May 13, 2011
(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The fans who hated them the most. Here is Puck Daddy columnist and noted lover of all things Detroit Ryan Lambert, fondly recalling the 2010-11 Detroit Red Wings. Again, this was not written by us ... OK, by all of us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)
By Ryan Lambert
Ladies and gentlemen and Red Wings fans, we are gathered here today to celebrate mourn the loss of the Detroit Red Wings. They were taken from us far too late. The end of the regular season would have been a perfect time.
It's especially sad that it ended this way, particularly in this season, as it was truly a year of milestones for what Detroit-based troglodytes consider to be one of the league's most historic franchises, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
For example, it was the 20th straight season in which the Red Wings qualified for the NHL playoffs, a notable and praiseworthy accomplishment. After all, it's truly difficult to have one of the highest payrolls in the league for 14 of those years, then make the postseason in an NHL where 16 out of 30 teams do so once a salary cap is put in place.
It was also the 15th straight year in which Red Wings fans had the temerity to refer to their fair city — where "fair" must mean "decaying hellhole most C.H.U.D.s wouldn't be caught dead living in" — as Hockeytown.
This has always been interesting because 1) it started as a marketing gimmick, like New Coke, and only people dumb enough to voluntarily live in Detroit would actually buy into it, and 2) the Red Wings couldn't draw a sellout crowd in the regular season if you gave Justin Abdelkader(notes) a picture of Consol Energy Center and a sheet of tracing paper.
The Wings were in the bottom half of the league in percentage of seats sold for the second straight year. Not that you've heard anything about that from any media outlets, which are all too quick to praise the Motor City as a great market despite the fact that it is not.
To that end, it was about the fourth straight year in which Detroit fans blamed the previous condition on, everyone say it with me now, "The Economy." We get it.
And to further illustrate just how irrational every single Detroit Red Wings fan truly is, it was the sixth straight year in which the world was force-fed one giant load of recycled crap after the other — not unlike the last person in the Human Centipede — about how Chris Osgood(notes) is one of the best goaltenders of all time.
(Of course, it's only the sixth straight year because, as Detroit fans are reluctant to recall, he played for the Islanders and Blues for three seasons in the early 2000s, and was markedly terrible, as is his wont.)
But lo, the battle cry of, "He has 400 wins!" became the official one for rockheaded bandwagon jumpers, and rumbled across the landscape nonetheless on Dec. 27, when he finally accomplished the feat, requiring only 744 career games to do so. This of course spawned the deluge of unreadable articles about how Osgood is a first-ballot Hall of Fame goaltender along the lines of Sawchuk, Roy and Dryden, all of which ignored the fact that Osgood's career numbers more closely resemble those of Jussi Markkanen, and his winning percentage behind those fabled Red Wings teams on which he won three Stanley Cups is enough to be considered still-quite-bad.
In addition, it was the 13th straight year in which we were all lectured on how brilliant Ken Holland is as a general manager. And that much is certainly true, as it's not just anyone who can start each summer making shrewd personnel decisions such as asking, "How much do you want this year, Mr. Lidstrom/Zetterberg/Datsyuk/Fedorov/Yzerman/Shanahan, sir?"
This is the same intelligent GM-ing mind that certainly did not successfully throw two darts at nothing in particular in the sixth and seventh rounds and back into a pair of the most dynamic two-way players of their generation. After all, Holland has replicated the success he found with Datsyuk and Zetterberg since then with stunningly excellent late-or-even-mid-round picks such as… ahem, umm.. well. Look it took a lot of skill to draft those guys there, alright?
That room full of Lady Byng and Selke Trophies recognizing him as the most gentlemanly player or best defensive forward only serves to underscore how little the hockey media thinks of him. All those articles and intermission report gabfests about his brilliant play illustrate the disdain the entire hockey world has for him. Why shouldn't he be considered most valuable player in the NHL, where "value" is defined as "value to the Red Wings if you don't count Nick Lidstrom?"
The endless highlights of his obscene levels of skill that play seemingly on a loop on TSN are the ultimate sign of disrespect. Indeed, he is held in such low regard that there is not even currently a series of statues of Datsyuk outside NHL headquarters in New York, each depicting one of the 400 different wonderful aspects of his ebullient personality and overwhelming hockey capabilities. And it should be noted, by the way, that the Hockey Hall of Fame has not yet been pre-humously renamed in his honor. They might as well spit on his children.
