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Wednesday, April 23, 2003

My, That Was Fast!

Or, How 'bout them Pistons?

Those of you who don't care for sports talk, well--tough.

There are those who delight in the failure of the Red Wings, deriding them as the "Yankees of the NHL," an out of control franchise that buys championships. For those who hold to such notions, I have a suggestion:

Sidle on over, pick whichever of my two cheeks (Nope. Lower.) strikes your fancy, and pucker up, buttercup.

First of all, it's not true: the Wings' core is the result of either drafts or trades: Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Igor Larionov, Darren McCarty, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Jiri Fischer, Mathieu Schneider, Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Henryk Zetterberg--I could go on, but that should give you the idea.

Second, I live in the town that houses two of the most hapless professional sports teams around: the Detroit Lions, and the Toledo Mud Hens' major league affiliate.

In other words, I deserve my sports joy, and the Wings (along with the increasingly competitive Pistons) are the only hope I have for it.

[Thanks to fellow sufferer John Miller at The Corner for the pic.]

Would that it were so. Here's my thoughts:

1. The Ducks played better. More hustle, more grit, more physical play, more opportunistic play, and, frankly--more heart. The Wings played like it was a coronation, not a contest. That will get you beat every time. Once again, the Wings prove that you can't play hockey with both hands locked around your own neck.

2. Those of you who hold to the canard that the DRW buy everything are nevertheless forced to agree with this: you can't buy goals. The Wings' vaunted forwards didn't score when needed. Fedorov and Shanahan were huge disappointments in this regard.


When the aging Luc Robitaille has your best scoring opportunities (and is showing the most hustle), your hockey team has a problem. As in an "Iceberg! Right Ahead!" problem.

3. There is no conclusive evidence that Curtis Joseph can stop a beach ball when it counts, let alone a puck. He made a few tough saves, but the softies were killers. Especially in Game 2, when the Wings held a lead midway through the third period.

4. Lack of physical play. It's something of a myth that the Cup champs of '97, '98, and '02 were physically punishing. But they weren't the Ice Capades, either (haven't been since the '96 flameout). The championship teams applied force selectively, but decisively--anyone who remembers what they did to the massive, lumbering Flyers in 1997 will know what I mean: Dale Hawerchuk was burping up teeth for a week after Konstantinov's open ice hit. But there was little of that sort of play here.

Anyway, our ice heroes can still be contenders. But they'd better do it next year, because the NHL's impending labor dispute may make the MLB's World Series-cancelling strike look like a hiccup by comparison.

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