This might seem a touch...grandiose, but it seems there has been a paradigm shift in the NHL—perhaps more specifically, a trend that culminated in Detroit’s Stanley Cup victory. When Lidstrom hoisted the Cup for the first time with a C on his jersey, a fumulous of jingoistic smog dissipated from around the Cup: A European can, and always could, captain a hockey team to it.
Such is the state of the game after over three decades of European migration to our continent. I do not think anybody was shocked, and the game will look like it did last season, so nothing feels drastic now. However, the implications of this are manifest: For now we must abandon the notion that the NHL and the Stanley Cup are North American icons, the symbolism of which could never reach a European heart. Now the Stanley cup is not simply Canada’s or America’s trophy; rather, it is THE trophy of THE premier hockey league in the world, which happens to reside in North America.
And it always has been that, but now we realize that WE don't make claims on it; It claims us.
But enough prattling and on with the brass tacks….
Tomorrow, the Red Wings play Montreal, which is another team that has had success from a lineup with high Euro-content. I never get to see Montreal play, so I'm excited.
The Wings Preview
Goalie Dominik Hasek and forward Dallas Drake retired over the summer, and the Wings snagged Ty Conklin and Marian Hossa from Pittsburgh to replace them. While Detroit will miss the physical presence Drake provided, Hossa has proved he can score under pressure. Hossa was arguably the most effective player against Detroit in the finals, and I see no reason why he wouldn’t be in this year's playoffs.
If training camp is a good enough indicator, look for Hossa to skate with Pavel Datsyuk and Thomas Holmstrom. Henrik Zetterberg's absence from Pavel's passing lanes might throw some in Detroit—yes, it seems whenever Z and P are rent in twain, a brou-ha-ha develops in Hockeytown. Still, who can really complain about Zetterberg's replacement, Marian Hossa?
Still, I would not be surprised to see Z and P together on the power play, and Hossa bumped to play with Johan "Mule" Franzen on the second line. Zetterberg's main line will surely have Franzen on it, though. The two scored last playoffs with artistic and methodical ease. Perhaps the ever-maturing Jiri Hudler will join them.
Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby will stay together as checking-line regulars. Nobody on the team draws and kills more penalties than they do. And, though everybody would like to see it, I doubt whether ex-drug enthusiast (read: weekend warrior), Darren McCarty, will join them. Instead, Dan Clearly will likely round out that line.
That leaves Valteri Filppula, Darren Helm, and Mikael Samuelson left over for a fourth line—and not a bad one. Filppula and Samuelson are sound defensive forwards with physical presence, and all three had timely and fantastic goals last playoffs.
The main problem in Detroit: There are too many able-bodied and playoff-tested players. Other teams would love to have Detroit's so-called problems.
At Defense, the glut of talent "problem" presents itself again: The top four slots are filled by Messrs. Lidstrom, Rafalski, Stuart, and Kronvall (Or is "wall" the correct and severely apropos ending to his name?). Moreover, there are two solid defense men and a future hall-of-famer/AARP member vying for the fifth and sixth slots.
And in goal, Chris Osgood will try to prove that his many successes over his career weren’t flukes. Such is the shrift offered him by the press each year. Ty Conklin, 32, and Jimmy Howard, 24, have begun their competition for the back-up slot. I hope they don’t room together.
Detroit is a damned nightmare to play against, and they are well insured against injuries.