As the season winds down, the Wings find themselves just about hopelessly far behind Vancouver for the top spot in the West, but only one measly tiebreaker in front of San Jose for the two spot. A few nagging injuries have hurt them recently but, as coach Mike Babcock said, the Wings are only keeping players out of games because it's the regular season. Babs wants his players as healthy as possible for the playoff push. Still, spring has come and it's this time of year that a young man's thoughts find themselves wandering. Since I'm a happily married man (fresh off celebrating our daughter's first birthday, no less), my thoughts have to wander in safer directions. With that, here are five hockey thoughts running around in the big spacy playground upstairs.
- I feel like I want to take away the kudos I gave to the league for the Matt Cooke suspension. Don't get me wrong, Matt Cooke set the ball on a tee for Colin Campbell and he blasted it straight down the fairway. Then he chipped onto the green and two-putted for a very solid par performance. However, extending this metaphor out, this is exactly the kind of story that's amazing for a high-handicap amateur golfer, but for a guy who gets paid to do it, it's exactly what he should be doing. Digging further into the rabbit hole, it wouldn't even be par for a professional after he had to take a drop on the ball that Martin Erat set up for him that he shanked into the water and promptly forgot about. Putting the whole situation into its context feels like less of a victory for the league and more an example of a golfer using contextual lies to tell only the part of the story that's good for him. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Colin Campbell cheats at golf.
- Speaking of Cooke, there are two related things coming from Penguins fans about him that are wrong and stupid on a few levels. The first is that every team employs a Matt Cooke-type player. For anybody who believes this, I offer a challenge: in the comments section, I ask you to list the Matt Cooke-type player from every team. I want good solid comparisons here. For it to be accurate, I want to be able to believe that this guy consistently goes on the ice looking to hurt people. Second, the concept that Red Wings fans are ones to talk, considering they root for the team that employs Todd Bertuzzi, is even dumber than that. In many ways, Todd Bertuzzi is the exact opposite of Matt Cooke. Bertuzzi committed an act that will forever be the Hitler comparison when discussing hockey cheap shots. There's not getting around that no matter how many years in the past that incident remains (7 for those of you counting). But, when given the chance, Todd Bertuzzi turned his game around and has played free of similar hits. Matt Cooke is on chance #5 now and we're just now hearing about how he's serious about his desire to stop head-hunting. Also, not to take away anything from the blame Bertuzzi crowd in what happened to Steve Moore, as he deserves every fair bit of the scorn heaped upon him to this day on that, but Bert's act was committed in retaliation for a very Cooke-like play. If the league had been doing a better job back then of trying to eliminate head shots, Perhaps Moore would have been suspended and cooler heads would have been allowed to prevail at that later Canucks/Avalanche tilt. Todd Bertuzzi isn't like Matt Cooke; Todd Bertuzzi is what we're all afraid is going to happen to Cooke.
- Mike Chen at the parent site wrote a good piece on Wednesday that breaks down penalties into two categories: dirty and cheating. He takes a look at which teams and players engage in more of the "dirty" stuff (boarding, charging, checking from behind, clipping, elbowing, kneeing, and roughing) and which ones do more of the "cheating" stuff (holding, holding the stick, hooking, goalie interference, interference, and tripping). It's no surprise to see Detroit as second from the bottom in the "dirty" category and to see players like Chris Neil, Matt Cooke, Steve Ott, and Cody McLeod dominate the top rankings of individual dirty players. It's interesting to see Detroit as the sixth cheatingest team in the league (tied with Pittsburgh). There are two big factors at play here: one is the fact that the Wings have been guilty of using stickwork instead of bodywork much too often this season and that's gotten them in trouble (especially Jonathan Ericsson, who's tied with Mark Giordano for title of the fourth-cheatingest player in the league). The second, and smaller, factor I believe affects this is that the refs are more likely to call chintzy cheating penalties on a team that's winning. I know it doesn't seem like it lately, but the Red Wings have been winning in a lot of games this season.
- Chris Osgood, what the hell is going on? I've supported the guy a lot in the last two seasons, but I'm getting confused. I know he had to have groin surgery to repair a lot of damage, but am I asking too much in expecting him to be good to go by now? Did Franzen's return from the ACL last year spoil me? The problem with waits this long and setbacks this common is that it gets harder to ignore the nagging thoughts that maybe Osgood's heart isn't as into returning as it should be since he got win #400. Dominik Hasek had bad groin problems late in his career and we heard a lot of stories about the insane stretching routines he'd have to go through daily to stay in game shape. All I'm hearing about Osgood is a big, fat nothing. I know that it's not a great comparison and expecting all athletes' bodies to react the same way, ESPECIALLY when I don't know the full nature of extent of the injury is foolish, but I can't help it. Osgood's got his Hall-of-Fame number in the books, he and his wife are expecting a
third daughterson, he has three Stanley Cup rings, and he keeps hearing shit from fans and bloggers about how he's not needed. However, if all of this is true. If Osgood is done playing hockey and has known it since his groin last flared up on him. He's doing all of us a minor favor by not retiring. His contract is +35 and there's no way to put a retired player's cap hit on LTIR to make room for a call-up. None of these things would surprise me, but I'm also hoping that it really is just dumb speculation by a fan with too much time on his hands. [ed note: corrected for gender of child. According to Bill Roose, the managing editor for the Red Wings' website and gameday program, Ozzie and his wife welcomed son Max Anthony Osgood into the world last night. Congrats to the Osgoods]
- Finally, I'm putting a self-imposed moratorium of using anything in the Red Wings' final eight games of the season (except injuries) to discuss how I think it affects their playoff chances. By now, we all have our minds made up one way or another how we think the Wings are going to do (they're going to win the Stanley Cup). They have words for people who are getting a good idea of their team's makeup in game #75 and how it affects their chances to win the cup. Those words are "Blackhawks fans".
So there you have it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on these, or any other hockey-related issues floating around in your head. Sound off in the comments.