Friday, June 11, 2010

Resurrected Blog (AKA Rivals?)

I'm resurrecting this old blog post from January 10th of this year, so some of the references may be a little outdated. But I feel like this is a decent prequel to a blog I might write in the upcoming days that will probably alienate half of my readers, all 8 of you.

There Are More Important Controversies Within The Red Wings…

Lately, with the (impressive, unexpected, heaven-sent, over-achieving, amazing, whatever adjective you feel like throwing in yourself) play of Jimmy Howard, there’s been a lot of talk about a brewing number one goalie controversy in Detroit. Nobody within the organization has come out and admitted Jimmy’s taking the number one spot from Chris Osgood, and Jimmy still won’t talk about it like he should (as in, “Oh, yeah, I’m the man, I rule, I’m so awesome, suck on THAT, naysayers.”) But when he’s putting up stats where he’s only in the bottom of the NHL pile in PIMs (0 for 31st place) and OTLs (2/30th), and beating big-name goalies like Luongo, Kipprusoff and Nabokov and, well, Osgood in stats like GAA and SV%, I think it’s safe to assume he’s the man to beat on the Red Wings’ depth chart.

Let’s put it this way… he’s top 10 in those stats even when compared to any NHL player who’s played a game as a goalie this season. That means adding Ottawa’s Mike Brodeur’s 1 game, 1 goal against average to the list and New Jersey’s Yann Denis’ 4 game .929 save percentage. Top 10. In the entire league. In the entire position.

So now that that’s been put to bed, I think it’s time we turn our eyes to a more pressing controversy for the Red Wings and their fans.

Which team out there deserves the title of being our number one rivalry?
Which team is the one that the players and the fans circle on their calendars the day the NHL season schedule comes out and says “That’s our big game!” Which team is the team that, no matter what the standings, no matter the time of the year, you just want to see them get pummeled on the ice and on the scoreboard. Which team is going to give the Red Wings that little extra spark to their game because it’s a personal game?

Many people make a case for the usual suspects: the Ducks, the Blackhawks, the Blue Jackets, the Predators, and the Penguins of the world. My school of thought is that if there are that many viable options out there for a fan such as myself, then really, none of them are options at all.

Think back from the mid-90s to the early 2000s. Who was it then? Hands down, the Colorado Avalanche. Anyone who said otherwise was just wrong. It was such a brutal rivalry that it still lingers to this day in the hearts and the minds of the Wings faithful. Any time you see that goofy maroon and teal color combination, admit it, you still get that tightening in your stomach that makes you long for the better, bloodier days. (Oh, and according to a little research, the official team colors are “burgundy and steel blue, black, silver and white”. Whatever.)

I don’t know any team in the league right now that does that to me, or to other fans. I can’t pinpoint a team that is just so hated, that even if their nicest, most charitable, most talented player was up for free agency or on the trading block, we’d still not like him in the Winged Wheel. I can’t think of a team that when a Wings player leaves in the off-season and signs with them, it’s considered a personal slight and grounds for death or at the very least the sacrifice of their first born to make amends.

The problem with today’s Wings -and today’s NHL, actually- is that the league got exactly what it wanted when it went to the new(er) schedule format. The 6 games against inter-division teams certainly did a lot to manufacture rivalries, but the passion just isn’t there.

Yes, it’s easy to get physical when you’re playing a team that you just played last week, and now’s your opportunity to get back at their 4th liner goon for that slash on your star player near the end of the 3rd period when the game was already settled. And yes, it’s easy to build up the pressure and the atmosphere when you’re playing the team that’s just 5 points ahead of you in the standings in a home-at-home weekend series with little less than a month left in the season.

But it’s not easy to just force two teams together to the point where just the mere sight of their jersey makes you see red, where you change the channel when Sportscenter plays the highlights of that team’s latest win (HA! Like that ever happens anymore, but bear with me…), where you turn on your NHL video games and turn injuries all the way up and difficulty all the way down so you can embarrass them just the way you like it.

Calgary has Vancouver.
Boston has Montreal.
New York has… New York, I guess.

Detroit has, ummmm…

I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t go up to a fellow Red Wings fan and mention [Team X], and know that I’ll soon get a front row seat to their dark side’s emergence.

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