Monday, May 18, 2009

I Kid You Not

Recently LT had a nice look at the Detroit model, a post that was based on this article from the Detroit News. I wrote a post about the Wings somewhere back last year I believe in which I looked at the run the Wings have been on since the early nineties.

The Wings were a powerhouse club in the fifties and they were pretty solid in the sixties but they were positively brutal for twenty five years after 1966, a period in which they had four seasons over .500 including a stretch of seventeen years with only two playoff spots. This changed in the early eighties but only because they were in the old Norris - Chicago, Toronto, Minnesota and St. Louis were the other clubs in that sad sack formation. We once went to the old Morrissey, a dive bar here in Toronto that was a favourite haunt in university, during the playoffs. It was the first round, the Blues and the Leafs, if I recall, and as we sat down we agreed that everyone would have to drink any time there was a shot on net. After about fifteen minutes we were getting pretty dry and so we amended the rules so that we could drink everytime someone touched the puck.

Still didn't get much drinking in.

One year the Wings got into the playoffs with twenty seven wins. That was pretty standard in the old Norris.

Starting in 91/92 the Wings have posted three season with winning percentages below .600. Those years they finished with 93, 94 and 100 points (all before the SO by the way) and actually won the Cup the year they had 94 points.

They have won five pennants and four Cups and they actually had a year where they had a winning % of .798 - they lost in the Conference final to the Avs that year. (Their second highest winning % was the year the Oilers beat them, btw.)

And I would say that they are going to do it again this season.

Seventeen years at the top of the league. Not a six team league. Not a twelve team league. A league that has ranged from twenty two to thirty teams.

Seventeen years as a contender.

No team in any sport has ever had a run like this. There were the Habs and the Celtics and the Yankees and the Bears and I'm not discounting what those clubs did but I would say that we are witnessing the greatest run in sports history right now. You would say and you would be right that, for example, the Oilers won more Cups in seven years than the Wings have in this stretch, and success is measured first and foremost by the championships that you win.

But if the idea is to be in the mix every year, to have a shot at it, then you have to bow to the men from Motor City.

And so much of it is a cycle. The Wings bring the kids along slowly, which is absolutely the right thing to do, because they can. They don't have to rush Helm or Ericsson in, just as they didn't rush Datsyuk or Zetterberg in. They can sign their guys to longterm reasonable contracts because these guys can look back seventeen years and know that every year this club has a shot at the Cup. Why wouldn't you sign there? And so they can sign guys like Hossa for the same reason.

And they can afford to spend less money on goaltending because of the team they have assembled.

And of course it does not hurt to have Lidstrom. He is the one constant. He joined this club the first year of this magnificent run and as a twenty one year old he had sixty points and was a plus 36.

When he goes (when will he go anyways?!) then the Wings will finally be put to the test. But based on the drafting and development that is the hallmark of this franchise I have a feeling that they will be fine.


Nine and three so far, here we go with the conference finals.

Wings in six over the Hawks, maybe less. The Hawks are terrific but the story is always the same when it comes to the Wings - they are too deep, especially up front, probably the only team in the league deeper then the Hawks. Consider that Datsyuk and Hossa and Holmstrom have done little offensively (although Datsyuk dominates every time he is on the ice) and yet they keep rolling. And then there is Zetterberg of course. And Cleary and Samuelsson and Helm and little Hudler and Filpulla and every single one of them is hard on the puck and responsible defensively and the only time they ever looked in trouble was when Getzlaf's line got on the ice. I don't see a line like that on the Hawks or anywhere else for that matter.

Another trip to the finals for the Wings. A learning experience for a Chicago team whose time may come soon but not this year.

In the East I'll go with the Pens but I have to say that I admire the Canes. I can't believe I just said that. But Jim Rutherford has a team which has a chance to go to the Finals for the third time this decade (if the Wings make it it will be their third trip, nobody else has more then two). He has retooled them not once but twice and they have one Cup (sob!) to show for it of course. A lot of terrific players, many that have flown under the radar. Whitney of course and Matt Cullen and Seidenberg and Corvo and Wallin and the list goes on and on. Unlike Edmonton where successful careers tend to come to die until the players get moved along, players become Hurricanes and get their shit together once again (Whitney, Cullen, Cory Stillman, Samsonov, Jokinen). None moreso then old friends Erik Cole and Joni Pitkanen, who couldn't cut it with the Oilers, remember? Now Cole had a rough time this season and sometimes things just don't work out but remember how Pitkanen was painted as a guy who just wasn't cut out to be an Oiler?

