So just over a week ago I left the desert, and the world of hockey fandom, briefly to visit the Pacific Northwest. Brother was graduating college, which for me was probably my own personal peak of achievement so I was happy to share his with him. Very proud of the guy and I feel I need not mention I watched zero hockey whilst using him as a middle man to treat myself to amazing food and music. What did I miss? Only two of Jimmy Howard’s more dominant performances. Justin Abdelkader with a hat trick (he now has more regular season career hat tricks than Pavel Datsyuk. Ouch). Drew Miller moved up to the Zetterberg line…curious. A total meltdown by the Anaheim Ducks featuring this little .GIF that made my twitter-following-of-the-action so worth it.
I arrived back in the desert Monday night, just in time to drive straight from Sky Harbor in Phoenix to Jobing.com Arena, the Joe Louis of the West, 45 minutes away (in case you don’t know why hockey won’t work in the desert, the arena location is a big part of the problem). I was excited Howard was on a roll but was terrified to see Jonas Gustavsson starting. The Monster, in person. The dude was everywhere. I think he spent more time out of the blue paint than in it. To say he is unorthodox is to say outer space is chilly. I think I saw him scuff the half boards with his skates, sliding on his back into boards, during a Phoenix 2-on-1. But I can’t be sure. Anyway, he played a heck of a game and that penalty shot, a ridiculous call, put him in a bad spot but he came up huge.
The San Jose game then was the first game I have watched at home from my couch since the Wild fiasco. And it seems like the world righted itself, and we were back to the 2013 Red Wings all of a sudden. Odd how the pieces fit together and all I had to do was get back to my spot on the couch. Pavel dangled people off their skates. The team had no traffic and shot nearly every time from the point. Easy saves for Niemi. The only chances that were worth anything featured a Shark all over our forwards (no calls, of course) and a bouncing puck. What. The. Hell. And by game’s end, the comments were even back to normal! “Embarrassing,” “pathetic,” and “not a playoff team” quotes filled my twitter feed.
Then the DeKeyser build up. Holy crap. If you followed Wings fans during this unbearable waiting period, I don’t blame you if you ended up finding a new team to follow. I get it, we want and should sign the kid. It makes sense. But it is not the end of the world if he does not sign. Furthermore, calling for Holland’s head if he cannot seal the deal and saying he has lost a step is a bit hyperbolic. Everyone is a GM. I get that. Everyone would have signed Suter and Parise and thrown caution to the wind and ditched Franzen and probably given up half the farm to get Rick Nash too. Very cool. But it gets tiring.
And I understand Ray Shero is now crowned the greatest GM of our time, but let us not forget he hasn’t won the Cup yet. And, as I recall, in the last 5 years he is no more successful than our guy Ken Holland. The only two Cups between the two were decided in a battle between the two Organ-I-sations. Furthermore, blockbuster trades and landing big time free agents doesn’t make one a great GM. Or even a good one (see also: Mike Milbury).
I have also had a bit of trouble wrapping my brain around why people wanted Mr. I, Jim Nill’s mustache, and Ken Holland to put so much forth in the off-season and throughout this season in terms of big name free-agents and trades. It has been very anti-climactic this year, almost excruciatingly so, we all agree, but we also need to remember this is not a very representative year for judging a team, an organization, a direction, or even a rookie class. It is a short, compact, weird season. Not to mention we are packing up and moving East for a while next season. Don’t think Ken Holland wasn’t thinking 3 moves ahead this last offseason and may have seen this coming. The Lockout, the Realignment, I mean.
But things may be turning around. We got DeKeyser. We have bargaining chips as we approach the deadline. People are slowly getting healthy. Jimmy is a stud. And Ken Holland doesn’t live in a goddamn cave. We may just be okay here, gang. I think there are three key indicators that will be very telling to where we stand as a contender: Our game against the Blackhawks tomorrow; Our moves at the deadline (and don’t give me this “YOU BLEW IT HOLLAND!” if you don’t get the guy you want); and my ability to get off my couch and travel and avoid watching, like I did in 2011 when we won 3 straight vs. San Jose.