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Covering The Comeback

Michael Zuidema of the Grand Rapids Press has been writing about Darren McCarty’s hopeful return to the Wings since he arrived in GR two weeks ago.  We asked him to give us his impressions of the experience and of Mac’s chances at success back in the NHL.  Our questions and his answers are below.

Q: Chris Chelios said yesterday on Detroit radio that he believes Mac is already in Detroit. Can you confirm that? (A2Y Note: obviously, this was answered by now, but kept it in for the information contained within Mike’s answer)
A: McCarty traveled to Detroit on Thursday to have his sore ribs looked at by the Red Wings team doctors. McCarty was injured when he took a big hit from Johnny Boychuk of the Lake Erie Monsters on March 2. He was visibly in pain during the Grand Rapids Griffins’ 5-3 win over the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday night at Van Andel Arena, be he wanted to be on the ice to show his appreciation for the home fans. McCarty didn’t travel with the Griffins for their game Thursday night in Milwaukee and he won’t travel to Lake Erie on Saturday night, so his time with the Red Wings appears to be starting.

Q: Have you noticed a difference in him, in his conditioning and comfort level, from the time he arrived until now?
A: As far as conditioning goes, McCarty is continuing to make progress.
He’s probably not where he (or the Red Wings) would like him to be just yet, but that’s to be expected since he didn’t officially start playing competitively until January. He can look sluggish when playing on back-to-back nights, but you have to assume that the longer he plays the less noticeable it will become. Then again, I don’t think speed was ever his biggest strength. His head, hands and size were. And that was clear on the ice. He was always in the right spot, rarely made bad mistakes and didn’t waste energy skating around without a purpose. The skills clearly are still there. It’s just a matter of his hockey instincts starting to take over, which they are.

Q: Based on what you’ve seen of Darren so far, what’s a reasonable expectation for the rest of the year in Detroit?
A: I definitely think McCarty can contribute for the Red Wings. His size (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) would give the team another big body to bang in front of the net, ala Tomas Holmstrom and Johan Franzen. He’s not afraid to stand up for himself or his teammates, but he’s more offensively inclined than Aaron Downey. And he can provide the leadership and experience that comes with winning three Stanley Cups.
That being said, the Red Wings have an exceptionally deep team and he’ll have a hard time cracking the lineup, especially at first. It’s hard to imagine him taking 20-plus shifts every night, but there’s no reason why he can’t contribute 10 quality minutes on a consistent basis. But McCarty will have to earn everything he gets, and that’s not an easy task on one of the best teams in the NHL.

Q: How did he interact with the guys in the Griffin room?
A: From the first day of practice, it was clear that McCarty was going to be a positive presence in the locker room. He already was pulling guys to the side, chatting with them, joking with them, becoming part of the team. He may have been the oldest player in the locker room, but he was immature enough to fit in like one of the guys. Everyone on the team loved him and will be rooting for him in Detroit.

Q: Do you get a sense that he feels he has something to prove?
A: I think it was more a matter of him still loving the game and wanting to go out on his own terms. His last two years in Calgary were plagued by injuries and I don’t think he wanted to end his career like that.
Plus, he seems to love hockey, and I think he missed it. I got the impression that he doesn’t feel like he has anything left to prove on the ice, though.

Q: What’s it been like for you to cover his return?
A: This is my first year as the beat writer for the Grand Rapids Griffins, and I don’t think it would surprise anyone to say that the hat trick he scored in his first home game on Feb. 15 was the highlight of the season. And part of that is because McCarty was so accommodating, friendly and down-to-earth in interviews. He didn’t shy away from any interviews or any questions. It certainly made things more fun and exciting, that’s for sure.

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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