The Not-So-Grand Motown Illusion
When it was suggested here on the eve of the playoffs that the spectacular regular season of the Detroit Red Wings might have been based more on the quality of their divisional opponents than their lineup, the angry rebuttals arrived fast and furious.
We now invite another discussion on the same topic.
The Red Wings imploded in the first round, losing Game 6 in Edmonton Monday night, and suddenly all those nights pounding the bejeezus out of the Blue Jackets, Blackhawks and Blues from October through April don't mean a heck of a lot.
This will cause earth-shaking change in Motown, one suspects.
At the top, GM Ken Holland will have to answer for two first round exits and a second round ouster in the past three NHL seasons.
Steve Yzerman, a player with possibly the greatest pain threshold of any modern day NHLer, tried to skate through a torn oblique muscle in Game 6 but was only moderately effective. Almost 41, he will likely retire, joining the likes of Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Brett Hull and Ron Francis as brilliant talents who have left the NHL over the past year.
The league can only thank its lucky stars Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin et al arrived at the same time.
Manny Legace, meanwhile, is done as the Wings No. 1 goalie, although his "I feel like hanging myself" comments after the loss left everyone feeling a little disappointment for one who waited so long for his big chance.
Chris Chelios is what, 57? Actually, he's 44, and it is clearly over. With Yzerman, he can sit back and wait for his Hall of Fame induction.
Brendan Shanahan, meanwhile, is 37 years old, and after popping in 40 goals during the regular season he came up with only one against the Oilers.
Just spit-balling here, but Shanahan's a free agent this summer, and there would be a certain logic to it if Leaf GM John Ferguson were to court the Mimico native for one last go 'round with the Leafs.
Bad idea? Just another retirement contract? Maybe, and certainly Shanahan's lack of footspeed worked against him in the newer, faster NHL.
But the Leafs will need players to help their youth along, and in Shanahan, you have a quality person and a Stanley Cup and Olympic champion, a real winner as opposed to the phony "leaders" that follow their own agendas in the Leaf room.
Not Mats Sundin. But take your pick after that.
Anyway, Shanahan might also give Sundin a quality shooter to play with for one season. Patrik Elias, after all, looks awfully attractive from a distance, but its hard to see the Devils letting their best player walk, isn't it?
Without being too harsh, Shanahan on his worst day is a better playmate for No. 13 than Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky, who apparently were awarded permanent jobs on Sundin's wings last season as some kind of Crackerjack prize.
For one year at something in and around his current $2.3 million salary, the Leafs might help themselves through the transition to a younger, faster team.
Back to the Wings. Don't feel too sorry for them, for in Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall they have a very nice core of players moving into their prime. Datsyuk, injured for Game 1 against Edmonton, didn't deliver in these playoffs, but Zetterberg sure did and Kronwall is the natural successor to countryman Nicklas Lidstrom.
Probably the best thing that could happen to Detroit is for Columbus, Chicago and St. Louis to get better, and fast. It wasn't hard to see that the Oilers, playing out of the super-tough Northwest Division where the worst team, Minnesota, had 84 points, were a lot more battle ready for these playoffs than the Wings.