There's probably going to be some poor language in this post. Just a warning.
Hossa: The first thing that I have to say about the Finals--and the main point of the post--is this: If you blame Marian Hossa for Detroit losing to the Penguins, you're a fucking moron just like that ass-clown Mike Milbury. If you blame Marian Hossa for this, you agree with a guy who was arguably the worst-GM in sports history until Matt Millen came along.
The guy had the same number of points in the Finals as Sidney Crosby, who got fellated pretty much non-stop. He had more points per game in the playoffs than Pavel Datsyuk (and 12 of Datsyuk's 15 games were pre-foot injury, so I really don't want to hear it). He had one fewer goal in the playoffs than Henrik Zetterberg if you ignore empty-netters.
With the Wings down 2 games to 1 to Anaheim--in a road game Detroit absolutely had to have to stay alive--Hossa scored twice in the second period to turn a 2-2 game into a 4-2 Wings lead heading to the third. He set up our final two goals in Game 2 of the Finals, which was a 3-1 win. He had the primary assist on the goal that opened the floodgates in Game 5. He had a pair of goals in the elimination game against Columbus, one of the few games when everybody's boy-toy couldn't stop anything.
Here are the players on Detroit who had more goals than Hossa: Zetterberg, Franzen (who by the way had just 1 more point than Hossa in the Finals), and Cleary. That's it.
Here are the players on Detroit who didn't have more goals than Datsyuk: Leino, Lebda, Chelios, Meech, Kopecky, Maltby. Draper had the same number. Maltby and Lebda were the only ones who played more games.
One of those players is a Hart finalist. The other is being labelled an underachiever by seemingly everyone in the city.
The point of the above isn't to point the finger at Datsyuk. It's to point out how absurd it is that people are blaming Hossa for what happened. I think I've heard everything in the last few days: He's a one-way player (Uhhh...). He has only had one good playoff in his career (Never mind that he had 10 points in 12 games, 16 points in 18 games, and 26 points in 20 games before his 15 in 22 this year). He just wanted to ride other players' coattails to the championship.
This isn't rocket science. The guy is injured. Watch him in the regular season, then watch how he was skating in the playoffs. To make it even easier, he got hurt right at the end of the regular season. He took a knee-to-knee hit at the end of the Chicago series. It's not that hard. But why give him the same benefit of the doubt that Datsyuk is getting? Maybe he should've sat out a few games and people would be more forgiving. Whatever. Does he deserve some blame? For sure. He didn't have the kind of playoffs anyone was hoping for. But he was fine. 4th in goals, 4th in points. He didn't disappear. And I'm pretty convinced he was playing injured (not hurt, injured).
The past few days made me long for the regular season, when the only people who would talk about hockey were the people who really cared to watch.
Train Wreck and Stuart: Next up, we've got the defense pairing from Hell. Nik Kronwall's official name with me has been "Train Wreck" since the first round. He was an absolute disaster in the playoffs. A couple good games, but overall it was turnover after turnover, dumb penalty after dumb penalty. Brad Stuart had one of the most bipolar playoffs I can recall. Some games I wanted to take back every bad thing I've ever said about him. He was really strong during the Anaheim series. Then he went back to being the guy that he's been his entire career. He was a complete abortion tonight. The Wings looked really strong out of the gate until he took (yet another) dipshit penalty. They couldn't regain the momentum after that kill where they barely got the puck out of the zone. He turned the puck over deep in his own end on the first goal. He made a horrible, horrible pinch on the second goal. The best thing he did all night was turn the puck over a couple of times when it didn't end up in the back of our net.
I owe Ken Holland an apology about a lot of things I've written in the past (more on that later) but this isn't one of them. How a guy like that, who has played for five different teams since the 05-06 season, managed to finagle a no-trade clause is beyond me. He's not an awful defenseman. He's really not. But we're paying him like a #3. We're playing him like a #3. He's not a #3. And he and Train Wreck together is a penalty or goal waiting to happen. It's not a coincedence that every time they were on the ice together in the first period, it looked like Pittsburgh had a mini-power play.
Osgood: He played well enough to win the Cup again. If the Wings had won tonight he (rightfully) would have won the Conn Smythe. That being said, he's completely become senior-year John Navarre. You can't even hint that maybe, maybe a goal he let up was a soft one without people going bonkers.
The game-winning goals in Game 6 and Game 7 were awful. No, the offense didn't help him. Yes he played very well in Game 6 anyway. But he's not without blame for losing this series and he won't get any of it. It's also worth pointing out that this is the third time (or I guess 2 1/2 time) in his last 5 playoffs as a Wing that he's been a part of blowing a 2 games to 0 lead. Overall though, he was very, very good in the playoffs and probably the biggest reason they made it as far as they did. I could do without the uber-arrogant/defensive answers in the pressers ("I'm not the one to ask [about what happened in Game 6]"....get over yourself) though.
I still firmly believe that I was right about him when he was in his first stint in Detroit, but he's been a completely different goalie since the mid-point of 06-07. He might get in the Hall of Fame. He doesn't belong there, and I'm more than willing to have that debate sometime. But 3 Cups (and counting?), 2 as a starter, and way up the list of wins, playoff wins, and shutouts is still a pretty damn nice career.
