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Abel to Yzerman

The Summer of Ken Starts Now

Interesting that Nashville and Philadelphia both lost in five games, to teams they were favored to beat, after defeating their “rivals” in Round 1.  I can’t speak for Philly too much because I really don’t care about them.  But I can say this for Bubba. They wanted to beat the Wings so bad, and dedicated so much energy toward that perverse once-in-a-generation event, that winning the next round was almost impossible. 

No team from Nashville, or St. Louis for that matter, has the institutional or organizational focus required to win four rounds.  They just don’t. Beat the Wings: moral victory, breathe easy. Win the Central: amazing accomplishment that should satisfy Blues fans for decades to come.

There is no “next step”.  Like legendary coach Norman Dale (a retired Chief Petty Officer, by the way) said in “Hoosiers”, going that “next step” is beyond their wildest dreams. So let’s just leave it right there.  Ken Hitchcock is no Norman Dale.  David Perron is no Jimmy Chitwood and Hickory convenience stores don’t sell Pall Malls and Swank magazine to minors so Blues fans wouldn’t even consider a visit. 

St. Louis and Nashville management never realistically established the Stanley Cup as their ultimate goal.  Sure, a Cup would have been amazing. But in the dark rooms where real men talk about things that don’t sound stupid? The only goal each team had was to somehow beat the Wings: to take their division crown and/or beat them in a series.  That would satisfy a Blues fan base that has never experienced anything close to an edge over Detroit and a Nashville contingent that has never been shy about pointing to Detroit as not only a benchmark but a nearly unreachable standard.

And now everyone’s surprised that these two teams are gone?  Really?  These weren’t Cup winners.  They were Wing beaters for a year, a year that saw the most inconsistent play from a Detroit team in decades. The planets aligned and fans in Nashville and St. Louis saw their fantasies realized.  But a Cup?  Too tall an order. Way too tall.

40 years to build a winner and they still can’t do it.  While the Wings have a legacy of excellence, St. Louis falls back on a history of chokes and disappointment.  That’s just reality. Sorry.

Nashville doesn’t have the cash or the commitment to build a Cup winner.  15 players are restricted or UFA and they’ll be leaving in droves because as the cap raises (until Gary locks them out again), the likelihood of a Predator making top dollar is wacked.  Suter’s gone because he knows the money will be there in Detroit (or Pittsburgh…they’ll make a bid, too) along with an annual chance at a Cup. Not just a chance to make the playoffs, or even win a round.  A chance to lift the Cup every year and make about 8 million per season to do it.

It’s not just me.  There are blogs out there, writers who do it to write, not for clicks and search engine ads, who agree. 

On Frozen Blog

I think of the exceptionally well managed Devils and Red Wings as regal serial killers in our sport. They are seldom associated as undisciplined trappers. As such, they serially win Stanley Cups.

The Devils, we thought about six months ago, were in some manner of rebuild. Turns out, that rebuild lasted about a year. Soon the Red Wings will have to endure Nick Lidstrom’s retirement, and not long after, the departures of other key contributors to their numerous championship caliber teams. And yet I haven’t the slightest doubt that they’ll reload in short order.

That record 23-game home winning streak the Wings carried off this season, it struck me as a bit of an odd pursuit while it was happening. Don’t the seriously aging Wings realize it does them little good to go gangbusters in the regular season, I remember wondering? Then I recalled a reflection from Ken Dryden in his classic book The Game, of his iconic ’76-’77 Montreal Canadiens club, Cup winners that year who played 80 regular season games and lost a grand total of 8 of them. Dryden said that beginning with that season’s very first exhibition game in September that Canadiens team simply desperately wanted to win every game they played. Desperately. That’s the Red Wings of the past 15 or so years to me. You watch them play in Columbus on a Tuesday night in February and they skate like their lives are at stake.

It’s a cultural thing. And it breeds a serial killer mentality, I think.

Great post, even minus the ironic serial killer reference—which I obviously dig. Read the whole thing and you’ll see that what we’ve been discussing for years has legs.  It’s an institutional mindset to relentlessly hunt the Cup.  February 28th was supposed to re-affirm that hunger. We were supposed to go to bed that day reminded that Tick Tock would do anything possible.  Instead he did so little that you have to now believe that it was the summer he had his eye on. This summer.  The real Summer of Ken.  Parise and Suter.  Did you read last week that Mark Howe had been to 61 Devils the past two years?

61 games.  To scout one player. To scout a player everyone already knew was really good.  The Wings want this guy, maybe worse than any free agent they’ve ever chased.  Hossa was easy. He came to Kenny.  Hull, Robitaille?  They were accents on an already amazing team.  Who else? Krupp?  Joseph?  Neither panned out but they were huge pickups at the time.  But none of them rival the need we have for a player of Parise’s skill, leadership, fire, youth…it’s all there and we damn well want it.  Holland’s been hunting this kid for, literally, years.  You think St. Louis was thinking of Parise two years ago?  Shit. 

