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The Red Wings are 3-1-1 and I'm Not Smiling

... I'm laughing, actually. I'm laughing because there's always going to be a handful of my fellow Red Wings fans who will look at the big picture, scowl a bit, frown openly, and announce their disgust with what they see wrong. Ok, it's not just Red Wings fans who will do that, but until I start an art critic's blog for pointing out the top ten reasons I hate the Mona Lisa, these are the people about whom I'm talking. The good news? I love 'em to death.

This preseason, optimists and pessimists alike took time out of their busy arguing schedule to agree on two things this offseason: first, that maybe we should switch to a restaurant where the waiters pay more attention to the available volume of their glassware and second, that the Red Wings squad out of Detroit this year are capable of leaving ugly boot-prints in the faces of those inferior clubs who dare to dream that maybe the spotlight belongs anywhere except the Joe Louis Arena. Of course, both sides agreed to the caveat about the club staying healthy this season and then the nice lunch date was broken up when the two sides broke apart over whether the club actually could stay healthy. Names were called, feelings were hurt, and half-glasses of various drinks were thrown in anger before both sides retreated to their respective corners.

Two weeks and five games into the season, the pessimists are talking about how our power play is abysmal and we've failed to dominate teams in 80% of our contests. The pessimists worry that we have a sophomore slump and a has-been carrying our playoff hopes between the pipes; they worry that the team is already tuning out Mike Babcock now, nevermind his recent four-year contract extension. The pessimists are wondering when the Red Wings squad on paper is going to show up on the ice.

You know why I'm laughing? Because they're absolutely right.

Let me start by saying that I'm in the optimist crowd. Even mushroom clouds have silver linings and the toast always falls butter side down because there are few things better in life than an impromptu early-morning kitchen floor Rorschach test to get your brain going. I see the Wings as a machine that's getting ready to roll. The pieces are getting used to one another and their focus is on nothing more than making sure they're the ones skating around with 35 pounds of blood, sweat, tears, and silver above their heads come June. Things aren't perfect right now, but to have this record when they're not great is a testament to how many quality people dedicated to winning we have in Detroit.

However, the doomsayers are right when they say that injuries suck and the Wings' play has been less than inspiring. I personally think Saturday's game against the Coyotes was well-played for a Coyotes game, but we're not the damn Coyotes. We're rooting for the honest-to-god Detroit Red Wings who would impose their will on the very ice surface on which they play if they're motivated enough, literally tilting the surface with their minds and creating an avalanche of pucks straight into the opposing goaltender's fat mouth. THESE are the Red Wings they want to see and they want to see these Red Wings for 82 regular season games and for 16 playoff games, culminating in the double-octopus raising the Stanley Cup. Anything less is unacceptable.

Once again, they're absolutely right, and that's what makes me laugh. This organization has given its fans the best gift one club can give to a mass of the adoring public, they've given us their swagger. I don't see a 3-1-1 start as a disappointment, but I damn well have the right to. Even in Gary's National Parity League, we should be able to expect that any team coming into any barn to face us could come in roaring like lions and leave crying like Crosbies.

You know how many fanbases would love to have their team play cautiously against Chicago, average against the Avalanche, dismally in Dallas, and faulty in Phoenix while still grabbing five points from that stretch? All of them, that's how many. Still, there's a vocal group of Wings fans with valid concerns about how that's not good enough. So, yes, the Wings are 3-1-1 and on pace for 116 points. Big deal, we'll look back when we get there and we'll collectively wonder about the 48 that got away. Don't ever change, pessimists, because you're right to expect perfection; that's the gift the Red Wings have given you.