When the Detroit Red Wings were dissected before the 2009-10 season, it was pretty easy to see a few things. One, that they have extremely high end skill.
Secondly, that this team would be hard pressed to equal last year's season. GM Ken Holland told management that this would be a season to re-tool. Jimmy Devellano, the long-time personal man in Detroit, said he hadn't seen a season like this for the Red Wings in over 20 years. Gone were Mikael Samuelsson (Vancouver), Jiri Hudler (KHL), and most notably Marian Hossa (Chicago). This was before the season. The first half hasn't gone very smoothly, but here are the Wings, just one point out of a playoff spot.
Injuries have crippled them and even though most teams have been hit hard by injuries this year, the Wings' list is almost too long to believe. Zetterberg (8), Cleary (12), Filppula (26), Franzen (41), Kronwall (23), Ericsson (11) and Williams (29) among other have spent significant time on the shelf. Now Tomas Holmstrom joins the list - at least three weeks with a broken foot. How are they still in the mix?
Unexpected help has saved the Wings so far. Former Ottawa first rounder Patrick Eaves seems reinvigorated. Youngsters Darren Helm (5 goals in his last 5 games), and Justin Abdelkater - who Mike Babcock sees as a future match up centre - have excelled of late. No team can win without goaltending. When I saw Jimmy Howard at the end of October in Edmonton, he looked over his head. He was swimming all over the place. With Chris Osgood reverting to, 'early season Ozzie' as opposed to the one who was brilliant in last year's playoffs, Howard has seized the net. He has played 11 of the last 12 games and often brilliantly. His 51-save performance at L.A. in a 2-1 OT win is an example.
And Drew Miller was picked up on waivers from Tampa (Huh?). When was the last time you saw that transaction - a player waived by Tampa ending up in Detroit? Miller has fit in well in a checking role. Todd Bertuzzi is being constantly praised for his work without the puck. I guess what was down is up in Detroit these days. Babcock, who throws compliments around like manhole covers ('Nick Lidstrom is a good player' - thanks tips!), has done an amazing job grinding out points with his depleted roster. I know I wouldn't be tickled to get a healthy, relatively rested Detroit team in the first round of the playoffs.
1) I worked the 'Dan Carcillo show' last week in Philadelphia. He spent much of the game yelling at Leafs' assistant Keith Acton. Now Acton has no business yelling at Carcillo - he is in a suit and should be more focused on his team - but Carcillo embarrassed himself. He wants everyone to look at him (and they did when he scored a beauty in the second period), but his actions on the ice and on the bench were a joke. He looked like a clown.
2) Does anyone believe for a second that Ron Wilson was doing nothing other than diverting attention from his team's rotten performance at Philadelphia when he went after the media? Hey Ron, the media doesn't kill penalties, never mind, neither do the the Leafs.
3) Word out of Pittsburgh is that Evgeni Malkin is sulking now that his goalless streak has reached eight games. If you are supposed to be a leader - and he is - it is a true show of your character how you react when things are going poorly. Anyone can lead and be positive when everything is going great. Time to suck it up and play. He is too good to be like this.
- Good afternoon Mr. Ferraro. I just read your comments regarding your childhood rink. Great stuff. This is the third year I've built a rink for my kids in my backyard. I upgraded it from a measly 16x32 to a less-measly 22x48. The kids have a blast and so do I. I hope to continue this tradition. Problem is, my yard isn't big enough for a truly big rink. I hope to change that some day, but it is what it is. What was your rink like? How large was it? I have dreams of putting in permanent outdoor lights and even getting boards and netting at the sides.
Our rink in the backyard was smaller than the one you build for your kids. Remember that your kids see things differently than we do. They are thrilled(as I was) to have a rink. The boards,lights,netting is actually window dressing. The rink,no matter what size, is where their memories will always come from. I remember digging through the snowbank to find a puck. That's where the fun is.
- Hey Ray, just a quick question regarding the Sedin twins. With Henrik having such a fantastic season, do you think this will increase the value of both twins? Hypothetically speaking, If they were up for contract renewal this off season, would they have to pay Daniel as much as Hank? Your thoughts...
Hurry everyone, the Sedin bandwagon in Vancouver is getting full! Funny what a development curve looks like. It is different for everyone, and no matter what the Sedins have done, the focus has been on what they are not. Not tough enough. Not good enough skaters. Not leaders. People now say they knew this was coming. I didn't. I thought they would be 65-75 point players early in their careers. But when I was doing a Canucks - Ducks game, it struck me of some similarities between the twins and Corey Perry(not the agitator part though). They are bigger than you think. Stronger than you think. Better skaters than you think. As to the pay part of your question, the Sedins are a package. They are such good guys, humble and family oriented, there is no way one would take more money than the other. Besides, what team would want to try to sign them apart from each other.
- Ray, congrats on the addition to your family! When you look at a game how to you break down a team's style. I find that I watch hockey mostly on TV and find myself watching the puck. How would you describe the Flames? Puck possession? Left wing lock, etc.
I often look off the puck to see what really is going on. Plays often break 30 feet from the puck. As for the Flames, they - and most other teams - are not built in the mold that Detroit and Chicago are (style of puck possession team). One of the reasons is these types of players are the hardest to find. The Flames want to be aggressive. If the first forechecker is within a stick length of a puck carrier, he finishes. That engages the second forechecker. If the puck goes around the boards, the defence pinches to try to maintain zone presence. Without the puck, Brent Sutter doesn't want his players running all over the place looking for something that isn't there. One form of discipline is staying in your lanes, especially in the neutral zone, so you can wedge away ice from the attackers.
That's it for this week...I just got hooked on the series Dexter - My kids got it for me for Christmas and I finished Season 1 this weekend - totally addicting. Can't wait to pick up Season 2!
Got a question for Ray? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!