Check out that no panic crossice pass to Jokinen to tie the seventh game against the Devils with minutes left? Or the massive amount of icetime he logs for the Canes, usually facing the toughs?

We took it on faith that he wasn't cut out for it, remember? That's what MacT said. That he wasn't buying into it, Pitkanen that is.

This is starting to piss me off a little, truth be told.

Anyways I would never ever count the Canes out but I think the Pens are the better team and they have Crosby and Malkin to boot.

Pens in six to force the rematch.


nameht said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nameht said...

Consider that Datsyuk and Hossa and Holmstrom have done little offensively (although Datsyuk dominates every time he is on the ice) and yet they keep rolling. And then there is Zetterberg of course. And Cleary and Samuelsson and Helm and little Hudler and Filpulla
On top of all those players they have this guy they call the mule?

Black Dog said...

nameht - yep, totally forgot about him

how does that happen?

HBomb said...

Of all the damning things against Craig MacTavish this year, the recent play of Joni Pitkanen might be most damning of them all.

And the most damning thing against Kevin Lowe? The fact he kept this guy employed for years and it took Steve Tambellini one season (perhaps less, who knows) to realize that this was not the man for the job.

Then again, some conspiracy theorists would say that Tambellini was brought in as the hatchet-man because Lowe and Katz knew that the day was coming when MacT would have to go. Who knows? All I know is that team is better off for it.

Back to Pitkanen though - wouldn't a top four of Pitkanen-Visnovsky-Gilbert-Grebeshkov be sweet right about now?

Anyways, I'm also calling Wings/Pens rematch, but I'm cheering like crazy for the Hawks.

quain said...

Really, we're going to lust after Pitkanen? He finished with less points than our entire top four and he was playing second pairing minutes not tough minutes. I wouldn't mind having him rather than Souray, sure, but I think you guys need to avoid watching the playoffs and thinking he's suddenly Philadelphia's Pitkanen. He's Grebeshkov.

Black Dog said...

quain - heh, avoid watching the playoffs? isn't the fact that he is playing 25 minutes a game in the playoffs for a conference finalist at the age of 25 an indication that the guy is a pretty good player?

He's not Bobby Orr or anything, of course, but there have been enough folks I respect a lot in the media and elsewhere raving about his play to make me think that he's found his game.

Considering he might have found that game in Edmonton and considering how MacT went out of his way to crack on the guy and seeing as the Oilers are out of the playoffs again and there is talk, again, about moving another young defenceman out, well you'll have to colour me unimpressed with the Oilers and how they handled this guy.

Nothing new though.

Deano said...

Pat and HBomb:

You have touched on something that is so infuriatingly obvious to me.

The Oilers have such a dysfunctional organisation and view of its importance that its pronouncements on talent can not be trusted.

I often read in the 'sphere that 'MacT said so-and-so was not reliable...' etc. As soon as so-and-so gets outta here, their warts disappear. Its time to realise that the trouble is not with the individual players. Its in our location - where 'here' is.

I can come to no other conclusion that MacT's goofiness this year showed that when he said 'Its what you get minus what you leave.' he had come to mean simply 'Its what you leave.'

Lupul leaves a lot, but he gets some too. Except here, where he got nothing and still left a lot. MacT spends so much time focusing on what a player is not, he ignores what he is.

MacT's job had become a petty battle of wills. The feud with Penner is most often cited, but how about refusing to play MAP at 3C (I suspect for MAP's attitude over the Carbonneau comment) while teacher's pet, thecaptainethanmoreau would not even pass to MAP on the ice? What the hell is that? Ignore your linemate and do not get benched?

It is next to impossible to infer anything of value from MacT's pronouncements over this past year.

One thing from this year that I will never forget is the beginning of Souray's fight with Craig Weller, where Moreau is dropping his gloves to go with Weller and Souray pushes Moreau aside to ultimately send Weller to the hospital.

