Hey, hey Hockeytown! (Pun intended) How goes it?
Confused? Worried? Incessantly smacking that big red button on the side of this page?
I hear you. Right now, things are a bit…confusing. One night it’s a 5-0 win. The next, we’re getting snowmen pasted on the scoreboards by our divisional opponents. Not quite as consistent as you hoped? Me neither.
And then there’s the media. Sports radio in Detroit is leading the campaign of fire, brimstone and kneejerk panic spreading. The papers question GM Ken Holland’s decisions about goaltending at the trade deadline. Don Cherry puts on his ugliest suit and slings insults at the way the Wings play hockey.
It is indeed a grim time to be a Wings fan.
Wings fans, get with it. You have exactly ONE thing to be sad about when it comes to this organization, and that is the loss of a great hockey ambassador in Colleen Howe. (God Bless You, Mrs. Hockey).
But when it comes to the guys wearing the Winged Wheel, it’s time to wake up, splash some water on your face and take a good long look at what is really going on.
Immediately, most of you reading this are dismissing me as a homer/idiot/ignorant fan/wishful thinker. Fine. You go on worrying about what MIGHT happen next month because of some inconsistent play this month. While you’re at it, please go ahead and worry about what color shirt you will wear next week too. As for me, I already know what color I’ll be wearing: Red. For the Red Wings. Because I’m not worried.
“Again, you’re just a homer/idiot/ignorant fan/wishful thinker.”
Fair enough. But here’s why I’m right. Take it or leave it.
This might be the most ridiculous reason for worry, EVER. Why, you ask?
Imagine, if you will, that you are a sports writer. If you’re a Wings writer, you write the same thing pretty much every year as the squad plods along methodically to the playoffs. The regular season quickly gets taken for granted and you find yourself grasping for a unique and different story angle (“Babcock wears TAN SUIT!”)
On the other side of the coin, those NHL writers who aren’t dedicated to Hockeytown greatness have had to listen to how great this team is for the entirety of the season, trying to find something to harp on.
Then, “8” happened. Twice.
Now all of a sudden, you as a local writer have your ammunition to panic (Wings look like s*#t!!!) and the out-of-market writers have spotted the “chink” in the armor. Commence Operation: Impending Doom and Gloom.
The fact is that every writer writes so people will read. In an 82 game regular season, there will be points where sometimes the only thing worth writing about will stir the masses and create doubt. However, all writers will tell you that they are objective folk just doing their job and writing what they perceive to be the truth. Fair enough. But don’t believe everything you see or hear as all writers (including myself) make mistakes and report a “truth” that doesn’t always come to fruition.
“That’s great, but it’s not the media’s fault.”
OK, so the media didn’t give up those eight goals. Twice. But two games does not make a season. Let’s dabble in a few facts and even more theories.
FACT: The Wings aren’t immune to lazy play.
- Hey, my barista does his/her job very well most every day of every week. Some days, though, I have a little extra room in my Americano. Eh, it happens. And sometimes they might get distracted and even make me the wrong drink. Ugly. But while my faith might temporarily waver, I know that on any given morning, my Americano will be hot, overly caffeinated and made the way I want it. The point is that over an 82 game season, it shouldn’t be surprising that lapses will happen. I worry when the Wings lose a string of close games, not when they spew turnovers and give away goals late in the season. Hey, how many times have you been working on a long project and done everything perfectly and without a stupid mistake, especially near the end? That’s what I thought.
FACT: We are right where we need to be.
- A few weeks ago, I boldly/foolishly predicted the Wings would lose the West by 2.5 games. At last check, we are tied in points with San Jose at 96, with them having two games in hand on us. We are two games back. We aren’t five or seven or nine games back. We are two back. That is not a cause for panic. We also have a 7.5 game lead in our division. This is a good thing. Pretty much every team in the West is battling for a playoff spot, meaning we are going to get everyone’s best shot every single night we hit the ice. It’s difficult to get excited to play every one of those games, especially when we have such a sizable lead with a month to go. Just ask San Jose.
FACT: Inconsistent lineups lead to inconsistent play.
- Much hulabaloo was made of Chris Osgood’s “10 day mental rest.” I’m not really sure why. I get tired at my job. Sometimes I just need a break to refocus. You know what I do? Take a vacation. Clear my head. That’s all that Osgood did. Yes, I’m aware he isn’t in top shape, but you can’t leverage all of the blame at him when the defense decides to take a couple of nights off.
- Here’s another thought: long seasons lead to wear and tear. It’s easy to forget that in the midst of a couple of bad games, but Wings leadership has to find places to meet certain obligations to developing players, and we happened to get caught in an unfortunate period of injuries and minor league call-ups. It happens. But here’s the thing: the Wings are still 7-3-0 in their last 10 games and were able to do that without having guys like Hossa, Holmstrom, Hudler and Leino in the lineup on any given night. This is an organization planning for the future, which includes both the playoffs and years to come. Anytime that these guys can get the minor league guys some playing time, they will. I PROMISE that you much prefer it this way, as *knock on wood* we will have a healthy and rested lineup come playoff time.*
- *This prediction does not cover Andres “Glass Joe” Lilja. He should never fight again.
FACT: We aren’t alone.
- No, I don’t speak of aliens. I seak of the fact that most of the top teams in the league are finding issues with their play too. San Jose is 5-4-1 over their last 10. Boston is a putrid 3-6-1. Heck, even our “hated rival” Nashville has found a way to lose three in a row. Save Pittsburgh’s seven game win streak and Carolina’s four game streak, nobody is playing ‘terrific’ hockey. These are the ups and downs of the season. We should be used to them by now.
- If you’re worried about goal differential being a major indicator of concern, think again. While Boston is +69 on the season, our Western counterpart San Jose currently sits at +52 while Detroit is +48. Chicago is +45. Columbus is -1. Nashville is -14. Calgary, who currently leads the Northwest division and is everyone trendy ‘dark horse’ all of a sudden, is +16. What does this mean? Nothing. If anything, it means that, despite having mental lapses and giving up some big goal numbers, Detroit consistently scores more than they give up. That usually leads to wins.
OK, I’ve made the best argument I can.Whether or not you want to listen to me is up to you. But I’m kindly asking you to think twice before you beat your panic button into submission. One way or another, we will find our way to the playoffs. Whether that is riding high or limping in remains to be seen. But until then, I would suggest taking a deep breath and letting this run its course. You’ll thank me later (hopefully).
And in case you want one more thought to ease your mind:
Columbus and Nashville hung 8 on us.
8+8 = 16.
16 = Number of playoff wins for the Stanley Cup.
16 = Number of arms on two octopi.
See? It’s all in the numbers.