Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Why I Still Love Tulips

The tulip is, of course, the flower of Holland, and as far as I'm concerned, Kenny Holland is still the flower of Detroit sports. Yes, I have faith in Kenny, and that faith is still unshaken, despite the events of the past few days. Even the last few years. I love KH. In Kenny, I trust.

Let me explain-- no, it is too much. Let me sum up.

This free agency period has been a big, fat, puss-filled moose dick of a disappointment. Zach Parise can suck it. I could care less about where he signed (as long as it wasn't Pittsburgh), but I wanted Ryan Suter. I wanted him bad. In this year's market, he was the best chance we had for a top-pairing D-man who could step into Nick Lidstrom's skates and humiliate himself the least by the comparison. But he stiffed us to sign with the non-contending, WTF-was-he-thinking Minnesota Wild. Kenny failed to sign the big names. So, shame on him, right?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Look! Over There! Is That Hockey Season?!?!

Like any fabulous and fashionable celebrity guest, I'm arriving late for the party. Along with my entourage of toadying fans, slavish hangers-on, and arrogant upstarts (read: my dogs), we (read: me and my tapeworm) are just tickled pink to be back to doing what we do best (read: slacking off, lazing around, and ditching anything remotely resembling being constructive). So in preparation for tonight's exciting match-up vs. the undefeated Washington Capitals, here's the super-condensed Red, White & Black-n-Blue summary of the season so far:
  • Game 1:  Season opener at home against Ottawa. OTT 3 - DET 5
    • The Wings surged to an early lead, sucked on the PP, and squandered the 5-0 tally during the 3rd in a scene reminiscent of... oh... all of last season by playing as if we didn't really need to worry until, oh look, they have 3 goals. How the hell did that happen? Thankfully, we held on largely do to the performance of our bottom 2 lines and our top defensive pairing, both of whom manged to get their names on the scoreboard.
  • Game 2:  DET 3 - COL 0
    •  Conks rocked the block, earning the first shutout of the season and giving Jimmy the inspiration for his own next performance. Conklin really did put on a great show, especially in the first when the Wings took a little bit to find their legs and get it going. If that's the way he plans to play this season, I say, "Welcome back, Ty. Make yourself at home."
    • The Mule fed early, getting the lone goal in the 1st, and the Eurotwins power activated for the other two tallies of the game.
  • Game 3:  VAN 0 - DET 2
    • Jimmy Howard took up the challenge laid down by his backup in the previous game, turning in a stellar performance including two amazing saves on the D- variety Sedin at the close of the 1st period and two blanks on breakaways in the 2nd.
    • Abby drew first blood after catching a beautiful cross-ice pass from Bert in the 2nd while Pavel distracted the goalie, the defenseman and quite likely the hotdog vendors on the concourse with a drive up the middle.
    • Fil scored the second goal with a one-timer off a gorgeous give-and-go dance routine with Franzen. It looks like swapping those two at wing and center might have some juice to it after all.
  • Game 4: DET 3 - MIN 2 (OT)
    • Of course, I missed the first OT game of the year, so busy was I playing the dutiful friend and maid-of-honor checking out potential wedding venues when I could have been watching the Wings. It's not always easy being an amazing best friend, let me tell you.
    • Anyway, since I didn't see this one on my own, I don't have much to say except that I'm glad to see the Mule seems to be taking the regular season seriously so far, which is a relief. I love that he comes alive during the playoffs, but I'd like to see him at least exhibit a heartbeat before then.
  • Game 5: CBJ 2 - DET 5
    • This one I took in start-to-finish, and let me tell you the best thing about the night was seeing the Power Play figure out how to tell their asses from their elbows, going 3-for-4 with the man advantage, including one 5-on-3 in the third. The Mule himself scored on the first two of them, coincidentally the first two power play chances of the game.
    • Mule and Bambi showed more of the magic of their new switchoff, turning in 3 and 4 pt nights, respectively. Mule had the 2 PPGs plus an assist on Fil's lone goal, while Filppula registered assists on both of Franzen's goals as well as on Lidstrom's 3rd period PPG.
And that's where we stand, a 5-0 start for the first time since 1972. Not too shabby. Tonight we face a challenge, heading into D.C. for a match up against the similarly undefeated Washington Capitals (6-0 to start). Not only is it a meeting for two of the top teams in the league, but it marks Fabian Brunnstrom's regular season Wings debut and the 1500th career game for Nicklas "The Perfect Human" Lidstrom. Bow your head and recognize your insignificance, please.