Step Aside SonnyHere's hoping MacT finds work somewhere else so we can ship Moreau there.

quain said...

I never argued Pitkanen was a bad player, I even said I'd rather have him than Souray based on upside, but as far as I can see he was at best marginally improved during the regular season for Carolina than he was for Edmonton, based on overall team quality and usage.

I won't even argue that MacT screwed the pooch on Pitkanen, I'll concede the point, but at the end of the day, this year, I'd take the top four defensemen that played for Edmonton over him-- especially since we didn't make the playoffs where Joni the Clutch thrives. Maybe he has made the leap in the playoffs, or maybe he's just having a good run, but until he replicates it for 82 games I'm not about to get my panties in a bunch about it because I don't see his loss as anything that is negatively impacting the Oilers.

Now Jan Hejda, that's the name you should bring up to call MacT a jackass. Although, he sucked in the playoffs, so maybe we don't think he's good anymore.

Olivier said...

You guys forgot one little thing about the 'canes, THE one little thing thay *may* get them over the Penguins. I find it rather surprising, coming fron Oilers fans...

That little thing? The 'canes are a bunch of dirty rotten bastards. They will crush your goaltender into a pulp, clip off one of your captain's eye, sucker punch you as many time as possible, and then do it again until they get caught. And then they'll do it again. I hate them for that, I hate the league for allowing them to do that and god almighty I wish my habs would play like that.

Penguins should prevail, but I wonder what they'll look like at the end of it.

Black Dog said...

Quain - fair enough; I think its, like Deano says, a symptom of a bigger problem and that's what is making me a little grumpy. The Oilers have made mistake after mistake over the past few years (Hejda being another)- you can argue one or another but there have been too many.

Makes me mental.

Olivier - true although after last night it appears the Pens are trying to beat them at their own game

Vic Ferrari said...

June 6th, 2008,

Oilers defenseman Joni Pitkanen's name has been popping up in trade rumors and suggestions (mostly suggestions), but head coach Craig MacTavish says defensemen of his skill set are few and far between. So trading him one year after you get him doesn't make much sense. "My sense of him is far from giving up on him," said MacTavish, who thinks Pitkanen could be ready to turn a significant corner this year. "I really feel like there's definitely untapped potential there, so I'd be very reluctant to see him go anywhere." But MacTavish doesn't rule out a significant trade involving some other elements of the team.

Vic Ferrari said...

January 1, 2008, Edmonton Sun.

"He's gaining a lot of respect here internally with the way that he's battled and the way that he's played," said MacTavish. "He's played some hard minutes and I have a whole lot more respect for his game than I did in the middle of August, that's for sure. "

Vic Ferrari said...

I liked Pitkanen more than most on the Oilogosphere. He was never really bashed by anyone until he was traded away, but that's the Oiler way, has been since Sather's days at the helm.

He was hurt a lot. And every chance to jump into the play going forward seemed like a good idea in his head. And a lot of those weren't good choices. But that's young offensive defenceman's disease, they all get it.

I think he ranked high in that ERROR stat that some folks recorded in the intarweb, which suggests to me that an unfair share of his mistakes ended up in his own net. Perhaps that is why a lot of Oiler fans didn't rate him, I dunno.

Black Dog said...

Vic, yeah, Gilbert ranks up in that stat as well.

Any guy who tries to make that pass or who can carry the puck or who jumps into the play is going to get hanged more then your bang it off the boards stay at home type.

I thought pretty highly of Joni - when they did move him I was happy with the return, I have to say, although I would have preferred they not move him iirc. But like Smyth once they decided he did not fit into the plans you knew he was gone.

I'll see if I can find that MacT quote where he threw him under the bus

Bruce said...

But if the idea is to be in the mix every year, to have a shot at it, then you have to bow to the men from Motor City. BDHS: Agree on how great Detroit has been, but I don't think you are giving due credit to the Habs powerhouses that dominated the league for a quarter-century plus. Consider:

-- 15 Cups in 24 years 1955-79
-- 16 consecutive seasons of .600+ points percentages (1967-83)
-- Combined points percentage of .672 over 28 seasons (1954-82)

The latter compares favouably to the Wings' mark of .665 over the 17 seasons you cite, and of course does not include the Bettman point which has inflated the points percentage of every modern team.

