The Wings 8-game slate of preseason meetings is over and now the team rests up in anticipation of meeting the Anaheim Ducks for their season and home opener Friday Night in the Joe Louis Arena. The 5-2 loss to the Penguins set the preseason record at 3 wins and 5 losses, a couple numbers that should mean as much to Red Wings fans as if I were to say 15 podgets and 74 stankamarands (BTW, if I've just said something horribly offensive in a language with which you're famiilar, I'm very sorry). Mike Babcock has a plan for this Red Wings team and everybody's on board with it. The Red Wings played exactly one game the way the Red Wings can play games to make sure they knew they still could, the rest were try-outs and depth battles.
So, what have we learned through listening to radio broadcasts and searching for whatever glimpses we could of games? Well, we learned that Luke Schenn doesn't like being hip-checked and Brooks Orpik can't stand being beaten (seriously, five bucks says he's the kind of jerk who throws your Super Nintendo controller across the room and screams about how the game cheats if he doesn't win). We learned that both Marty Turco and Mike Modano look weird wearing red after so long in green. We learned that it takes Jiri Hudler approximately five games to remember he's got fifteen fewer feet on the boards to work his magic and we learned that Todd Bertuzzi will drop the gloves to stand up for a teammate now.
Aside from those things, there are a few other items of interest to take out of camp. Take the plunge for thoughts on Ritola, depth defensemen, goaltending, line chemistry, and more:
- First up, the Ritola talk: As of posting this, Ritola has been placed on waivers, so he can be claimed by any other team who has an NHL roster spot for his services. Pat Verbeek, the pro scout for the Lightning who Steve Yzerman lured away from the Wings came down to see Ritola play, but there's no word yet. Ritola's got 24 hours to be claimed, so we'll know by this time tomorrow if I'm right, but I'm still waffling back and forth as to whether he'll be claimed, currently settling on "probably". What I do know is that the strong play of Jan Mursak in the preseason (who's also on waivers, but is VERY unlikely to be claimed) makes me worry a lot less about losing Ritola. Ritola is closer to NHL ready, but he's not there yet and I'm not sure a trial-by-fire in the Southeast Division is what's going to make him NHL-ready.
- Look, as a person, I really like Jonathan Ericsson. For what he represents, I REALLY like Jonathan Ericsson. The thought of the last guy drafted in his class becoming an awesome NHL defenseman plays the same chord on my heartstrings as 'The Karate Kid' did. I'm rooting for him because I think he's nice and I think he's worked very hard. Unfortunately, I'm a Wings fan first and a Jonathan Ericsson fan ....well... somewhere way down the line. Big Rig might help the club in the long run, but I don't want him killing it in the short run to make that happen. Kindl played better in preseason. He's still rough around the edges and prone to make mistakes too, but I have more faith in both his offensive and defensive skillset and I want what's best for my team. Ericsson had a chance to crane-kick the doubters in the face this preseason and instead got his leg swept by suck.
- I'm not looking at the stats; I don't care. From what I saw, both Jimmy Howard and Chris Osgood had good preseasons. Both looked technically sound and handled rebounds, puck tracking, and movement across the crease very well. I'm confident in what we're going to get out of our netminders this season.
- Filed under the "no shit, Sherlock" category, but I like our top three lines very much. The big question was whether Hudler, Modano, and Cleary could find chemistry together. I think they very much can and will do so. They looked better as the preseason rolled on, imagine how good they'll look when they're actually firing on all cylinders.
- If you think Nick Lidstrom is too old to continue to be one of the league's best defensemen (looking at you, Mike Brophy), then sound off now. I'll happily wager a crap sandwich featuring my own words against gleefully cramming your own opinions down your throat when he proves you wrong. Nick Lidstrom is smarter than you are, is better at hockey than you are, and is closer to getting brochures from the AARP than you are. Tell that to the best defenseman on your team.
- I saw a lot of good things out of this training camp that helps assuage a lot of the worry about the Red Wings' future. Detroit doesn't have any very-high-percentage future stars in their farm system, but they're also a lot less likely to need those kind of players in the next couple seasons. What they do have is a crop of kids who can turn into those late-blooming game breakers we've come to appreciate. Tomas Tatar, Corey Emmerton, and Jan Mursak showed a lot of skill. If they do keep working to make the big club, they'll do it as emotionally mature guys who already know and follow the team's philosophy. Detroit doesn't build teams around one guy's style, they build guys around one team's style.
Friday can't come soon enough.