Trust me, I'll be watching this game if it kills me. And it really, really, really has that potential.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hockey! Hockey! The Greatest Game in the Land!

Yes, I am, indeed, walking around the house today singing the climactic musical number from Score: A Hockey Musical. And why shouldn't I? It's an anthem and a statement of devotion, the kind of devotion I have for the Detroit Red Wings.

Months, years, lifetimes have passed (for fruit flies) since we last saw our boys, our real boys, take the ice and I, for one, am jonesing like a crackhead for more of that sweet, red and white candy, the kind only Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom can provide.

The roster has changed. Rafi's gone, and we'll definitely miss him; Draper is up in the office, and I still haven't stopping weeping over that one. But Ozzie is whispering in Jimmy's ear, and we've got fresh faces and fresh legs and nothing but smooth ice and open nets in front of us. Now let's show everyone how old we really are:

Twenty years... and counting.

Let's Go Red Wings!!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fall Is in the Air

It's almost hockey season. I know this because here in the Pacific Northwest, the weather went from 90 degrees to 60 degrees in 3.7 seconds. Last week, I was running the A/C and supplementing the air circulation with fans, while yelling at the dogs for letting the heat in through their dog door; today, I'm curling up on the sofa under a chenille blanket, sipping coffee, and wondering if I'm motivated enough to get up and close the window I opened to get some fresh air in here. But really, none of that is important. Only one thing is important.

It's almost hockey season!!!

Today, the Red Wings started Training Camp in Traverse City, getting their physicals out of the way before traveling back to Detroit tomorrow for Brad McCrimmon's funeral service (My thoughts and prayers are with Beast's family and loved ones during this horrific time). On Sunday, Camp will start for real, with practices and scrimmages in preparation for a year full of changes for the Wings. It's about time.

After a tragic summer, I can't wait for hockey to help us all remember how much we love life, the sport, and the Red Wings.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Off-Season Off Loading

Well, okay, we had a hockey season. Not exactly the one I wanted, but still one that made me proud of the boys in red and white. I'd have liked to kick SJ's ass, but we can't always get what we want, can we? (Though, if we can, sign me up for a few millions bucks, would you?)

