You’ll recall that the Detroit Red Wings used to be considered the gold standard among NHL teams in terms of being well-run and also being exceptionally good at the sport of hockey. These days, uhh, not so much.
The first and most obvious fact here is that the Red Wings sit just sixth in the Western Conference as of this writing, just a point up on disappointing San Jose, three up on St. Louis, and four ahead of Dallas, all of which have a game in hand on the team that seems to have been completely thrown off by the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom. I guess it’s understandable that you’d not be quite so good when you lose the second-best defenseman of all time, no matter how old he is, and also Brad Stuart and probably a few other guys too, and replace them with Carlo Colaiacovo and a rookie.
On the other hand, with Lidstrom’s retirement seems also to have come this very bizarre and almost inexplicable loss of whatever mojo the Wings once had as well. Just yesterday, Ken Holland — long one of the most beloved and seen-as-brilliant GMs in the league for reasons that border on the inexplicable — was saying how he doesn’t know what’s going to happen with Pavel Datsyuk come the summer, alluding to the potential of his bolting for the KHL after his deal expires in 2014 because at 34 he’s older than almost all of us probably think of him as being. The Ken Holland of, say, three years ago would have had that extension agreed-to in principle three years before that, and everyone would be laughing and happy about it the whole time.
Then there’s the fact that he’s considering trading Valtteri Filppula, who, like Datsyuk, is older than anyone probably considers him to be. He just turned 29 despite everyone in the league checking their watches and wondering if this season, this one right here, is the one in which he finally at long last breaks out and becomes a Datsyukian or Zetterbergian talent, which he never will. Will the Red Wings trade him at the deadline? Tough to say, but the fact that it’s even up for discussion is, again, indicative of some rather deep problems inherent in the way the team is run.
However, Holland did make one move yesterday that could reinforce his singular genius among those who don’t need to be sold on his singular genius. He signed NHL-ready NCAA free agent Danny DeKeyser to an NHL deal, beating back a pack of ravening GMs for the honor. People want to play for Detroit. People want to play for a winner. People want to play for Mike Babcock. Well, yes and no. The Red Wings also told DeKeyser he could start playing for their NHL club straightaway, which is a position in which most pundits would probably figure they’d see, say, Edmonton or Columbus, and not the mighty Winged Wheels for whom everyone has only the most endless of praise.
What ever happened to that Red Wing mystique? Being a mediocre team this late in the season is something you might be able to write off as being a result of the shortened schedule and some weird luck. Not knowing what’s going on with Pavel Datsyuk’s chances of leaving the continent is something you might be able to write off as being just one of those things with guys wanting to go home and make a crazy amount of money tax-free. Considering trading Valtteri Filppula before the deadline is something you might be able to write off as shrewd GMing if Holland doesn’t think he can re-sign the winger, but might also be a sign that they just don’t think they’ll be competitive. Roping in a sought-after college free agent is something you might be able to say is the result of Detroit being one of the most desirable destinations in hockey, but could just be because they don’t have any better options on the blue line.
It’s all very confusing and weird.
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