Red Wings Ombudsman Part 2: Fun in the Room
It's a long summer. We love our team, but sometimes it takes some tough love.
A week ago, I wrote a piece about how things don't quite add up in the Wings' locker room, how there's a feeling that things aren't quite meshing. To throw a little more fuel on the fire, I wanted to take a look less than two miles across town.
Yep @zubaz got us looking right @tigers pic.twitter.com/VUIrWfAXN3— Joba Chamberlain (@Joba_44) May 19, 2014
That's a baseball team all happily sharing that they're dressed like a bunch of fucking dorks. Better yet, that's a tweet from a guy brand new to their lineup sharing in the fun.
So where's this kind of fun from the Wings? Don't get me wrong, we've seen a few guys show some personality on social media (and I've even liked some of it). But as far as the hokey team-building shit that doesn't really seem like much until you're facing down another long summer after an early playoff exit? Well it's been four years since Henrik Zetterberg got married and a large bunch of the team dressed up in stripes.
Hey, maybe the room really is a lot of fun, it's just that the nature of hockey Twitter means less of this stuff gets out? Maybe it's the entirely true damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't consideration that showing a whole team having goofy fun together when they're anything less than dominant invites criticism from fans who would complain about how these professionals aren't taking their jobs seriously enough?
It's possible, but if so, they hide it pretty well.
I mean, the Wings put up with an HBO film crew for several weeks in what was probably the most-invasive coverage they'd faced. By the time all the editing magic had been done though, the team came across as more wooden and splintered than Pinocchio getting railed by the Ninja Turtles' sensei. Henrik Zetterberg appeared only to take a skate on his private pond. Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary shared a terribly awkward laugh in the trainers' room in a perfectly scripted bit. A whole group of youngsters got together at a Florida restaurant and all they could find to discuss was how good Datsyuk is. Meanwhile, Todd Bertuzzi spent every odd moment sitting alone and drinking beer like some nouveau Colonel Kurtz.
If the Wings have a collective personality, it came across this season as a numismatist accountant who would rather be fishing.
Maybe it's the chicken and the egg at play here and the team simply has less fun because they're not winning as much versus being a team that doesn't win as much because it doesn't have less fun. Both are valid. I don't care though. If there is a link between having fun and winning games, I want the Wings to be an entire arena full of zubaz-wearing idiots.
First off, I'd like to say that I love Mike Babcock. He's without a doubt one of, if not the best coach in the entire universe. Now that I have that out of the way, I've kinda come to a fork in the road after this season. I've always defended Babcock's judgment with any of his calls. But after he demanded the re-signing of Daniel Cleary, and basically crucified Luke Glendening by overmatching him on the regular, I think I have come to my senses in that I want to question some of his calls. Along with that, I have my worries with his demeanor as a coach. I'm not saying he should be a guy who walks into the room with his underwear on his head, shooting a cap-gun and telling jokes.. But I can't tell you the last time I saw him cracking jokes and having a good time with the players in the locker room.
Sure, you can say the whole bit with having Tomas Tatar read off the starting lineup in 24/7 was "fun." But to me, that entire thing came off as forced and manufactured. It sounded like everyone was laughing along just because it was an obligation.
This is why I love players like Tomas Tatar. He's an absolute goofball and backs up his shenanigans with being a pretty god damn good hockey player. Every team has to have the one player who does stupid things from time-to-time where you just sit back and go "what a dork, but I love it!" Tatar is that player. I'm not talking about crushing a pop can and shooting it at a garbage can in the parking lot of the Joe Louis Arena, I'm talking about doing something like "Don't forget the stairs buddy" kinda stuff. Tomas Tatar, in so many facets, is Jiri Hudler 2.0.
I'm not gonna sit here and tell you that Babcock should change his style, but I do think it would help to embrace the youth and their antics to be a little whacky at times. I'm sure as more kids come through the locker-room, that will change. But after this season, and seeing 24/7 I just can't help but to think to myself "Are these guys even having fun?"