So here we are, in the deep, dark depths of the off season, sucking out every tidbit of Wings news like marrow from a roasted beef bone (yummmmm) while Boston fondles that which is rightfully ours. In the 69 days since the Wings last played, one or two significant things have happened. And since I know you're all dying to hear my take on all of them, here it is:
  • Nick Lidstrom signed for one more year: Thank Jesus
  • Rafalski unexpectedly hung 'em up: This one was like a kick to the dentures--it came out of nowhere, drew blood and left me wondering what the hell had happened. Personally, I'd been braced for the possibility of Nick putting family before career, but Rafi caught me by surprise. Having seen his injuries over the last couple of years, though, it began to make a sad sort of sense. I'll miss the poetry of his passes, but I can't deny that the blueline needed a retool. His departure gave us a lot of room to do that.
  • Ericsson resigned for 3 years and mad money: That is, money that made me mad. Which left me, not doubting Kenny precisely, but at least wondering if there might be something more interesting than water in his bottle. Hopefully, Shitbox can live down his nickname and start living up to the expectations the organization obviously has for him.
  • We signed a man with hair like Bozo the Clown: This was a move that made me go, "Huh." Not what I'd been expecting, but interesting nonetheless. Mike Commodore brings a physical dimension to the back end that we've been lacking at times, and after the last couple of years, he's got something to prove to his detractors. That often works out well for us. Hopefully, it will again.
  • We signed a defector: Not one from the now defunct Soviet Union this time, but from the bowels of Purgatory, also known as San Jose (Chicago, of course, being Hell itself). Ian White was another interesting acquisition. He's fairly young and not a big guy, but he's another player with the potential to reach a new level in his career if he can click with the Detroit system. I'ma keep an eye on this one. Even if his nose is two sizes to small for his face.
  • We replaced two voices behind the bench: With Paul MacLean and Brad McCrimmon both choosing to move on from Detroit and explore career options in exciting new places like Ottawa and Russia, the Red Wings have had a bit of an overhaul behind the bench. I'm cautiously optimistic that this might be the biggest and best development of the off season. I think Mike Babcock was onto something when he said he'd started to feel like Charlie Brown's teacher in the locker room this past season. Hopefully adding Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters will allow for fresh translations of the wah-wah-wah chorus and spark some new energy in a squad that's had perhaps too much time to get comfy with each other.
  • The wizard behind the curtain has dropped the curtain for good: The Wizard of Oz is going back to Kansas. Well, actually, Chris Osgood is only moving to the Red Wings offices as a goalie scout and development guy. This is sad news for those of us who loved the Dennis the Menace doppleganger for all of his ups and down, but it's great news for the kids coming up through the Detroit goalie pipeline. Ozzie's role as a mentor has been a huge influence on Jimmy Howard, and he's got the kind of mental toughness and team-first mentality that will hopefully make the difference in turning kids like McCollum into real NHL goalies. I'll miss Ozzie, but I'm glad he's sticking with the club. He's part of Detroit after all these years, and I'd hate to see him leave us completely.
  • The Conkblock returned to Detroit: I'm fine with this. Conklin was good for us in the year he spent behind Ozzie. He's okay with being a 2nd stringer, he can play well when he's called upon, and he's cheap. These all add up to a sensible decision on Kenny's part. Plus, he's not bad to look at. Okay by me.
So with all those moves and grooves, I'm left with only one big question mark punctuating my summer: What's up with Kris Draper?

I think it's pretty much a given that Draper will be calling it quits before the season starts, though I'm sure he'll be doing it reluctantly (that man just loves to play). Hell, I'm reluctant to see it. I LOVE that man. LOVE. HIM. An original Grind Line-r, the most amazing deal in NHL history (The $1 Man...seriously, how sweet was that trade?), the man who gave his face for the franchise, and the best forward mentor a locker room has ever seen... How could I not love #33?

Unfortunately, he's done his job of bringing along the kids just a little too well. He helped mold Helm into what he is today... Draper's replacement. #43 is younger and even faster than his mentor and his hands are developing nicely, giving him the potential to turn into more of a goal scorer than Draper ever was while he's still at the beginning of his career. I'll hate seeing Draper go, but he's leaving us with a worthy successor. And if Kenny Holland isn't actually boozing it up in the front office, they'll find a place for Draper in the franchise, whether it's as a conditioning coach, a forward development guy, or some level of coach. As much as Ozzie is, Kris Draper is part of the fabric of Detroit.

And that makes us a lucky buncha bastards.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

You Can Take the Girl Out of the Vatican...

Maybe this all traces back to my Irish-Italian Catholic (on my mother's side... Dad's a protestant Scot all the way) roots, but I feel the need to make confession. To bare my soul, reveal my sins, and begin the increasingly short road to the playoffs with a clean conscience. After all, if I say 4 Hail Marys, 10 Our Fathers and light 2 candles, the goat sacrifices and premeditated murder get waved off, right?

Generally, as a Red Wings fan, I know myself to be the purest of hockey-hearted humans. After all, my team epitomizes class among professional athletes. The organization sets the standard for all other NHL franchises. We have Nicklas Frickin' Lidstrom, for gods' sakes. What in the world could I have to feel guilty about?

Well, it's not a long list, but here it is...

I want the Red Wings to win Every. Single. Game.
I know, I know, it's not realistic. It's not even possible, given the nature of the sport, the frailty of the human body, and the existence of Jonathan Ericsson, but this wish doesn't come from my rational forebrain. It's wholly a product of my animal--nay, my reptilian--hindbrain. The stem that keeps my heart beating, my lungs inflating, and Red and White circulating in my veins. Mea Culpa.