Holland: I owe him an apology about quite a few things that I've written over the years. He wasn't a "damn fool" for bringing Osgood back. He wasn't an idiot for picking Daniel Larsson over Joe Palmer (God, Tim....). I still think the drafting was overrated for a while there, but it's been great lately. I didn't give him credit for the Cup in 98 (Bowman's team) or 02 (Hasek fell into his lap). But he has completely rebuilt the team from the one that won the Cup in 02. There's a salary cap now and the Red Wings are still the class of the league. They've gone from an aging team to one where most of the stars (Lidstrom aside) are in their prime. He's been masterful at managing the cap (finding the loophole where you can tack years onto the end of the deal to lower the cap hit, without paying the piper when the guy retires). He deserves a ton of credit for the team that won the Cup last year (though I still think he made a mistake by not finding another forward...Franzen breaking out was completely unexpected and very fortunte), and for building a team that should have won the Cup again. Can't blame the GM for this one. One move that hurt was keeping Chelios over Quincey. I really liked Quincey when he played a huge role in the playoffs a couple years ago and he's flourishing in LA. If nothing else, he's light years better than Derek Meech and always has been.
The Officiating/NHL: I don't think there's a conspiracy, though I do think Pittsburgh had a favorable whistle--though not by enough that it should remotely be an excuse. I could've gone for an icing call on the first goal tonight (remedy: Don't turn the puck over) and blowing the too-many-men call was completely inexcusable (remedy: Kill off the power play Pitt ended up getting a minute later). (And if the reports are true that the ref told the Pittsburgh player to get back to the bench, he should be fired immediately.) On the other side, Pittsburgh should have gotten one, if not two, penalty shots in games they lost. Too many critical blown calls, no matter who you were rooting for.
I don't think the league did Detroit any favors by accelerating the pace of the series, though we lost both games where there was a longer layoff beforehand, so maybe that isn't true. I don't think they would have bumped up the start of the series if Crosby was the one injured instead of Datsyuk, and I don't think I need a tinfoil hat to say that.
I don't really want to hear "A penalty is a penalty is a penalty" ever again though. It's not. Fewer penalties might have actually favored Detroit, given how piss-poor the penalty kill was all season. But they don't call the games the same way in the playoffs. And that's fine if you're letting it go both ways (which by and large, they did--though that big call on Ericsson was crap and they missed a 5-minute major when Hossa got boarded late in that game) but don't insult us and say you're calling it the same way no matter the situation. It's obviously not true.
I bet the league is very happy they changed the rule about instigator penalties in the last five minutes. When the rule first came in, it was an automatic, non-appealable suspension. They changed the rule to allow for review of the circumstances. If that rule doesn't change, the Wings go up 3-0 because Malkin won them that game. Due to the rule change, I don't have a problem with him not getting suspended. I do think it's hysterical that Campbell said that the rule was put in place to prevent teams from trying to "sending a message" since that's exactly what he was trying to do.
How's this for an idea: I'm not sure I love it, but it's better than nothing. If you get an instigator in the last 5 minutes of a game, the league reviews it and if they let you off with no suspension, you serve your 10 minute misconduct the next game. The potential suspension still keeps the goons somewhat at bay. The mandatory misconduct makes everyone decide if it's really worth it or not. What Malkin did probably didn't warrant a suspension, but you also shouldn't be able to do what he and the Penguins did and serve no penalty whatsoever. It was at the point in the game where they could say "Screw it, give them a 5 on 3. Eject me." and not care about it. That's the whole reason the instigator suspension was installed in the first place. If you're not going to enforce it, why even have a rule that says "We can suspend you if you do something bad." Well no crap.
The Future: I think it's pretty clear that some of the kids need to come up. Helm's breakaway goal against Anaheim was one of the few times in my life that I've actually been speechless about something that I just saw. He's going to be a fan favorite for years to come, and already I'm considering a 43 sweater when I retire my signed Holmstrom one. Abdelkader, Leino, Ericsson...these guys need to be on the team. (Abdelkader isn't so bad when he's not taking penalties constantly.) It's time for Maltby to go. Kopecky and Meech are two of the most "dime a dozen" players on our roster, even if they are young. Tomas Holmstrom looked like he got really old really fast in the playoffs and you have to wonder how much is left with the constant beating he takes. I hate saying it, because he's always been a favorite of mine. I bought a 96 jersey before it was even definite that he wasn't going back to 15. He still had a productive regular season, even though he's missed a lot of time the past two years. He was a liability in the playoffs though.
I want Hossa back. Maybe the money would be better spent on a #3 defenseman that doesn't blow. But the guy we saw in the playoffs wasn't the guy he is. He's a legit top 15-20 forward in the league and if he wants to take another run at it, I'd be thrilled to have him back. He'll get his Cup if he stays here. I love players who say it's not about the money and actually mean it. He instantly became my favorite guy on the team and I want to see him holding the Cup in a Red Wings jersey. Maybe it's not the smartest use of the money, but I'm biased. (And if you want to dump him for being "invisible" in the Finals, are you keeping Hudler?)
I'd love to see either Stuart or Kronwall out the door, but I don't think it'll happen. Stuart has one of the most inexplicable no trade clauses in sports and Kronwall has enough potential that moving him could come back to bite the Wings big-time. Holland wouldn't take a risk like that, and truth be told, I'm not sure I would either. That being said, I'd be really curious to see what the haul would be. He's a young defenseman who can put up 45-50 points, block shots, and hit (sometimes legally and sometimes at a good time).
With how much offensive defensemen go for, it might be worth listening. But if he ever learns how to pick his spots and how to not turn the puck over like he's scared of it, he could be a #1 defenseman and trading him could look really stupid. All I know is we're paying almost $8 million for a defense corps that scares the shit out of me when they're on the ice together.
Balls I can't believe they lost that series. But man was that a great playoff. The NHL postseason is the best two months in sports. It's a shame more people don't realize it. Then again, with the nonsense I've read over the past four days, maybe it'd be better if it stayed a niche sport come playoff time as well.