Wings can afford to fill Hudler's spot. At this point, I don't even know what to think. I'm pretty sure that instead of randomly giggling when I see Hudler's face, I'm going to sneer now, even if he somehow ends up back in a Wings uniform. These are all natural reactions. I can't control them. Ask people who knew me back then about the Sergei Fedorov holdout debacle. I'm starting to practice using this picture. Oh the hair, the hair. He and Filppula should join forces travel the globe spreading their bad haircut voodoo. I can't help but think that this would make the world a better place.

Honestly, my favorite part of this is the quote in the Russian article about the Gagarin Cup being more "honorable" than the Stanley Cup. Because, clearly, every little kid who ever laced up hockey skates dreamed of one day hoisting the Gagarin Cup.

Old News, But Worth Mentioning...

Due to my preoccupation with the “Free Agent Frenzy” last week, I failed to mention that our very own Dan Cleary is headed to the Canadian Olympic camp. While I won’t be rooting for him to win gold, I do hope that he makes the team and has a good tournament personally. I feel the same way about the Wings’ other surefire Olympians. As much as I like them as players, my loyalty to good old Team USA supersedes Red Wing ties during the Olympics. Seriously though, I have a growing soft spot for Cleary, or Clear Bear as I like to call him for some inexplicable reason. He’s the kind of blue-collar guy Detroit fans have a long and storied history of falling for. People were criticizing Steve Yzerman (I know, I didn’t think that was allowed either. Frankly I’m surprised that those who dared disparage The Captain weren’t immediately smote by the Hockey Gods.) for inviting Cleary instead of some higher-scoring guys, but every team needs guys like him. Apparently Stevie Y’s critics never watched Miracle.

It’s also worth noting that Ozzie wasn’t invited to the camp. I didn’t really figure he’d make the team, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him on the invite list. While I’m sure it’d be nice for him to get to play for Team Canada at the Olympics next year, him staying home isn’t the worst thing in the world. He’s going to be starting a lot more games this season what with Jimmy Howard backing him up, so a little extra rest might pay dividends down the road. It would’ve been really nice to see him get that kind of recognition nationally, though. Oh well, there are younger guys out there, and while I don’t have a vested interest in the fate of Canada’s team, Steve Yzerman has never given me reason to doubt him before. If nothing else, Ozzie can file this away in that mental bank of snubs and disrespect that he seems to thrive off of in pressure situations. And as a Wings fan, nothing brings a smile to my face better than the though of a riled-up Chris Osgood dead set on proving his critics wrong.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure everyone else on the Wings roster is going to be in Vancouver for the Olympics. A lot of people seem to be saying that that’s a bad thing for their Stanley Cup chances, but clearly those people don’t remember 2002. Granted, there weren’t quite as many Wings in that tournament (based on my assumptions for this year) but these guys are pros and they’ll do what they need to do to get ready for the playoffs. I hope.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Back to Civilization...

Well, I went away for four days without internet access. It was a little bit liberating, in a way, because I wasn’t tied to my computer obsessively following Twitter feeds, blogs, or Puck Daddy’s free agent “chatterboxes.” Then I got home yesterday and promptly spent four hours catching up on all of my hockey reading that I had missed. I’m not sure exactly what that says about the state of my life, but I’m sure it’s nothing good.

I’ve also decided to office-space the salary cap. Seriously. Some might say that you cannot destroy a concept like the salary cap with a baseball bat while blasting rap music in a field with crazy coworkers, but I’m a pretty resourceful girl. I’ll find a way. So if you’re interested, pick a date and time. I’ll bring a bat if you provide the rap music. I only have classic rock and show tunes, neither of which is going to cut it. Really though, the salary cap isn't all that different from that fax machine. They're both ineffective and cause everyone involved excessive amounts of frustration. I'd be doing a favor to hockey fans everywhere. Especially Wings fans.

Anyway, I came back from my wilderness sabbatical to discover that Mikael Samuelsson had departed for the Canucks. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little bit happy to see him go. I mean, if he had been willing to stay for the salary he was making last year, I would’ve welcomed him back, especially in light of the Wings’ other free agent departures, but in a salary cap world, it’s hard to justify paying him as much as he’s getting. Personally, I would’ve negotiated a contract with him that correlated his salary to the percentage of his shots that actually hit the net. At least the good folks in Windsor won’t find themselves ducking every time Sammy winds up for a slap shot. It’s important to note that I don’t hate Sammy. It’s just that he’s so easy to mock. Sometimes it’s like he’s asking for it. Truth be told, he was directly responsible for one of my greatest moments as a Wings fan when his OT winner against Chicago brought a happy ending to my first playoff game. That’s not to say that I haven’t spent hours complaining about him manning the point on the powerplay or whizzing lasers over the goalie’s head into the glass. Sometimes I wondered if they had to install extra-strength glass behind the goals when Sammy joined the team. There might even be moments when I miss yelling, “duck!” at the TV when he winds up or laughing at him when he’s jawing with other players. But mostly I resigned myself a while ago to the fact that he was leaving and, upon that realization, discovered that I wasn’t really all that broken up about his departure. This off-season is actually a little bit weird, as I’m usually disappointed to see guys leave, but I haven’t found myself particularly sad about any of the free agent losses.

Upon my return, I was also informed that the Wings had re-signed Ville Leino. This was probably the first good hockey-related news I’d heard in a month. Literally. Game 5 was on June 6th. Hopefully Leino can step up and pick up some of the slack left by the other free agent losses. His first goal as a Wing still blows my mind. The one thing I do find troubling is the fact that, according to Ken Holland, Leino “lost interest” in playing in Grand Rapids halfway through the season. I understand that everyone would much rather be playing in the NHL, but it just doesn’t sound very Wing-like. With any luck he’ll be more enthusiastic now that he’s going to be a regular.

The other big event of the weekend was that Jiri Hudler has filed for arbitration. This is both good and bad news. If nothing else, it prevents anyone else from tossing a lucrative offer sheet at him and luring him away. On the other hand, from what I’ve heard, arbitration is a nasty process and I can’t imagine it’s a good thing to go to. Kenny Holland mentioned that he’s never gone to arbitration with a player since he’s been GM, so hopefully he and Hudler can work something else out before it comes to that. It’s no secret that I’m quite fond of Huds. Seriously, just looking at his face makes me laugh. There’s something about his anime-esque features that just causes me to giggle. I’d be very, very sad to have that joy taken out of my life.

In other news, the Wings have once again parted ways with Darren McCarty. It was great to see the guy back in the Winged Wheel the last couple of years. I always had a soft spot for him. In his honor, I leave you with this:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Free Agency and the Salary Cap...

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.