And that's just regular season. Consider that the Red Wings have posted a record of 29-12 (and counting) in playoff series over their 17-year run. In the 15 years 1964-79 the Habs won 30 playoff series and lost 4.

As for being in the mix every year, well, Montreal made the playoffs every year but one between 1948 and 1994, and earned home-ice advantage in over 80% of their opening-round series. The one year they missed out they had a .605 Pts%, finished just 7 points out of first overall, and lost out on a tiebreaker in an insanely close five-team race in the dominant Eastern Conference. They won the Stanley Cup both the year before and the year after.

I know the math is different in a 30-team league, but 4 or even 5 Cups doesn't exactly compete with a club that won at least 4 Cups in 5 years 3 different times in the same extended run.

Bruce said...

Add: One thing in common between the Habs of decades past and the Red Wings of decades present is that both had/have the referees in their hip pocket when they really need them, especially in home games.

Case in point: Game 2 Chicago at Detroit, in which Joel Quenneville and the whole Hawks bench was apoplectic for the same reasons that I, relatively neutral fan, was. With the Hawks trailing 2-1 in the third and pressing for the equalizer, the refs somehow missed four obvious infractions against the Wings, including two high sticks direct to the face, one blatant trip, and a slash that broke an opponent's stick that has been called 100.0% of the time against the other 15 playoff teams. Somehow at that point, it wasn't a penalty.

Once the Hawks tied it, though, the zebras sprang into action, calling an extraordinarily chintzy penalty on David Bolland for ... pushing? backchecking? Something like that. In a tie game, with 6 minutes left. Red Wings poured on the pressure on the PP, didn't score, but the flow of play immediately was returned to their favour and the game was stabilized.

They're good enough on their own merits that they don't need BullShit officiating like that. Infuriating.

(Word verification: "mafia")

Bruce said...

Back to Pitkanen though - wouldn't a top four of Pitkanen-Visnovsky-Gilbert-Grebeshkov be sweet right about now?

Three things:

1) We never would have traded for Lubo if we kept Joni.

2) That foursome is absolutely butter soft.

3) Souray 23-30-53, 98 PiM
Gilbert 5-40-45, 26 PiM
Grebeshkov 7-32-39, 38 PiM
Pitkanen 7-26-33, 58 PiM
Visnovsky 8-23-31, 30 PiM

Besides leading the pack comfortably in points and penalty minutes, Souray had more goals than any 3 of the others combined. A 20-goal defenceman is at least as valuable as a 30-goal forward, especially when you don't happen to have one of the latter at your ready disposal.

Those who are ready, willing and anxious to dump Souray, how the hell are you going to replace his offence?

As for Pitkanen's Errors, as I recall the lion's share of them were errors of omission rather than commission: poor positional play, poor reads/defensive awareness, and being too soft on the man and/or the puck around his own crease. Gilbert has similar issues.

Matt said...

I think the Atlanta Braves had a better run than the Wings are having now. But I don't have a negative thing to say about them.

Vic Ferrari said...

Yeah Pat, the locals really turned on Gilbert near the end of the season, at least the ones that call talk radio did. Madness IMO. The contract is a bit fat, but he's a quality player.

It's strange in this town that way. Gagner can come busting down the wing with a backchecking forward on his heels, the Oilers leading by one ... and instead of making the high percentage play and getting it in deep, he'll try to cut through the defenseman to the middle. He's 19 for Christmas sakes, to a baby with a hammer; everything looks like a nail.

If it works then he's a hero. And radio callers pine for more of that and ponder if the coaching staff hasn't been holding him back (asinine btw, imo few players in the league have been given as much rope as this kid). And enough kind words are written about him in virtual ink that, with a 12 pt font, you could string them together and reach the moon.

In a parallel universe, the exact same play doesn't quite work, and turnovers at the offensive blue line usually result in badness the other direction. And he's a goat. And radio callers question his character and that of the coaching staff for not benching him, or even letting him watch a few games from the pressbox. And enough harsh words are written about him in virtual ink that, with a 12 pt font, you could string them together and reach the moon.

It's probably the same everywhere. I mean Jebus, shit happens, folks. But it's madass in any case.

