Hi guys, I just wanted to share my opinion (and get your's) of not only this whirlwind of a season - but why I'm more content with our heartbreaking loss as each day passes... I hope it helps you cope too.
First, I just want to say that this season was truly a pleasure to watch even though it ended in OT in a game 7, after being up 3-1 in that series. But the truth is, we should have lost that game at the end of the third and probably overachieved as a playoff team overall. What matters now is what happens moving forward, and know that whoever wins the cup this year will forever have an * placed beside there name due to the lockout.
The first item I take solace in, is that we are now in a much better draft position than we would have been if we scored first in OT last Wednesday night. The final 4 playoff teams draft 27-30 regardless of regular season point totals, instead of 18th (the highest pick we have had since taking Martin Lapointe in 1991). Although this draft is considered top heavy, the pick is still more valuable at 18 as a trade asset or to utilize with the best (european) scouting staff in the NHL... Especially when I start thinking about all of the great players we have drafted since 1991.
Next, the timely elimination also allowed several impact players such as Nyquist, Andersson, And Dekeyser to head back to Grand Rapids and finish off OKC to send our farm team to the Calder Cup Finals for the first time since 1992 (Adirondak). Another positive as any sort of Championship experience makes all of those players better moving forward and collatarally increases there individual value as well. Much easier to include a Jurco, Tatar, Ferrarro in a package for a big name after they are integral parts to a Calder Cup run.
Because of the lockout, we ended our season in the second round at the end of May. Had we moved on, our season could have potentially ended close to July with virtually no time for management to negotiate extensions with any of our free agents before free agency begins. Names including: Filpulla, Cleary, Brunner, Nyquist, Andersson, Smith and Kindl. Completing this process becomes crucial when attracting other potential UFA's wanting to sign with teams that have all of their key pieces locked up... Datsyuk's extension is probably most important when trying to convince a Horton or Clarkson to come here for a few years.
All in all, I think what happened against Chicago was tough to swallow, but probably better for Detroit as an organization moving forward. If we can say that we won a Calder Cup and were one goal away from the Conference Finals in a "rebuilding year" while rostering one of the younger teams in the NHL, (once Bert, White and Sammy are gone), I don't think I'll be complaining, especially one year into the Post #5 era.
Well, it’s been a slice. So many memories and so many big games have been played between our franchises since 1981 when the Western Conference as we know it got fairly well set. Ah, memories both good and bad. Some of you we’ll miss more than others. A few of you we won’t miss at all. In the words of the late Sam Kinison, some of you we hope, “Slide under a gas truck and taste your own blood.” I thought we could take a look back at these last 30 years, the last 20 of which the Wings have carried many of you in conference reputation, into the new age of NHL hockey.
Anaheim – What started out as a ridiculous marketing ploy replete with hideous colors and Pringles duck beaks, has turned into a worthy adversary. Many times in spring our teams have met and many times games went into overtime or were played with ill will. This is as it should be. Plus we took your coach. We won’t miss you because duh Anaheim, but you weren’t dregs either. My favorite memory? Well until these overtime wins this past two weeks it was Brendan Shanahan getting away with clearing your own crease of your own players for you to win the series in 2OT’s in 1997:
Calgary – A wonderful stopping off point on Thursdays before those Saturday night games in Edmonton. Calgary. A few playoff series. Nothing to really connect us over time. Mike Vernon did himself proud in both cities. A good fan base that now has to watch Jiri Hudler suck nightly. We wish you well Saddledomers.
Chicago – Sure most of your players have been assholes and your bandwagon fans insufferable but we are connected by the strongest bond the NHL has. The greatness of this rivalry predates 1981. Ted Lindsay was forced to slum it in Chicago this rivalry is so old. We’ll miss the great stories about Patrick Kane and which cab driver he beat up over 20¢ or where he wandered around the street drunk all night. We’ll miss Crazy Eddie Belfour but Martin Lapointe’s family jewels sure won’t. But since 1981 who could forget your one shining moment and just HOW you chose to celebrate it:
Colorado – Those sure were some good times when your team was all dicks and Joe Sakic huh? Cowards who hit from behind and employ THE worst television announcers was your calling card for the longest time. You did get one thing over on us and that was Uwe Krupp. Man, that one still hurts but maybe not as much as the Wings wrecking your franchise for over a decade after that 7-0 game seven red-assed beat down in 2002. You haven’t been the same franchise since. Oh we’ll miss you but only because we put you in that hospital bed and enjoy pointing and snickering.
