Apr 042011

Over the weekend the Red Wings clinched their tenth consecutive 100 point season, ninth Central division title in ten years, and 20th consecutive trip to the playoffs — the active record in North American professional team sports. Despite all those proud achievements I remain profoundly skeptical about the team’s chances in the upcoming playoffs.

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Sep 292010

Last night the axe finally dropped and the Red Sox 2010 season turned into a pumpkin. Thanks to the triple whammy of New York and Tampa winning, and the Red Sox losing the Sox have no chance of making the playoffs. Technically they were eliminated when the Yankees won, the walk-off loss to Chicago was merely the cherry on top of the crap sundae. It’s a shame because by all rights this Sox team should have folded up when Youkilis went down, yet they still have a strong shot at putting together the fourth best record in the American League — at the moment their record is identical to the AL West winning Texas Rangers. I still hold out hope that over the last five games the Sox can scrap together the three wins necessary to hit the 90 win plateau. Nine wins above .500 is quite a nice season, all things considered, especially when you consider all the roadblocks thrown the team’s way this year. While I suspect the Manager of the Year award is going to go to Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire, or possibly Texas’ Rin Washington, for my money the most deserving candidate is Terry Francona.

If there is one piece of consolation it’s that in every other division of baseball, except for the aforementioned AL West, the Red Sox would not be in the playoffs. They would still be in contention three others, but it’s not entirely true that the brutal competitive nature is the only thing standing between the Sox and the playoffs. Though I do suppose you could argue that their record would look better if they didn’t have to play New York and Tampa thirty-eight times a season.

All in all, this has been an immensely frustrating season, filled with injuries and underperformances. Yet despite all that, there was a moment in the top of the ninth on Sunday, when the Sox scored the tying, then go-ahead runs against Mariano Riveria (five blow saves from him, only three more than Papelbon) when I really thought they were going to pull it off. The parallels to the fateful ALCS 2004 Game 4 were so strong. Dramatic steals, dramatic hits. The Improbable really did seem possible. Then Papelbon went out and Papelblew it and the rest is history. All of which means two things to me. The first being how rare it is magic like 2004 happens (and believe me when I say I’m watching the Four Days in October 30 for 30 next seek). The second is that such moments are so sweet and why we watch sports, so you can’t let the crap that usually follows ruin the moment. Which Is why instead of focusing on the whimper with which the season ended I’ll choose to remember the scrappy bunch of cast-offs and untested youngsters who never quite and gave the defending World Champs all they could handle.

May 052010

Ok, so it is a little premature to call the Red Wings season over, but after crapping the bed last night the fat lady is definitely getting her obituary ready. And really that shouldn’t be all that shocking given how up and down the team has played all season. However, given how weirdly disjointed their peformance has been in this series it smarts. That is not to say the miracle couldn’t happen, it’s just the comeback would be historic.

Given that the season is on life support, my thoughts are more focused on the offseason, which now becomes the most important in Holland’s tenure. At this moment Detroit has approximately 16 million in cap space. However, ten million of that is from the expiring contracts of Holmstrom and Lidstrom. Oddly enough if you asked me which player saw the bigger dip this season I’d say Lidstrom. Don’t get me wrong, Nick still played at a high level, but not at his typical Lidstrom level. Homer meanwhile played his role and got his twenty goals. If I was to be totally objective, I would offer Homer a one year deal worth about the same, or a little less, to his current deal — so around $2mil — Lidstrom I would tell “we’ll pay you what you want because you’re the best defenseman in team history, but please consider asking for less for the good of the team.” Ideally he will feel the same and take a deal in the 4-5 million range. That still won’t give the team much wiggle room with the cap since they have to pay the returning Jiri Hudler 2.5 mil, but it gets them closer. The team should also look long and hard at signing Jimmy Howard to a long-term extension. His current deal expires after next season at which point he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.

The problem Detroit faces is that they are so close to the cap they lack the flexibility to get what they desperately need, secondary scoring. Hopefully next season Franzen will stay healthy and produce. Maybe the light has clicked with Filpulla and he can be a strong 2nd line player. And most importantly, one or more of the young players Detroit has stashed away in Grand Rapids will blossom at the NHL level. If any of those happen then the Wings will be legit contenders next year. If not, it looks like another year of scuffling for a playoff spot.

Aug 112009

Well after a brutal week where the Sox went winless they finally got off the schneid and beat the Tigers 6-5. If last night’s game marks a resurgence in the Sox offense then they are a lock for the Wild Card, and just might be able to take a run at the Yankees. The next ten games or so will go a long way in deciding that though.

Jun 152009

So contrary to what I thought would happen, Detroit did not win the Cup last Friday night. I wish I could lay blame for the loss on some egregious call by the officials, or some other external factor that would absolve the team, but I can’t. Detroit got beat, and that’s the cold, hard truth of the matter. Which isn’t to say this is 1984 revisited and a new dynasty is ascendencing. The fact of the matter is that Detroit is a strong team still in it’s prime. Yes, depending on what Hossa decides the Wings will feel a salary cap crunch, at least until the end of next season when they have ~10 million coming off the cap in the form of Holmstrom and Lidstrom’s contracts. But even if they lose Hudler and Samuelson, or Hossa, you can pencil Detroit in as a Cup contender next year. Yes, it sucks they came up just a bit short, but this was the Wings’ year, there was just too much stacked against them. So kudos to the Penguins, and enjoy your long term boat anchor contracts. I’m thinking Detroit might see you again next May, and the outcome will be more to my liking I’m sure.

Jun 142009

One thing I’ve noticed in a lot of the press and fan reaction is a lot of disdain thrown Marion Hossa’s way. To a certain extent it’s fair, after all his “old” team did win the Cup after he said Detroit gave him the best chance to do so. However, I think that’s simplistic and lazy. The fact of the matter is that for much of the season Hossa looked to be prescient. Pittsburgh stumbled for most of the season, and were out of the playoffs as late as February. Detroit meanwhile cruised to yet another fifty win season — and perhaps that was part of Detroit’s problem, but that’s for another day. If Pittsburgh does not make that late surge how smart does Hossa look? If Washington had a more balanced attack how smart does Hossa look?if Detroit got bounced by Anaheim how smart does Hossa look? The fact of the matter is that to even get to the Finals is an accomplishment as hard, if not harder, than winning the Cup. And to crush Hossa because of a bounce of the puck is rather unfair. Now if you want to crush Hossa for coming up small in the Finals go right ahead.

Jun 092009

Some quick thoughts before game six tonight.

1) Home ice matters. This series is the exception to general conventional hockey wisdom — San Jose says hi.
2) The more I see him, the more convinced I become that Crosby would be a more polished player if he had been drafted by Detroit.
3) I’ve said before that if the Wings won game five they would win in seven, and I think I’m sticking to that
4) That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me if Detroit rips out Pittsburgh’s heart tonight.

May 202009

Drew Sharp needs to be keeping his yap shut. Seriously, stop saying stuff like that. This series is not over, and it won’t be until the Wings (or the Hawks) win four games. Was Game 2 a big win for the Wings? Sure it was. Was Game 2 a big loss for the Hawks? Oh absolutely. Is Detroit in control of the series? Without a doubt, after all they only need to win two games while Chicago needs four. But there is still a lot of hockey left to be played. I’m sure Friday night the Hawks are going to play out of their minds in front of the home crowd. If, and it’s a huge if, the Wings can overcome that and take the 3-0 lead, then the series is over but for the shouting I think. But I don’t think that’s the likely scenario. My gut says there is more Western Conference hockey left to be played at Joe Louis Arena, and hopefully it’s just one more game.