“The death of professional hockey in AMERICA is a nasty omen for people with heavy investments in NHL teams.”
-Hunter S. Thompson, Hey Rube column, 2/15/05
HST was right about a lot of things. There is a lot of talk among fans, even fans of the original Six, to boycott the joke of a 48-game schedule the NHL will release on Thursday. It makes sense why; 3 work stoppages since the 1994-95 season. No other professional sport has done that; Hell, no other unionized group of employees has done that. Who do we blame? More on that later. Right now the Swami has to do his obligatory season preview of the Red Wings.
Expectations, among those who care, are high as the Wings seek out to extend their record playoff appearance streak to 22 seasons. Alas, we have a few problems. Someone forgot to tell the team our captain, Nicklas Lidstrom, retired. Also, Tomas Holmstrom, a 15-year veteran who has played his entire career with the Red Wings, informed the team on Monday, the day after the lockout ended, that he was retiring. The last two from our back-to-back Stanley Cup seasons are now gone. The end of an era.
Henrik Zetterberg was named the new captain. Both the Guru and I agree this is the best choice, but when I look at the rest of the roster, I don’t see enough to warrant a good playoff run. Sure, the Wings will probably make the playoffs; half of the NHL does, but advance past the first round? Probably not. Nashville is a strong team again. They are favorites to win the division again. The Wings, well, I expect them to be no higher than the 7th seed. Lidstrom and Holmstrom were two key pieces of the team that haven’t been adequately replaced. Lidstrom was the top defenseman in the NHL bar none. Losing Brad Stuart to free agency doesn’t help our defense. Holmstrom could get in front of the net and pop in a rebound, or put up a great screen because of his size. Losing those two and not replacing them hurts us.
There are many who believe that the lockout-shortened season will improve the Red Wings chances at the playoffs, possibly even the Stanley Cup, but this seems a pipe dream at best. Unless the rest of the NHL laid around doing nothing, its a tough road ahead. Not saying I won’t still cheer on our boys in red, but I expected more from the Lions this year than I do the Wings.
Final say? Wings squeak into playoffs with #7 seed, get bounced out by #2 Nashville in first round…again.
Now about that lockout…
I know I went off about Bettman before, but maybe the man pictured above has an equal hand in losing so much of the season, including the Guru’s exclusive article from the Winter Classic (yes, he WAS going…).
Donald Fehr, Executive Director of the NHL Player’s Association…
Name sounds familiar? It should…
Hair was a little lighter in 1994, when he was the head of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association. Yes, this is the same a$$hole who refused to give into concessions then, and cost us a World Series and record-breaking year. In fact, six of the eight contract negotiations he has been involved in have resulted in work stoppages, including five consecutive negotiations between the MLBPA and Major League Baseball. He left MLBPA in December 2009, only to be voted into his current job one year later. Maybe Bettman isn’t totally to blame. Don’t get me wrong; I think the players, the ones putting their bodies on the line, deserved more of the pie than they were getting, but Fehr has 6 of 8 negotiations become work stoppages…25% success rate doesn’t sound too successful to me. Sounds like someone just doesn’t know how to mediate.
Will I watch hockey? Maybe at playoff time. I might go take in a game at the Joe later in the season with the Guru, but I honestly don’t want to give a bunch of my money to the people who have made us hockey fans suffer, especially when said hockey fans cannot stand watching NCAA hockey in its place. A lot of people feel the same way, hence the quote from HST to kick this off, because a boycott makes sense. 48 games is a joke. Thanks for nothing, NHL and NHLPA. You honestly could have sorted all this out back in the summer instead of acting like my five-year old twins fighting over Legos. See you in September 2013…maybe.