Thursday, June 05, 2008

Z, Ozzie, Babcock's hair and other post Stanley Cup thoughts

1. Last night cemented in my mind, once and for all, who's the best player in the NHL. Henrik Zetterberg is the best human hockey player in the world, Savior Sid be damned. (Excluding Nick Lidstrom, of course. He's scarily inhuman in his effectiveness.) Hockey is a two way game, and Sidney Crosby is still a one way player. You can never say that about Zetterberg. (Or most any Red Wing forward, for that matter.)

When the Wings needed to kill a 5 on 3, Z was the one Wings forward on the ice. Whenever the Penguins were on the penalty kill, any kill, Crosby was comfortably ensconced on the bench. I think that says it all.

When a game/series/title is on the line, your best players have to be on the ice as much as possible. Zetterberg, and this goes for Pavel Datsuyk as well, can be used on the ice at any time, in any situation. Even the great Steve Yzerman had to learn to be a two way player, as did the Wings' wonder twins. Once Crosby learns that, the NHL best look out...

2. I've read that some find the Red Wings' style of play "boring" and "machine-like." To be honest, I find the old school dump and chase style of hockey excruciating to watch. To me, watching the Red Wings possess the puck, their speed combined with precision tape to tape passing, resulting in an offense that's always a threat to score from anywhere inside the opposition blue line, is how hockey is supposed to be played. They are the closest thing around to the go-go, high scoring NHL teams of the 80's.

I hope this past series, between a pair of teams that believe in puck possession instead of the obsolete dump and chase, is the future of the NHL. I love the rough stuff as much as anyone, and there should always be a place for fighting in the NHL. But I prefer even more the long stretches of end to end action, with a constant barrage of scoring chances. If this is the future of the NHL, the league will be in good shape.

If you didn't enjoy this series, you'll never be a fan of the game.

3. Say what you will about the Red Wings as an organization in regard to their off the ice activity (They tend to take their fans for granted, ticket prices are outrageously high, do little in the way of promotion), when it comes to their on ice product, there may not be a better run team in sports.

Yes, the Wings had an definite competitive advantage when they could outspend nearly every team. They could throw money at their mistakes, fix roster issues on the fly. But have that advantage taken away, yet still remain elite in the salary cap era? That is a mind-boggling accomplishment by GM Ken Holland.

A well run franchise is a well run franchise, salary cap be damned. The Red Wings are primed to stay at the top of the NHL, considering they will be approximately $16 million (!) under the salary cap going into the off season. They will be able to pay their own free agents and extend Zetterberg, yet still be able to make a splash in free agency if they feel the need. (For example, you know the Sabres are scared to death the Wings are going to make a run at Ryan Miller after next season.)

Could Detroit sign an impact player this summer, like a Mats Sundin? Say a Marian Hossa? It's not out the question. The rest of the league should be quaking in their skates.

The Red Wings may not win the cup every year, but to be a legitimate title threat every season since the early 90's is an amazing run of pure win.

4. Mike Babcock has amazing hair. Not a strand was out of place last night, even with the champagne spraying everywhere. His hair almost as impressive as his coaching ability, which is really saying something...

5. After watching the Red Wings leave everything on the ice, play insanely hard for 2 months, and winning it all, you can really see where Joe Dumars is coming from in his wanting to shake up the lethargic Pistons.

The Pistons play with such a nonchalance at times, even in the biggest of games, it's almost stomach turning. The Red Wings are the polar opposite, never seeming to give less than 100%. The Pistons only did when...Well, you never knew when they would give their all. Which is we are likely to see a radically different Pistons team in '08-'09.

6. The one player I was really happy for was Chris Osgood, and not only because he can now nail any Downriver puck bunny he sees fit for the rest of his days. Why then? Because you can tell he loves being a Red Wing, it means everything in the world to him to be allowed to wear the winged wheel. You can't say that about many pro athletes...

7. Gary Bettman is, and always will be, an ass.


  1. Did Bettman seem, I don't know, nervous or something during the trophy presentation? He looked to be shaking slightly. My wife remarked on it, and it was mentioned in the Freep boards this morning too. Weird. He looks like pale vampire Kermit. Oh, sure Babcock's hair is nice and all, but as a cueball, it was Z's hair that I admired. manly way, you know.

  2. The Wings do have a lot of cap space this off-season, but with Zet, Franzen, Hudler, Kopecky and Sammy all due raises the following summer, they can only sign 2 players to long-term deals this summer. And those players will be Val Filpulla and Brad Stuart. Filpulla is a RFA so he is almost a lock to come back, and Stuart is a UFA but he is a perfect #4 D-man, and the Wings brass is hoping that he will sign for around 3 to 4 mill a year.

    So, with that said, the Wings can hand out only 1 year deals this summer. Forwards like Mats Sundin and Markus Nausland are veterans who can still play top-6 minutes, and would take one-year deals, so they could potentially be signed. But, again, they will not be able to sign any player to a long-term deal so that will rule out signing a player of the caliber of Hossa who will surely like a nice, long-term deal.

    All in all though, great post. Oh, and Babcock's hair is something to marvel at (in a man-love sort of way). He is in his mid-40's, and has the best head of hair in hockey. I think he has a side career in doing shampoo commercials if he wants to go that route. But, I think Scotty Jr. is too bad ass for that. Man, what a coach.

  3. I noticed the shaking, too.

    My first thought was that he looked like my late grandmother did when the Parkinson's disease started to show.

    It can't be nervousness, I would think - he gets booed in every arena, so he must be used to it by now.

  4. Babcock has the best head of hair in the history of Detroit coaches with one exception: Chuck Daly.

    As for Bettman's jitters, I remember noticing it in 1997 when he presented the Cup to Yzerman. Maybe it's a stagefright thing he hasn't gotten over?

    - Mike