Columbus – You’re coming East with us. Another division needed fodder so we could have four of the Original Six in one division. Sure it’s an arranged marriage and you’re getting an Ug-o partner but the Wings need what they need. Put on a new shirt and take a shower for the trip and you’re riding in the trailer.
Dallas – Boy, these anecdotes make me smile. All this harkening back and all. Remember Dallas when the NHL had to come run your rink during the 1998 playoffs because your building gurus forgot the recipe for ice? That choppy, s***ty, bouncy ice you used to provide that by the end of a period looked like on my rink on Lake Louise in Ortonville Michigan on the first 40º day each year. Anyway your Cup title does come with an asterisk shaped like Brett Hull’s foot.
Edmonton – Man was it fun watching your teams in the early 80’s. That was some fun hockey. It changed the game the way the 49ers changed the NFL and Barcelona has changed soccer. We just didn’t think you’d hold onto the Cup like a goddamn Pope. Those two playoff series in the late 80’s were some firewagon hockey weren’t they? Goose Loonies, Petr Klima and hey thanks for Kirk Maltby. One thing we’ll never miss, that goal horn of yours. It’s the worst horn sound there is. It sounds like the last sound you hear just before a bad car accident. There, I said it.
Los Angeles – While we’re on the topic of things you do to piss me off that Eric Cartman shrill ‘Go Kings Go’ chant over the loudspeaker will never be missed. Ever. Never. Anyway, your teams have been a quite colorful pain in our side for the better part of fifteen years. We never know which uniform color scheme you’ll show up in from one week to another (Ask Kings team President Luc Robitaille about the colors on his 2002 Stanley Cup ring) but you’ve also won your share against the Wings. Until last year you were only the Kings of the 10:30pm start. For that reason alone the Kings will look good in the rear-view mirror.
Minnesota – First you were there with Dino Ciccarelli next thing you know you’re in Texas with Derian Hatcher and Mike Modano. Now you’re back in Minnesota with a jack hole owner who bids hundreds of millions of dollars for players he’s about to lock out because signing players to hundreds of millions of dollars is ridiculous. The Wild. LOL, see ya.
Nashville – How you guys kept Boris Bandenov behind your bench coaching all these years while Rocky and Bullwinkle never thought to look in Nashville was genius. Nashville is a fun town. Lots to do. One of the best experiences you can have after a game in an NHL city. But, you’ve been in the league how long and you have NO banners? NONE. ZERO. We understand Columbus, that’s Ohio. Good luck in Kansas City or Portland, write when you find work.
Phoenix – Well, we’d say good luck desert dogs but you, like Nashville may be shoving off to elsewhere. We sure liked you more when you were Winnipeg. The white out was great and a real original thing at the time. Know what was cooler? Kris Draper. Do you realize his four Stanley Cups cost the Red Wings a quarter each? Yep, 25¢ per Stanley. If you bump into Moe Mantha say hi.
San Jose – Is Jamie Baker dead yet? Just asking. We sure played some great playoff series these two teams. You’ve come a long way since you broke into the league in the ‘teal craze’. All those wins, all those playoff appearances, and nothing to show for it. Well, in the future should you actually decide to make the Stanley Cup Final perhaps we can meet again. Because as of this morning we’re burning the road map and no longer know the way to San Jose.
St. Louis – Well old friends, I think we may miss you most of all. All the Probert and Kocur vs. Butcher and Chase and Twist battles. We could always count on a brawl with the Blues. A few playoff series between us, most of which we won but the Blues and their fans were always good. Say hi to the Cavallini brothers and we sincerely hope you break your 1967 jinx but certainly not at our expense. Ah memories of St. Loo:
Vancouver – Have you guys found Dan Cloutier yet? We’re getting a little worried. Did the hippies kill and eat him after your game 7 loss to Boston? Did he fall into a crevasse on Vancouver Island? Let us know when you find him, we like him in Detroit. He could win a city council seat. We’ll miss those 10pm Saturday night starts in old Vancouver town on the CBC. We’ll miss the fawning over the Sedin twins. Wait, no we won’t.
