Kukla's Korner

Abel to Yzerman

Proof Positive

Today’s signing of Todd Bertuzzi has led to some of the most heated discussion we’ve seen here in a long, long time.  Using three-syllable words to confuse Pens fans is one thing.  Lobbing coherent arguments and points of view at one another within the lifelines of the 19 is another.  Despite our differences, it’s been a great day to be a literate Wing fan.

In my opinion, this is the post of the off-season so far…and that includes any of the manifestos I’ve foisted on you, summer agenda or not.  Shanetx...you are the man.  He’s brought us a frigging essay on why, Big Frigging Bert or not, we have every reason to expect one helluva Tuesday in 43 weeks.

His comment from 1621 today,

“To all of those who are threatening to watch less of the wings this year… shame on you!

I’m not normally one to jump on a high horse about this sort of thing- and, for the better part of the weekend I’ve been as sickened and dispairing as you guys are about the Bert rumors- but just look at what we’re got to look forward to this year:

* A resilient team bounce back from the most crushing loss most of them have known (Lidstrom, Ozzy outside).
* A team that has some time to get healthy and get back to the things that made them the champions a year ago.
* A team that has had a summer of hearing about what the guys that beat them are doing with the cup.  I expect a whole lot more angry from a whole lot more Red Wings.
* Helm is finally a Red Wing full time.  We love the kid, now we get to see him do what he does 82 games in a row.  Will it be the same style of ‘hit everything that moves’ hockey?  Nah.  Will it be the breakouts that brought us this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soF8M9E-Az8&feature=related Not that often, this is rare.  Will it have penalty kills like this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSr1i4AUnYA Probably not many.  But it’s going to be a helluva debut season to watch.
* A rejuvenated Kirk Maltby in the twilight of his career.  We all rode the guy early on.  He had his forth cup, he didn’t seem to want to try that hard.  But we all saw him, Helm and Leino down the stretch in the playoffs.  You can’t tell me you weren’t surprised he still had that much tenacity left.  This is his last year.  He’ll get young guys on his lines whose energy he can feed off of.  It’s going to be a good year to have a #18 sweater in your closet.
* Last year we saw a masterful job of coaching to keep the hangover away.  This year, my money’s on Babcock stepping it up even a notch further.

Let’s take this a step further and narrow it down to the third most important player in team history (Yeah, I’m going out on a limb there and put him behind no one but (numeros nueve y diecinuevo- hey, look, some most-likely-incorrect-spanish for our brazillian buddies).

This season will see Nicklas Lidstrom go into his 18th season in the league.  This is a guy who we’ve watched for a long time and should understand the greatness of better than any other fans.  Yet, a lot of us seem not to give him as much credit as he deserves (which shouldn’t be too surprising considering that he’s been underrated his entire career).  Nick Lidstrom is undoubtedly one of the top 3 defenseman of all time and I think anyone who has watched him enough would probably say he’s #2 and closer to #1 than #3.  He may not stand out as much as Orr did against the competition of his era, but that’s because this isn’t Orr’s era.  Futhermore, an extremely strong case can be made that Nick Lidstrom is the best, most important player of the last 15 years of NHL play.  Forsberg deserves some consideration, as do a few others, but there hasn’t been a single year in that stretch when you couldn’t say Nicklas Lidstrom was in the top 5 or so in the league and no one else can come close to that.

This might be the last time we get to see him lace his skates up and get out there.  We all expect him to return.  I expect he will, just like all of you, but we don’t know that.  I’m not going to miss a minute of it because I expect this to be as strong as his pre-injury 2007-2008 season if not stronger and because I think we’ll see Lidstrom as motivated as we’ve ever seen him if not more.  I anticipate that, barring a long injury, this will be his easiest Norris win yet.  Why?

* You know he’s pissed about the way last season went.  His team was weak defensively.  His team had a terrible PK.  His team lacked start to finish determination and worth ethic.  Given what we know about Nick Lidstrom, do you think any of those things fail to piss him off?
* He finished second in Norris voting and Mike Green was in the running.  Nick has always been great offensively but I can not remember the last time he sacrificed his responsibility on defense for offense.  To the contrary, he’s always put defense first because that’s what wins championships (and that’s why he has four of them).  We also know Nick is a proud man.  I’m sure you all remember his pre-lockout salary and how it took making him the highest paid defenseman in the NHL to convince him not to return home so his kids could grow up in Sweden.  He’ll never say it, but you know he’s infuriated that a Mike Green is mentioned in the same sentence as him.
* Patrick Sharp tried to separate him from his testicles.  I dare you to find a man that wouldn’t piss the *#$%@& off.
* He’s got another young gun to mentor, and I think Johnny E has the most to learn from Nick.  Kronwall just plays too different a game.  He’s all about risk and reward and we love that about him about as often as we hate it.  The little we’ve seen of Ericsson is that he plays smart hockey.  He’s got a locker next to Lidstrom’s for a reason.

And don’t read this next one if you’re squeamish:
* He had the puck on his stick, 2 seconds to go, a mediocore goalie moving from side to side… and he failed to score.  In Detroit, in a game 7, in front of the hometown crowd, in a place he’s been welcome for 17 years and revered for the latter half of that.  On the ice with guys who trust him implicitly, follow his leadership, and strive to be as great as he is every time they step out on the ice.  You and I may find that hard to watch.  The Perfect Human?  For a guy like that, it’s got to be like scrubbing your eyes with sandpaper but, you know what? I bet he watches the clip twice a day, every day.  From then, to now, and for 43 more tuesdays.

This is going to be a very, very big year for a lot of very angry Red Wings.  Franzen, Osgood, Zetterberg, Stuart, Lidstrom, Datsyuk?  You think these guys aren’t going out there every night with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove?  Guess again.  It may not manifest itself in the obvious ways (Datsyuk ain’t gonna drop any gloves) but the dangle-dangles will be a bit crisper, the Osgood… will not impersonate Turco for a full season).  The intensity will be higher than ever for Z and Lidstrom.  The Mule?  How many “Eff you, I’m putting puck in the net” goals did he score last year?  At least 10? Double it.

I wouldn’t miss all of this for the world.  Even if I’ve got to stomach Bert and Williams along with it.  The good with the bad.  The good with the bad.

It may not be as fun as going into the rink with the swagger of someone whose team is preceded by “defending champion”, but it’s a helluva lot of fun to have your team counted out and just know that everyone is selling them short, that they’re going to be back and bad ass as ever and that, win or lose, they’re going to be a team you’ll be proud to root for each time they leave it out there on the ice.”

That, motherfu**ers, is how we roll.

43 Tuesdays and let’s drop that bitch. 

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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