Archive for August 25, 2008

Red Wings strengthen their position in more ways than one this offseason

Posted in Uncategorized, Wing Talk with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2008 by wingnut08

Many people who don’t know the Detroit Red Wings or the organization and how it works will look at some of the off-season moves that were made this year and say something like “there go the rich getting richer” or “the Red Wings are like the Yankees of the NHL”.  But us Wingnuts know that those statements couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s more like “the smart getting smarter” and “luck is when consistent hard work meets up with opportunity”.  The entire Red Wings organization is at the top of its class. 

The Red Wings top brass have to operate under the same challenges as everyone else in the league; they just have developed a better way to fit 50 pounds of talent into a 10 pound bag.  They’re not just opening up the checkbook and throwing money around like eccentric tycoons.  Like everyone else they have to control expenses and they have to continue to develop new talent.  That’s brilliant business sense and savvy management.   

We could easily say without any guilt “success breeds success”.  Years of hard work and smart management have brought this organization to a culture of success.  And successful talented players recognize and seek out more success.  Having the opportunity to add Marian Hossa to the roster was like Christmas in July.  The Red Wings picking up a premiere power forward like Hossa can be compared to Bobby Flay’s agent asking you if it would be alright if Bobby joined your Championship Memphis Barbecue team.  Oh yeah, and by the way Bobby is willing to accept less money to do so.

I can’t speak for any other Wingnuts out there but as the Stanley Cup Finals were progressing I was not all that impressed with Sid the Kid.  Don’t get me wrong Crosby has incredible talent and skills but I wasn’t afraid of him blowing open a game.  Sykora and Malkin had obvious problems overcoming our suffocating defense combining for only 2 goals in the finals.

However, having said all that the only Penguin who had me squirming in my easy chair was Marian Hossa.  He was the one Penguin who I felt could change the outcome of a game in a blink of an eye.  Come on, didn’t we all squirm on the last play of the final game?  Fleury’s out of the net, they’ve got an extra attacker on the ice, Hossa’s coming in on Ozzy with just seconds left, he gets the puck with a chance to tie the game and send us into OT?  He’s still pressing hard when the clock reads :00.0.  That’s exciting stuff!  Hollywood couldn’t have scripted that any better.  I’m just glad he’s on our side now.

How about picking up Ty Conklin, in the wake of the Dom-inator’s retirement, who was called up by the Penguins in December ’07 to fill in for Marc-Andre Fleury when he was injured.  Just 3 weeks into his tour of duty he posted his first shutout against Buffalo in a 1-0 contest.  He also won the Winter Classic in a shootout on New Years day also vs. Buffalo.  He stopped 36 shots in regulation and overtime and then two of three shots in the shootout.  He stopped 50 shots on goal against the Islanders back in February and ended the regular season ranking 2nd in the League with a .923 save percentage, just .001 behind the league leader, Nashville’s Dan Ellis.

And Ken Holland had enough under the salary cap to re-sign key defensmen Andreas Lilja and Brad Stuart.  Andreas Lilja the 6’3″ 230 Swedish defensemen who was drafted in the 2nd round by the Los Angeles Kings in 2000, came to the Wings when he signed as a free agent in the summer of 2005.  Lilja is a big, strong present on the ice and can deliver some wicked hits.  Stuart, who expressed his desire to stay on a winning team, brings the rugged experience of a veteran defensemen to the table.  Together with Niklas Kronwall, in the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, the pair made a destructive tandem often disrupting and frustrating the opposition’s top scorers.  Stuart led the Wings in the playoffs with 59 total hits.

Talk about ‘strengthening’ your position, the Red Wings announced they re-signed enforcer Aaron Downey the tough as nails boxer…uh, I mean right winger to a one year contract on Wednesday.  Aaron learned his hard work ethic growing up on a potato farm and uses the lessons he learned there to guide him throughout his life.  He keeps physically sharp by training with a boxer in the off-season and hits the heavy bag on a regular basis.  This explains his proficiency during his ice-fights!

Another big move was re-signing restricted free agent Valtteri Filppula to a five-year deal.  Filppula was an important piece of the 2008 Stanley Cup puzzle, scoring 5 goals with 6 assists and he was a plus-7.  During the regular season Filppula, 24, scored 19 goals with 17 assists and a plus-16 rating.  His contract runs through the 2012 – 2013 season.

The strengthening process doesn’t end there.  The Red Wings are rich with prospects, young guys just iching to get a chance to step up and make a difference.  Playoff experienced and battle tested Darren Helm tops the list of young prospective talent.  Then there’s Center Joakim Andersson, Defensemen Jonathan Ericsson and Brendan Smith and Goalies Jimmy Howard and Thomas McCollum. 

As Red Wings GM Ken Holland told “I don’t think we have to rush anybody. That’s one of our strengths.”  That’s quite a position to be in, but the Wings top brass didn’t just get lucky.  You don’t just get lucky year after year after year.  They’ve done their homework year in and year out, they’ve made extremely smart decisions and they employ a superior mentoring system that is recognized as one that seems to make players better just by wearing a Red Wings uniform. 

Preseason starts September 24th at the Joe against the Canadiens and the regular season begins October 9th also at home against the Maple Leafs.  I’m getting stoked, can’t wait, how about you?