Monday, May 18, 2009
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.
Posted by Black Dog at 10:00 PM