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Abel to Yzerman

2007 Wing Preview:  Stand by for 11

I had this season preview nearly finished about thirty minutes ago, then I started thinking about that Dive fan ripping that duck’s head off.  Did it bother some of us?  Of course it did.  No one wants to see a ducky treated like that in public, even though it happens half a million times each day by allegedly sober people in whatever places they breed ducks so that Dive fans can eat said duck with their cold white wine between periods. 

So, yeah, it damaged some sensitivities…probably cost us a few brittle readers.  That happens. It’s evolution. 

Filthy and funny.  That’s how we roll Thom.  Love it or leave it.  You’ve heard that one before, right?  I’ll bet you have.

On to the preview. On to the brilliance, the wit, the baseless predictions.  I have some opinions and I’d like to share them with you.  As usual, it takes a village to raise a blog so I expect interaction.  I also expect complete agreement.

Let’s talk big vision stuff first.  Large-scale NHL predictions. 

The Central?  It’s done.  It’s 24 September and the division’s been locked up already.  By now you know that has less to do with the talent in Hockeytown than it does with the complete lack of it throughout the rest of The Division That Gary Built.  The Central is garbage.  The second-best team has been gutted.  The third and fourth best teams are respectably improving but not quickly enough to come within 25 points of the Wings and the Blues will finish last only because I want them to.  It’s hard to hate Columbus and Chicago.  But St. Louis?  Screw them and screw their bitter fans. 

The West?  That’s ours too, thanks.  If not for a fluttering puck from hell last May the eleventh Cuppeth would have runneth overith. Zero chance Hasek would have lost to Ottawa.  And the Wings have improved.  Has Anaheim?  San Jose has, I guess

The Wings are grittier with Drake.  More potent with a healthy Zetterberg, more confident Datsyuk, developing Filppula and a hopefully healthy Kronwall.  Schneider’s loss was overcome by the addition of Rafalski who will add stability to the blue line where Schneider was prone to coughing up the puck in awkward situations.  And, most importantly, the entire lineup has now been through the grind of an extended playoff.  Discount that if you want, but there can be no doubt that a pretty young roster learned a hell of a lot by taking the wood to three teams who were supposed to outmuscle them in rounds one through three.  There’s only one way the Wings don’t reach the conference finals and we’ll discuss that in a bit, even though you know it has everything to do with a sociopath in the crease.

So yeah, the Cup’s ours too.

Awards: we’ll have a few.  Three to be exact.  Lidstrom with his sixth Norris.  Datsyuk with his second (third? who cares) Byng.  And, here’s one for you, Zetterberg with his first Selke.

We’re going to do this by four groups: goalies, forwards, defense and coaches/organ-I-zation. 

5150 is one of my favorite Van Halen tunes and it’s the police code for frigging insane.  Dominik Hasek is sick. Crazy sick.  He’s our Czech Miracle of Insanity and he holds the key…you would think.  The cool prediction regarding the Wings must include the phrase, “if Hasek stays healthy.”  I’m not so sure.  I, for one, believe last year’s joy ride was too much to ask for.  We cannot realistically expect that Hasek stays mentally or physically healthy for two straight seasons. I see 40 games.  I see a goalie controversy on the horizon and a kid named Howard coming with it.  A three-headed, painful, frustrating, torch-lit, fan-base splitting controversy.

Chris Osgood, if he were anywhere but Detroit, would be considered a better than average backup. But in Detroit, two consecutive Osgood starts would be enough to post suicide watches.  I truly believe he’s past the point of losing games by himself and is even capable of stealing a few here or there.  If (when) Hasek goes down, Osgood will fill in capably.  But…he won’t be superb.  And superb is what we demand because we’re greedy and whiny and incapable of withstanding mediocrity, unlike our friends in Denver who would be happy with it if it meant the 8 seed.  Osgood is going to be pressed into action this year, more than last.  And if he’s not outstanding the bellows of pain will be heard as far away as Grand Rapids.  In rides Jimmy on his big old steed (Tenacious D reference).

Jimmy Howard won’t start the season in Detroit, but I’ve got a hunch you’ll be reading about him more and more as the season goes on.  Where will you read of him? Why…here of course. Why?  Because as much as I claim to hate the goalie controversy, I secretly thrive on it.  Nothing gets me going like a little goalie friction and I’m telling you it’s coming.  Hasek won’t stay healthy. Osgood will falter and the same asswipes who boo Fedorov at the Joe will start banging the drum for young James.  He’s going to own the AHL and the restless will be heard from.