Black Dog said...

Bruce - yeah that officiating was pretty poor no doubt - commentators said they were 'respect' non-calls

Usual NHL BS. Mario had it right.

As for the D your point is right, they keep Joni, then they don't go after Lubo.

As for Souray I'd rather keep him then not but if they have to move a guy I'd rather it be he for the simple reason that he is older. The Oilers are going to be no hell for the next couple of seasons, moving more young players out isn't good policy imo. You move Gilbert well that's Pitkanen, Greene and Gilbert gone over two summers and in two/three years when Souray and Lubo are almost done I think the Oilers are pooched.

As for the mistakes both Joni and Gilbert are relatively inexperienced and I would bet on both getting better, especially Gilbert, just two years in the league.

Black Dog said...

Matt - Braves would probably be the closest equivalent, you're right - how many years did they make the playoffs in a row?

But only one championship.

Vic - yeah its crazy, all it takes is the ball to get rolling and then man it rolls. I listen to the Fan here but as soon as they open the phones then I shut it off. You don't need the crazy media of today to turn the fans on a guy though. The Jays had columnists begin to badmouth Alomar when they decided not to sign him and soon they booed him at every turn, the besy Jay who ever played. Larry Murphy got booed out of town too.

And a coupel of years back McCabe had a tough ride. Before that he could have run for mayor.

Once a guy gets in the bomb sights then its trouble for him and often the org. has no choice.

I can see Gilbert and Horcoff getting a rough ride if they're still around next season and then Hemsky next. Best players on the club other then Lubo imo but the first two are going to get the gears all season I think.

Too bad.

Vic Ferrari said...

Yeah, it can turn on a dime. I remember a few years ago Moreau had a tough year, and his mistakes were ending up in the net as well (though he had a spooky-good run on the PK if I remember right).

Dude became the whipping boy for the fans. If you listened to radio callers and read fan message boards, you'd swear that the team would be a contender if they just traded that black hole Moreau for a bag of pucks.

Next year archant is gone and Horcoff/Smyth eat up most of the the tough icetime. Ridiculously so, I posted the head to head icetimes against star players from the west, picking teams they hadn't played much in the first 6 weeks. And Smyth was clipping around 80% of the icetime against Fedorov, Modano and Naslund ... I didn't check oreau, but there isn't much ice time left for him to have played against those guys.

Plus he gets a good year finishing his chances and whammo, the fans vote him team MVP. Seriously.

And 9 out of 10 radio callers were calling for him to be getting PP time, even though Moreau himself said "that's not really my game" to Stauffer on the issue.

I guess the lesson is that if you're a hockey player you should never, ever read the local papers, internets or listen to sports talk radio.

spOILer said...

For years of consistent Cup challengers--- Eff U, Man U?

Agree wholeheartedly with Vic's comments above, and also agree if PitK still here, there would be no Vish...

But then we'd also have a 3rd line RH FO guy and a tough stay at home Dman too... no?

Black Dog said...

spOILer - yeah Man U would be up there I would think

Oiler management has really been a rob Peter to pay Paul deal the last couple of years, the Leafs used to operate like that too - they need a tough stay at home D man so they'd trade a skill winger, then they'd need a skill winger

I'm sure if I looked back at what I said at the time though I was happy with Cole plus Lubo for the three guys going out so what can I say?

Vic - awesome stuff

HBomb said...

Vic: the Moreau MVP year - was that 2003-04 where basically everything he touched down the stretch went in the net?

What a run that was. Nedved came in and was a house on fire with Torres/Dvorak. Smyth/Horcoff did a stint with one Fernando Pisani on their RW, but they also had Mike York there. Brad Isbister was in and out of the lineup. Adam Oates was fourth line center. Ales Hemsky rode the damn pine most of the last 20 games, and some were wondering if he was another "bust" first rounder by the Oil.

I've never decided whether or not that team, which came up basically one win short of a playoff berth, was actually better than they showed through the first 55 or so games that season, or if they were lucky to get that close. Fun stretch drive though. Irony was they lost 1-0 in St. Louis the final week of the season to put one of the final nails in the coffin, and I'm pretty sure the lone goal was scored by one Chris Pronger....