I still haven't forgiven Jiri Hudler.
To the reptilian hindbrain, he committed the unpardonable sin--he left Detroit. And it wasn't so much that he left, it was that he left for money. Filthy lucre. I forgave Shanny for leaving, because he needed a place where he could be the leader of a new surge, not a leftover from the shadow of Steve Yzerman. But Jiri was just a greedy little sonofabitch. He got a good offer--an offer an arbitrater agreed was fair--and he walked away for cash. That pisses me off. Plus, when he came back it took 2/3 of the season to make himself useful. He's still got work to do to win me over. If he ever can.

I'm in Awe of the Talented Star on the Team, but My Heart Belongs to the Grinders.
No one can take anything away from Pavel or Hank or Nick. My God, those guys are superstars; thankfully, the kind of superstars who don't feel the need to point that out to everyone around them. My jaw drops in awe when Pasha dangles his way to yet another highlight reel goal; I shake my head in amazement while watching TPH make defensive hockey look effortless; I ooh and aah when Hank fends of a seeming army of opposing skaters to keep the puck and take the shot. When my knees really get weak, though, is when Draper teaches the meaning of the word hustle to a cocky eighteen-year-old on the visiting team, or when Helm kills off 30 seconds of penalty time single-handedly, or when Abby stands someone up as if he was a second pairing defenseman instead of a 4th line forward. Those are the players who put stars in my eyes, and those are the ones I'll be rooting for the loudest.

I Actually Like Todd Bertuzzi.
There. I said it. And I meant it, damn it. Yes, I've seen The Hit. Many times. It was cheap, and it was ugly, and it never should have happened. But you know what? I've also seen the apology and the tears and the sincerity of the regret. I've seen a man who has grown the hell up, who went from being a power forward with too much ego and a hot head to a responsible two-way player who's just grateful everyday for the chance to play hockey. I see a man who lives every day knowing his life with never go back to the way it was Before, but who does his best to move on and be a better, more responsible guy than he used to be. And I see a guy who recognizes that becoming a Red Wing (for the 2nd time) was both the smartest thing he ever did, and the best gift he's ever been given. I can respect that. So go ahead and give me shit for this. I can take it. But I'm not gonna change my mind.

There. Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. The kicker is, though, that I don't regret a single bit of it. So maybe my soul isn't going to be all that cleansed by this. Oh, well. You'll all be invited to visit me in my cute little condo with a view of the river Styx. Hell has the best parties, anyway.

Let's Go Red Wings!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Language of Numbers - Part III

The continuing stoooooooooory of my personal and judgmental views on what the sweater you wear says about you as a human being. And more importantly, as a Wings fan...
  • #51 - Filppula - It's all about potential. About flashes of brilliance and the next generation. You appreciate skill, and you have the patience to wait for it to develop. But you may find yourself on your feet shouting "Need More Shoot!" from time to time.
  • #52 - Ericsson - You like... um, wait.... You respect... er, no... You're all about... *sigh* no, I can't explain this one. Unless you're the kind of woman who can be won by a pretty face to the extent that you don't care about the space between the ears. Either that, or your bought your jersey during the '08-09 playoffs and you can't being yourself to discard something you spent $300 on.
  • #55 - Kronwall - Oh, but nothing turns you on like a clean, hard, tooth-rattling, bone-shaking, open ice hit. The kind the receiving team dreads, the opposing fans hate, and in which the officials (if they actually read the rulebook) can find nothing to call. Too bad you can barely remember what one of those looks like.
  • #81 - Hossa - I only include this because I've seen them. And all I can say is... stupidity?
  • #90 - Modano - I can respect an open-minded man (or woman), and you're one of those. You know Kenny always knows what he's doing and you're happy to show respect for probably the greatest American hockey player of all time, even if he is the new guy. At least he wears the right colors now.
  • #93 - Franzen - When a guys gets a nickname from Stevie Y, he carries it to his grave. Or right into the net, like the Mule does. You like a big man with big talent. and you've got the patience to sit through the occasional slump in exchange for the glory of the 5-goal games.
  • #96 - Holmstrom - You're a Wings fan. End of story. If you wouldn't consider wearing this number, then, God, Jed*, I don't even wanna know you.
So you may agree, you may disagree, and you may have ideas of your own. You wanna let me know what you think? Leave a comment.

*Everything in life is a reference to The West Wing, if you just know where to look.