Darren McCarty: Is the Risk Worth the Reward?

Henry DyckSenior Analyst IMarch 28, 2008

Many words have been used to describe the Detroit Red Wings General Manager, Ken Holland.

Among them is intelligent, honest, professional and loyal. In fact, some believe, at times, he is loyal to a fault.

This is why the Darren McCarty experiment is a head-scratcher. We all know ‘Mac's’ history with the Wings. From growing up in Leamington, ONT, roughly an hour away, to his dramatic Cup clinching goal in 1997, it’s obvious why he was, and still is, a fan favorite among the Wing faithful.

However, Holland’s modus operandi has always been to keep his team's chemistry in tact. It’s why you seldom see him make a deal at the deadline that involves any of the team’s core players, or allow free agents to skate out of Detroit in the off-season.

It’s hard to argue that the Wings aren’t having a terrific 2008 campaign. At times, they appear to be in a class of their own compared to other Cup contenders.

So why would a general manager risk disrupting a cohesive dressing room by bringing in a 35-year-old, oft-injured winger who hasn’t played an NHL game in nearly a year or scored an NHL goal in almost two?

I have heard nothing but great things about Aaron Downey, who is believed to be the first to sit in the wake of McCarty’s return.

Mike Babcock has raved about his team-first attitude and commented more than once on how the rugged, knuckle-chucking winger has done everything asked of him.

He also appears to be a very popular player in the dressing room as alternate captain Kris Draper remarked that Downey’s attitude towards playing professional hockey is both refreshing and uplifting.

Don’t get me wrong, Downey is never going to be mistaken for Wayne Gretzky, or even Keith Gretzky for that matter, but he is a valuable player within his role. You know what you’re going to get with him.

McCarty, on the other hand, is more of a mystery. How many minutes will he assume? Can he stay healthy throughout the playoffs? Scratch that: can he remain healthy for the remaining five regular season contests?

If he can, what kind of contributions can he lend a team that seemingly is firing on all cylinders? Downey is a better pugilist, his skating is better and he’s defensively sound.

McCarty has a lot more playoff experience, which is obviously a plus, and more than likely answers my own question. However, in an era where chemistry and cohesiveness often trump skill in the postseason, I still wonder what advantage there is to brining #25 back on board.

As a Wings fan, and only a fan, I’m not glib to believe that I know more than Ken Holland. At the same time, the fan in me is hoping that I’m wrong and the McCarty experiment is a wise one which pays off with the ultimate reward.