So it’s SO LONG Western Conference, with a tear in our eye and a middle finger out the back window we head east. You’re all still welcome to visit but please use the side door and make sure the neighbors didn’t see you. We’ll be adjusting to our new home and for once dealing with the fact we don’t have the most Stanley Cups in our division.
No this isn't me expecting a last game Wednesday.
I have been lucky enough to cheer for a team where every year was a competetive year. I arrived in Vancouver in 94 just after the riots and was very interested in this game called hockey. My cousin was watching the Canucks play the Wings and he was being all gooey about how this Canucks team was just one win away from winning the 'cup'. What 'cup'? The 'Stanley Cup'! The cup that caused the riots, he says. In the Philippines, we last took a stand and marched the streets, peacefully, for our rights. What is this cup that can cause a riot?
The wings won that day and my cousin was angry. I said to myself: 'I'm gonna cheer for those guys'. I don't want a team that caused riots!.
I go to school and I play hockey for the first time. I passed the puck to my goalie and i scored on my own net. My whole team was dejected but they said 'it's ok, we'll score back'. Although I scored another goal on my own net I remembered what it was like to play the game. I watched highlights on tsn and followed the wings religiously. NHL 91 was my very first video game. NHL 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98 all followed.
I put my faith in the wings. I prayed for them. I cried for them and I trusted in them. Every success they had, I felt, was also my success. I had something to believe in.
96 was a major year for me and all wings fans because this was the Yzerman goal. I remember me sitting down in front of the TV then jumping uncontrollably. It was 'our year'. Finally after losing last year. Then we face the avs and draper gets hit. We lose the series.
I was still in grade school and had been bullied so I just went home, waited for wings highlights and got my taste of success. Then March arrives and mccarty pummels lemieux, scores the winning goal and exacts the full revenge. I felt a sense of euphoria knowing that there's always a next time. We win the cup despite being underdogs to the flyers. I watch vlad's crash video. I was dejected. Next year we play our hearts out after losing a key player and sweep washington. I see Stevie put the cup on vlad's lap and wheel him around while the whole team was behind him. I cried. I get teary eyed even now. They did something more than for themselves. I applied that in my life.
Mediocre years came but I still got to watch hall of fame players wear a wings jersey. Fedorov, larionov, coffey, ciccarelli, vernon, shanny, hull, robitaille, murphy, clark, cujo.
Then 02. Hasek takes us to the finals and during the year I watched Zata and Datsyuk play alongside Hull...i knew they'd be superstars. 08 and 09 come and last year.
I reflect back and realized that I've been very lucky. I watched hall of famers, loved the game and applied everything the wings did, to my life. I go through hard times and know there will be a next time. I go through good times and enjoy it cuz there might never be that chance again. I never regretted anything. Last year was when the last of my childhood heroes left. Lids and homer. I loved them both. Then I look back at this team that they built. They're young and inexperienced still. But, like I did, believed.
In a year that 29 teams would have used to tank and get first pick, we go to second round and take the best team to 7. I never once doubted. I prepared for the worst and always expected the best. It has been a joy to watch the new era carry that torch. In retrospect, we should have been all playing golf after the season. But this team made it possible for more palpatations and for wings fans everywhere to still believe.
The President's trophy team isn't going to lose 4 straight in the playoffs to a 7th seed, with the 4th loss being at home. Game 5 shouldn't have been a surprise. Game 6 was our best chance to close the series. We had the game under control through 40 minutes, then Smith makes a rookie mistake and its tied. Quincey's stick breaks, we're losing. Frolik scores on a penalty shot that was a bad call. It happens, now we have to do it the hard way. Babcock is right to keep Smith in there. Its time to look at the bigger picture here. The experience he's getting from these games will help for many years down the road. Years when we're not the 7th seed trying to beat the top two seeds just to get to the Conference Finals.
You can say they "choked" all you want, but the success they've had in these playoffs will be felt for years. Watching guys like Brunner, Nyquist, Andersson, Howard, and Kindl play in these high pressure games and play well, bodes well for us down the line. Sure Smith is making a lot of mistakes, but he's making some nice plays too and gaining lots of experience. The guy is only 24 years old playing in his first full NHL season. Give him a break. Going into these playoffs I felt like the team had a ton of holes, but after 13 playoff games, I'm not so sure that's the case anymore.