It was also the third consecutive postseason in which we had to tolerate crybaby Wings fans having the unhealthiest love of mollusks since the Fisherman's Wife.
Their theory is that they, unlike the fans at the other 29 arenas — nearly half of which don't sell tickets better than the Red Wings do! — should not be subjected to quote-unquote rules about quote-unquote throwing objects on the quote-unquote ice. Hell, they've been tossing one octopus on the ice after the first goal of every game for as far back as anyone can remember, and this touching tribute to another slimy, spineless creature (Tomas Holmstrom(notes)) must be allowed to continue. And, I was told, this is something Wings fans couldn't possibly have a sense of humor about, bringing the number of subjects Red Wings fans don't find funny to an even 1 trillion. This is all for the good of the game, they say.
After all, this is the 59th consecutive year in which "The Octopus" has been "Thrown."
It's become a part of Red Wings culture, Detroit fans will happily tell you. Though to call it a part of the "culture" is to wrongly imply that anything that goes on at Joe Louis Arena can be defined as "human intellectual achievement," or that Red Wings fans are human, have any intellect, or are capable of achieving anything at all.
(But as this is a fan base that positively revels in using the Neanderthalic misogynist term "bitch" as and homophobic putdowns as derogatory slurs against any people foolhardy enough to disagree with them even slightly, what more can we expect? Myopic, self-serving viewpoints are their specialty, and they win the Stanley Cup for that competition every year in a runaway.)
Player safety, player schmafety, right? Let's just spend a whole night chucking one cephalopod after another onto the ice like children, unnecessarily delaying the game so some poor schlub can come out and carry each carcass off the ice, with his enthusiasm declining on the same trajectory as Kirk Maltby's(notes) career, despite it saying right on the back of the ticket that this is expressly prohibited — though that assumes all the illiterate Detroit fans can make out anything that isn't a picture of Arby's curly fries actually says, so I may be asking too much.
After all, one octopus just isn't enough any more in these days of decadence; six is a more fitting number, as their 48 combined legs signifies the number of Niklas Kronwall's(notes) dirty hits Red Wings fans have fallen all over themselves to blindly defend this season.
And though it's the 17th straight year we've had to hear about how Kris Draper(notes) was once traded to the Red Wings for a dollar (about as much as he's worth, just FYI), it may also be the last. A sad day indeed for all people who are fans of longtime NHLers who averaged eight goals and 10 assists a year. It leads one to wonder how they will replace him with a quarter-decent NCAA prospect on a league minimum salary. I'm sure Kenny Holland can do it though. That guy's a genius.
Further, it wa… what's that? Oh the series they lost? Yeah I guess we can touch on that.
It was, I'm sad to report, the second straight year in which the Wings were bounced from the postseason in the conference semifinals by the chokin'-est team to ever choke: Those toothless Sharks of San Jose.
Wait. That can't be right. San Jose beat Detroit? In the playoffs? Two years in a row? Hold on a second here.
From what I was led to understand, this Detroit team was a juggernaut, one that could not be killed by conventional weapons. And certainly, they couldn't have been 86'ed by a guy that a TV commentator (who once cried on national television) called "gutless."
If you haven't done so already, now might be the time to break out your scuba gear, because the flood of excuses that's about to come out of Detroit will be enough to accurately recreate that whole Noah thing.
It's going to be a long, uncomfortable summer in Detroit, and not just because you can't go out at night. Lots of questions to be answered. Like, "Why in the name of god was Darren Helm(notes) on the ice for the last shift of the Red Wings' season?" and "Hey whoa, why was were Patrick Eaves(notes) out there too?" and "Justin Abdelkader was on instead of like, I dunno, Datsyuk, or Zetterberg, or literally anyone else on the team?" And no amount of what Mike Babcock thinks are intimidating glares will clear those up any time soon.
It is, however, unfortunate. I was really hoping the San Jose Sharks could have wrapped up this series in a sweep. But that they came all the way back only to be killed off by Patrick Marleau(notes) and Joe Thornton(notes) kinda made the extra week of listening to everyone fawn all over them worth it.
But take heart, Wings fans. There's always every year until Lidstrom retires. Just try to ignore the fact that you're boned after that.
Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist who will now never be able to set foot in the state of Michigan, not that he would want to. You can follow him on Twitter or send him an email written through your angry, angry tears.