Money to burn and spots to fill, Kenny.  And there is no limit.  What are we looking at, 26 million?  Spend it.  Spend eighteen of it on these two guys: Parise and Suter.  Jesus, we’re talking about a foundation on any other team.  Maybe even on this one.  Spend twenty if you have to. This summer cannot carry with it a trade-deadline attitude.  There is no “the demands were too high” or “we like our team” bullshit.  There has never been, nor will there be again, a better opportunity to make this team that much better for that much longer.

Start now.  Start the back-channel chit chat.  Keep it all informal. Nothing over email. No letters or telegraphs, texts or faxes.  Phone calls. In person, coincidental meanderings and meetings.  Find out where their agents are going to be and go all Roger Sterling on their asses.  This isn’t Creative we’re talking about. This is Accounts.  Get ‘em in the door and then spring Don Draper on them.

It’s summers like these that separate the Wings from mostly everyone else, Kenny.  The Blues go after the Jamie Langenbrunners.  The Predators rely on a Bettman hand-job to let them dive into the KHL long after the established deal deadline and bring back a guy who, in the end, hurt them much more than helped. 

Detroit sees what they want and spends years establishing the ground work for the kill.  This summer, Kenny.  No vacations.  No golf with Ozzie.  Dual focus on both prey.  Equal attention. Equal money.

Bubba beat the Wings in Round 1 and don’t think for a second that all 25 Predator fans aren’t saying to themselves, “well, at least…”.  St. Louis got swept in the second round.  We’d still be fetal. They’re practically giddy.  That’s practically the best they’ve ever done.  Strong work.  Great summer.

Ken Holland hasn’t won a Cup in four years and the walls are closing in.  That’s the truth.  It’s the truth for him and Mike Babcock.  They understand it and so do we. Four years is too long and this summer’s gonna solve it.



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monkey's avatar

Worst.  Final.  Ever.

Posted by monkey from Prague on 05/26/12 at 07:52 AM ET

monkey's avatar

Chew on this:  Detroit lost to the team that lost to the team that lost to the team that is going to not win the Cup.

Posted by monkey from Prague on 05/26/12 at 07:57 AM ET

RWBill's avatar

I find myself posting stuff about my groin on The Malik Report.

Posted by dougie on 05/25/12 at 04:07 PM ET

I miss you too.

Posted by RWBill on 05/26/12 at 11:52 AM ET

RWBill's avatar

Chief is just returning from six months at sea, he has some things to take care of.  Soon he’ll be reporting to us about his groin, and gearing up for UFA madness.

Posted by RWBill on 05/26/12 at 11:53 AM ET

Primis's avatar

We need to get something going over here. I find myself posting stuff about my groin on The Malik Report.

Posted by dougie on 05/25/12 at 04:07 PM ET

Don’t you just do that everywhere anyways?

Or is that just me?

Posted by Primis on 05/27/12 at 03:39 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Posted by Primis on 05/25/12 at 09:44 AM ET

Thanks, Primis.  The E-blades are the Bolts’ ECHL farm team and I got the chance to see Sebastien Piche who was traded from the Wings’ ECHL team, Toledo, for draft picks.  He’s fast and ridiculously quick decision making with the puck.  That made all the difference.

Welcome home, Master Chief.  Celebratin’ you and your shipmates’ homecoming with a Guinness.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 05/28/12 at 03:12 PM ET

Primis's avatar

Thanks, Primis.  The E-blades are the Bolts’ ECHL farm team and I got the chance to see Sebastien Piche who was traded from the Wings’ ECHL team, Toledo, for draft picks.  He’s fast and ridiculously quick decision making with the puck.  That made all the difference.

Florida beat my Kalamazoo Wings in the conference Final.  Kalamazoo had another pretty good team again (3 years in the league now, 3 divisional titles), but Florida was just a machine in the playoffs this year.  They probably were going to beat anybody and everybody.

Piche seems to be the perfect ECHL type of player, and possibly some spot AHL duty.  You can’t judge anyone by their time in Toledo because Toledo is just a terrible team with terrible recruiting and terrible coaching (sorry, but it’s the truth).  They’re never a threat to win anything.  The few good players who get sent there never have much of a chance to succeed.

San Francisco, Orlando, Fort Wayne, and Evansville join the “E” next year.  SF is the team you’ll see out your way unless someone in the East volunteers for a road trip.

Posted by Primis on 05/28/12 at 03:37 PM ET

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About Abel to Yzerman

Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com