Kukla's Korner

Abel to Yzerman

How’s That Taste? Crappy? Good

Good morning.  Here is something to start your day.  I have a ditty for you and it goes something like this: there is a sinister certainty that you’ve come to grips with. Along with the virtual guarantee that you’ll get to average one Cup celebration every 36 months, the adorable one has seen fit to make you pay for those pleasures. 

And payment comes in the form of a sharp, steel-toed pain that you have to suffer through in the off years.  That pain is caused by soul-crushing losses to inferior teams.  Those losses are sandwiched by Stanley Cups, fortunately. 

Of all the playoff ousters since ‘95, exactly two have been to teams with equal or more talent: Colorado in ‘99 and ‘00.  The rest?  Losses to teams who never should have beaten the Wings.

Colorado in ‘96, LA, Anaheim, Edmonton, Calgary, Anaheim, Pittsburgh.

Losses to those teams most definitely did not guarantee Cups the following year. That would be awesome, but not true; as you know.  Of all those nut-crunchers, only the Dive in ‘96 and Anaheim in ‘07 were immediately followed by Glory and Joy.  ‘02 was a different story, a guarantee from the git-go. But what do those two years, ‘96 and ‘07, have in common?  Outright anger.  Edmonton surprised us with their trap and we couldn’t recover.  Calgary and Babcock’s Ducks stifled us with great goaltending.  LA was Chris Osgood’s worst playoff series as a Wing and broken feet were the norm. 

Denver in ‘96 was horrific.  An amazing regular season set the stage for what should have been an Yzerman coronation.  But, Denver—to their credit—rose to the occasion at exactly the right time, with a goalie who played great.  Detroit took them lightly then allowed themselves to be distracted by one of the world’s biggest pieces of shit in Claude Lemieux.  It was not due to better talent or better coaching.  Just…coincidental bad things. 

Anaheim in ‘07?  No chance in hell the Wings should have lost that series.  None.  Phantom calls. Fluttering pucks.  Lilja. Detroit went into that offseason knowing for a fact that they were shafted, that the Cup was literally stolen from them. 

The other losses?  The Wings were, I’m sure, angry.  But they could point fingers only at themselves for blowing opportunities or for letting up.

Which brings us to ‘09, Gary’s Fantasy Season.  Four games in five nights with no opportunity for a damaged Hart finalist to ever find his game.  A Captain with a busted sack.  Other injuries to Draper, Rafalski, Hossa, Lilja, Cleary, Kopecky…that we know of.  Officiating that was…tainted…at best.  An amazing run from Malkin, some clutch play from Talbot.  All this led to The Unwatchable.  All of that led to an underwhelming “face of hockey” raising the Cup in Detroit, a celebration I’d bet less than half of the 19 have actually watched. I know I haven’t.  And never will. Guaranteed.

But that doesn’t mean Henrik Zetterberg shouldn’t be watching it every day, or that Pavel Datsyuk shouldn’t consider what may have been if he hadn’t blocked that shot against Chicago.  Brian Rafalski? Hopefully his memory is haunting him every night, and there’s plenty there to draw from for him.  And maybe, finally, Nick Lidstrom is just downright pissed off.

Chris Osgood? Him too.  Great series. Great playoff.  Two bad goals, especially Talbot’s second.  He needs to be highly agitated for about the next ten months.  Prediction: Osgood and Howard win the Jennings, and that will be despite Howard’s mediocre play. 

I have no idea who the mysterious 12th or 13th forward is going to be, and I really don’t think it’s going to make a difference.  All I know is that he’d better arrive to TC angry if he wants to fit in.  And if he isn’t, somebody better get him in the mood quickly. 

Avenging Draper kind of anger.  Allowing a tying goal to a granola-crunching scumbag like Niedermayer kind of pissed off.  Slo-mo frames of Lilja coughing it up…that kind of haunting of souls is what we need.

But…but what if this team isn’t the type to get all liquored and lathered, angry and resentful, bitter and downright fired the F up about losing to Thid, the bitch captain, the whining diver, Gary’s favorite Webkinz? 

Well, I’m guessing that’s kinda one of the reasons Mike Babcock was hired in the first place.  Uncle Mike admittedly took it easy last year, coddled when necessary, took into great consideration the amount of hockey the Wings had played over a two-year span and the whole hangover crutch.  Got it.  All luxuries you can employ when you’re leading a Cup winner.

Noted.  But, see…it’s not a Cup winner anymore.  What Babcock has is a great team that didn’t finish.  What he has on his hands is a team that could have cemented a dynasty in the minds of doubters, but did nothing more than give them reason to count the Wings out this year and maybe the next several.

And that’s sour news for every player on that roster.  I’m betting that Babcock feels a bit more comfortable now. He knows how to handle this situation, a team that needs a fire under its ass.  I’m betting that Mike Babcock doesn’t mind the idea of being despised by February if it means All Is As It Should Be in June. 

‘97, ‘08…neither started with fanfare or banner raisings, fawns from the MSM or predictions of Cups from anywhere but us.  ‘10 will be the same.  And just like those two glory years, ‘10 will feature a Wing playoff team that can look several months back and remember what it feels like to lose to a team that doesn’t compare on paper. 

The next two months will firm up the roster.  Nifty.  Then the eight months after that we’ll see a team develop some hate.  And in June, most likely on a Tuesday in DC or Boston, that hate’s gonna bring us back what’s ours. Because nothing guarantees victory like a great team looking to exorcise and erase some ugly memories.

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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