May 10, 2010
(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The fans who hated them the most. Here is Chicago Blackhawks blogger Sam Fels of the Committed Indian and Second City Hockey, fondly recalling the Detroit Red Wings.)
By Sam Fels
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have gathered here today to
wildly celebrate, die laughing at, vomit with joy mourn the end of the Detroit Red Wings' season. We have a defibrillator on hand, as Pierre McGuire is due to have seven simultaneous strokes now that he has no one left to slurp.
What a strange season it's been for our friends in Michigan. All year, they assured us that when the time was right and the health returned, the Wings could "turn it on."
But what they've found is the same thing most middle age men have found: That no matter how healthy you feel, sometimes you can't just turn it on; and then you're left babbling and apologizing to your company for the evening, wondering if your life is over now that you can't satisfy.
Now their fanbase is left to feel the dejection, dissatisfaction and longing that most middle-aged women feel. Oh sure, you'll tell your partner that it's OK, it happens to everyone, and that you don't care about such things. But deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you'll begin to wonder about younger companions, about the endurance and quality that you could have from someone who isn't huffing and puffing like Tomas Holmstrom(notes) or Brian Rafalski(notes).
Although, based on his play, Rafalski appears more than happy to directly turn you over to someone more willing and able.
Ah, the promise of younger companions. Isn't that what you told us would happen? Ville Leino(notes) was going to redefine the wing position, wasn't he? And what did the Wings-hugging media base those assumptions on? The fact that he was Scandinavian and a Wing? Is that all the research you did? Surely no one predicted that he'd be a healthy scratch for the Flyers most of the time.
Some younger men aren't all they are cracked up to be. Justin Abdelkader(notes)? Would have been in Grand Rapids (which is a step up from the city of Detroit, quality-of-life-wise) if not for injuries.
But that's OK, we're sure they're budding legends -- all the Wings-slurpers told us so.
If only the Wings woes could be merely blamed on underperforming youngsters. Counting on Todd Bertuzzi(notes) and Patrick Eaves(notes) to take up the scoring slack that left for Chicago, Vancouver and Russia this past summer was always folly on a
fat-guy-climbing-the-stairs opening-a-six-pack-in-the-car buying-drugs-from-a-clown Sarah Palin-with-her-finger-on-the-button level.
Oh, how you gushed during Big Bert's patented goal-rush in December. How many did he score after that? Two? Did it matter?
And this refereeing conspiracy you've fantasized: Even if it were true, you'd deserve it for signing the one player who almost single-handedly crippled the sport. And you know it. You could drive your guilt through the gap in his bottom teeth with a car your city can no longer afford to make. The thinking was always that putting on the famous Winged Wheel inspires players -- so much so that you tried it twice with Bert and Jason Williams(notes).
So much for inspiration.
The injuries, you say? Funny how that gets pulled out now, but before the playoffs it was all "We're the freshest team!" or "It doesn't matter our speed, we're healthy and experienced now!"
Now it's "We lacked chemistry from injuries" or "Our rhythm was screwed up due to the ever-changing lineup."
Convenient, no? Once again, you sound like the middle-aged male blaming it on stress at work or too much whiskey. Time for the blue pill, sirs?
And Jimmy Howard(notes). A marvelous rookie season, no doubt. But isn't it strange that when the Wings go to the playoffs with a rookie goalie, it's because they're geniuses and have just unearthed another gem? But when the Bruins or Hawks do so -- with goalies that have superior or similar numbers to Howard's, mind you -- it's because they are clueless, unprepared organizations?
Oh wait: There was absolutely no chance he could have helped! Because it's 2010, and he's Chris Osgood.
Your creaking defense couldn't hold up. Your dives and screens and picks didn't gather your usual advantages.
It was the refs, you say? You may not be familiar with this, Wings fans, it's been so long: But refs call dumb penalties. And you took a boatload of them. Now look at you: Shouting at the rain. Sad, indeed.
But let's indulge you for a second. Let's say an organization such as the NHL decides that they have had enough of its most marketable and signature franchise. One that sells jerseys in every city and has the biggest traveling support in the league, and that....oh wait, THAT'S GALACTICALLY STUPID!!!
I guess that gets back to the whole "Bertuzzi will work" thing, doesn't it?
Actually, we should be thanking the Wings for one miracle.
Airing out Wings fans in the spring Improving Tigers attendance Savings us from multitudes of "Detroit Needs This" stories.
Think about that. It seems as though every team in the league had a chance at that, and couldn't do it. Once again, the Wings organization has surged to the forefront of everyone in a category that is most challenging. Perhaps you could raise a banner for that?
I mean, Joe [Expletive] Thornton! The guy who, whenever any opposing center skated within five feet of him, looked to the bench and asked "I still get paid if I don't do anything, right?"
And you turned him into a dynamo!
This is more than A-Rod in the playoffs, or Kobe without Shaq. This is Jesus-level. The dude doesn't even want to play, and you let him put you out.
I'd laugh, but all of this probably means the world is about to end.
Is the Wings dynasty dead?
Methinks no, Ken Holland is too smart for that. But the Visigoths are at the door, in the form of Blackhawks or Kings, and there's always your conquerors, the Sharks. The upstart Coyotes, who made Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) look silly for a good part of the first round.
Will Lidstrom finally take his family back to Sweden (and really, why would anyone want to live in Sweden instead of Detroit? Can't think of a reason. A cold, vast land clad in darkness for a majority of the year vs. a bevy of leggy, hot blondes. Can't imagine how hard that choice must be).
Has Tomas Holmstrom blotted out his last sun? Hard to say. There's still Franzen -- assuming he's done bitching to officials -- and Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Maybe Kronwall becomes the player we're all told he is but have never seen. Maybe Rafalski won't look exposed without Lidstrom; maybe Congress would pass a universal health care this century. You never know.
So, for the first time in three years, Wings fans will have to watch hockey after their team is done. We know it's strange, and you probably won't. After all, you've got letters to Bettman to write, and weepy love songs about bad officiating to sing, and more people to find to blame for your loss than the actual players who simply just spit it.
And Draper can go heal Maltby. Zetterberg can continue to wonder why he bothered if no one else was going to. Franzen can revel in all the playoff points he scored that mattered not a jot. Rafalski can work on his golf game, though he's clearly better at setting up those he is playing against.
We know it'll be strange for you, and uncomfortable, and you'll feel like you'd want to be doing anything else.
Now you know how all of us feel when we pass a sign that says, "Welcome to Detroit."
Wings golf logo via reader Brian.