Forwards:  buh bye to Bobby and TooChoozi.  Todd that is.  The only departures that matter at all and they really don’t matter all that much.  The Enigma left as soon as he could and anyone who didn’t see that coming could easily be described as real stupid.  He may have been the final move in Babcock’s chess game to form the Wings in his own image.  There can be no doubt that Bobby’s langadaisical ways and easy smile just didn’t fit with Uncle Mike’s jut-jawed style.  The only surprise regarding their relationship is that Babcock didn’t boot him in the ass all the way to Chicago.

Hello to Dallas Drake.  I said this earlier this week and I’ll say it again now because I’m all about the redundancy.  Drake will be immensely popular in Detroit.  When? October 3rd. The first time he lays out Corey Perry.  Hello to…Grigorenko?  Do I have to talk about him again? Do I?  Hasn’t it all been said?  It seems the Wings are intent on giving this kid a spot, no matter how poorly he plays.  He’s Damon Bailey of Red Wing hockey. 

Pavel Datsuk.  The confidence he gained last year will translate into a career season.  45 goals—at least—and top ten in the Selke voting, if not higher. 

Tomas Holmstrom.  59 goals in two years and no reason to expect he won’t see thirty again this season.  The most valuable member of what should be a rejuvenated PP. 

Johan Franzen.  Uncle Mike wants him to shoot more.  Franzen wants to shoot more.  It’s up to Nick. Every decision a Swede makes has to go through Lidstrom first.  It’s a rule.  He’s Homer’s bigger younger brother and he became a playoff go to guy.  Babcock vows to use him more on the pk and that’s not a bad move.  He’s surly and a little dirty which makes us big fans.  Expect 20 and 40.

Jiri Hudler.  Oh Jiri, how we’ve abused you here at A2Y.  When I get bored I suggest trading Hudler.  When I get mad I suggest benching Hudler.  When I’m in a safe happy place I find making fun of Hudler makes me feel even warmer inside.  Now, he’s got his chance.  Mikey’s sticking him with Hank and that means a five-goal improvement over last year’s total of 15 goals.

Mikael Samuelsson.  A genius A2Y reader suggested last week that we all choose a goat to replace The Enigma.  Ohhhh…I’ll go with Samuelsson.  Streaky. Moody.  Easy to point the finger at during an extended losing streak to Western Canada when the Wings shouldn’t even be in the damn Western Conference. 

Hank Zetterberg.  The year where he joins the unquestioned elite.  And I mean top five elite.  I mean Selke elite and Conn Smythe elite.  35 goals. 85 points and a big fat extension July 1st 2008.

Kris Draper.  Fifteen goals is a fantasy, whether he’s playing wing or center or goalie.  I don’t care.  One year with the reigns off was enough to satisfy him the rest of his career.  Draper’s job, his primary function is to shut down Joe Thornton on the PK or at even strength. It took him a while to figure out how in the first round, but he eventually got it. 

Valteri Filppula.  What did I predict for him last month? 25 goals. 20?  Whatever I said, I stand by. I trust my intincts at the time.  Like Datsyuk, Filppula gained confidence through a strong playoff.

Dan Cleary.  My favorite Cleary moment will always be the perfectly legal elbow he threw to the head of a chick named Dion in the second round.  God, I loved that play.  Grit with a scorer’s touch and Dan Cleary is a Holland success story.  With Filppula’s assistance, at least 25 goals for Cleary.

Kirk Maltby.  We like you Kirk. We do.  We like what you’ve done for the organ-I-zation.  We like the defensive presence and your brilliance on the kill.  But I really believe his usefulness may have run its course.  Overpaid out of loyalty, a dangerous proposition in the Cap era, and still valuable.  But doesn’t bring enough to the table to justify keeping a scorer out of a lineup that is not going to score a ton of goals, not when you’ve got a shutdown center on every other line. 

Dallas Drake.  See above.  Addtionally, will have immediate impact on the younger grittier players. 

Tomas Kopecky, for instance.  Collarbone injury last winter may have hurt team more than anyone’s letting on.  Watch his playing time steadily increase this year.

I’m tired and cranky.  Defensemen and Organ-I-zational personnel tomorrow night. Same time.

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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