Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hockey Roundtable

The Detroit News had an excellent roundtable discussion with Mike Ilitch, Jimmy Devellano, Scotty Bowman, Ken Holland, and Jim Nill. It's a long read but well worth it. I was originally going to tack this stuff on to the end of my Tim Miller post, but there's too much in here that I want to comment on.

First up, there's yet another bit of evidence that if the league expands again, we're heading East finally.

News: Do you feel like, over time, once 'Hockeytown' was built, that the NHL took advantage of you to a certain degree?

Ilitch: Well, I think they want to keep us in the division we're in now, because we fill their arenas. And I do think we're like the poor man's Yankees. They don't want to see us win anymore, because we've been up there so long.

News: Do you have any assurances from the league, if there's expansion, which they're talking about again, about getting back to the Eastern Conference?

Ilitch: Well, (NHL commissioner Gary) Bettman has told Jimmy and I on two or three occasions that we're next.

Devellano: I'd just like to add one more thing about expansion. There's little doubt that Vegas is coming in (as an expansion franchise) -- it's about four years from now. And I truly believe Gary Bettman will move us East at that time.
Interesting. That's more concrete than some of the articles I've read. I'm not a fan of expansion, but if that's what it takes to move us to the Eastern Conference where we belong, I'm all for it. And I do think that Vegas is a nice spot for a team. The Kings have played games there each exhibition season for awhile now, and I know a lot of people believe that whoever makes the first splash in Vegas wins. Maybe Rick Tocchet can be the head coach.

There's also this tidbit, which likely means we're drafting more Europeans in the future, but that they'll probably be good ones. I find this really interesting, because it means that in addition to having one of the best in Sweden, we've got a great scout in Finland as well. We haven't really gone into that country all that often:

Bowman: I met a guy at (training) camp this year, a scout, that (the Wings) just hired from Finland. I knew the guy as a player -- he played junior in Canada about 20 years ago. He was (a scout) with Los Angeles, and they got two of their better young players -- (Anze) Kopitar and (Alexander) Frolov -- and he was instrumental (in the Kings drafting them). (The Wings) have a great scout in Hakaan Anderson (the Wings' director of European scouting) and now they have this guy in Finland. They keep going after it. They keep getting players. But don't forget: It's not cheap. You gotta hire people. So I think what the Red Wings have done is, they can't go out and buy players now, but you go and get good people working for you and you treat them right.
It'd be nice if they could scour the college ranks that heavily. It's really not that hard, guys. A lot of the good teams are right in your back yard. No excuse to keep missing guys like TJ Hensick.

It also seems pretty definitive that the schedule is changing and that the Wings were one of the main driving forces to that end. Devellano said "sternly" that the schedule format is definitely changing. Bout damn time. I still have no clue what the NHL is thinking not getting every team into every building each year. Rivalries aren't built in the regular season, as much as they want it to be so. They're built in the playoffs, so there's no way you can manufacture them. The only way would be to go back to the old system of having to win your way out of the division come playoff time. But that might not be feasible with so many teams.

The organization is just as mad about the finish to last season as we were as fans. I still feel like it was a major missed opportunity. And about that penalty on Datsyuk in game 5......yeah.

News: People were crushed last year when you lost to Anaheim. What about the pressure going into this year. You like this team's chances?

Ilitch: Oh, I do. I'll speak up. I think we've got a good team, we got a good shot at the Cup. Last year we should've won the Cup. We were 2-2 -- and I'm gonna talk like a typical fan now -- it was 2-2, and a minute and a half to go, and they called the cheapest penalty I've ever seen.

Devellano: Yeah, (expletive).

Bowman: Two-man system.

Ilitch: Now, and here's the big tears coming out, but prior to that, Kenny brought it to the league's attention, there was a flagrant penalty on Anaheim, right in front of the referee, and they didn't call it. Then they turned around and called that (interference) penalty (on Pavel Datsyuk). We had that game won, and we'd have been up 3-2 in the series.

That same referee in 1994, when we were down 3-2 going into Toronto, we score four power-play goals, we come back to Detroit 3-3, and the referee did not call one penalty -- not one -- during the game or overtime. So you figure that one out. We lost, and that's the same guy that made that call in this arena with a minute and a half to go.

Maybe that part about 1994 was going BWI--since we did have Tim Sieve-all-day as our goalie and all--but I completely agree with his sentiment about that penalty on Datsyuk. Absolute crap. Especially with the way teams like Anaheim are allowed to interfere on dump-ins.

It's kind of interesting that Mike Ilitch completely dodged the question about whether they'll build a new arena or renovate the Joe.

News: So the next big thing for the Wings seems to be the arena situation, whether you renovate the Joe or build a new one.

Ilitch: Let me ask you guys a question. Do you think we should stay here or build a new arena?

News: I think you should build a new arena, but I'm not paying the bills.

News: I've always felt this is a good place to watch a hockey game, I will say that.

Ilitch: Yeah. Well, we love these sightlines. We would take these same sightlines. But there's a lot of people saying, 'Why don't you stay at the Joe?'

News: So what's your timetable on a decision?

Ilitch: Well, let's go on to the next thing.

Like the News writer said, I'm not paying the bills, but to me it's a no-brainer. You go to a place like the XCel Center, and it's obvious what a complete craphole Joe Louis is. I know there have been a lot of good memories there, and it does have pretty good sightlines, but it needs to be modernized in a way that I don't feel they could do with a renovation.

There's a lot more in that article, but those were the parts that I found to be especially interesting.

I don't believe that I have time to write up a proper NHL Preview like I've done the past couple of years, but I really did enjoy doing those so I might give it a try tomorrow if I get bored. I'm thrilled that hockey is finally back and I get to pull my new Dominik Hasek jersey out of the closet.

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