September 30, 2008

Last Place

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More on this breaking story as it develops. Oh, wait. Season's over.

The end.

September 29, 2008

The Journey to Comerica Park: Tigers 6 - Rays 4

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We do what we can to make it to at least one Tigers game each season. We cut it rather close this year but made it along with 39,000 others to see Detroit play Tampa Bay on a Friday(28th) night where the Rays could have clinched the east (at least it meant something to one of the two teams). In the end Tyler got to keep his streak of "wins while in attendance" going and the Tigers won 6-4. Here's a few of the better pictures I took while there.

"Welcome to beautiful Comerica Park, please enjoy our $6.50 bottles of beer and $4 hot dogs!" Everything's worth it when I see Earnie Harwell on an insurance advertisement.


This is how I picture the convo of this quick outfielders meeting going.

Granderson: So Mags, how's Magglio jr? Keeping his nose clean I hope.
OrdoƱez: Not bad, not bad... Holy shit! When did Rayburn show up?

While looking to see if Magglio even had any kids for this I found out he has a case of George Foreman Syndrome. He names his kids after himself! He has a son Magglio Jr. and daughter Maggliana. His other daughter is named Sophia. I can only guess which one his wife got to name. Speaking of her, Magglio is married to a woman named Dagly. What an odd family, but I love them none the less!


Me: Magglio! I want to have your illegit love child!
Mags: Huh?


Even from the complete opposite side of the park I could tell Rod and Mario apart. I still wish I would've made a big ass sign to get their attention.



The award for the best jersey I saw the whole night goes to this guy in the Cecil Fielder jersey. If I had gotten a Fielder jersey for my birthday in 94 like I had asked for I could have been that guy!

(Can you help me out? I need a six letter word for a 135 million dollar disappointment)
A crossword puzzle at a MLB game? Those are $65 seats and this man is doing a crossword puzzle!
I didn't even see the guy on the left staring at me until I uploaded the picture, creepy.


Meet Lenord. He was the usher for our section in the stands. I was taking a few pictures when I noticed him make a b-line for me. I assumed he was going to try and take my camera because of terrorist activity. But instead he was just looking to strike up a conversation. We ended up talking for probably fifteen minutes about all sorts of things. He told me about how he got his shirt and how much he loves doing what he does. He also made sure to casually point out that the Tigers at one time played host to a couple of really good players such as Ty Cobb and Al Kaline (I suppose he assumed I was too young to know who they were). He was a great sport and let me snap a photo. Thanks again Lenord.

At the very least the Tigers can go into the dressing room knowing they kept the Rays from clinching the east. Oh wait, Boston lost later that evening assuring Tampa of the #1 spot.


We win... and no win or run scored is complete without the obligatory water show.



I knew somewhere that night I'd find someone with a shirt or a sign about Millen. Lucky for me I found these guys with matching shirts only a few feet away from my seat. Origionally I only saw the man in the orange. When I asked to take his picture he wouldn't let me until his matching counterpart returned with a beer. I didn't get their names but thanks again for the picture guys.

Fired Millen: Check!

September 26, 2008

Preseason Game #2

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Red Wings 4-3 Bruins

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(** EDIT **) Been messing around with templates and fonts this morning. Still a few kinks to work out, mainly the header. Problem is I can never settle on one format of anything, ever. Like you give a shit anyway. **


The Wings took the first of a back-to-back with the brown bears last night.

My main gripe with not being able to see these exhibition games is that I can't see the prospects I'm always reading about at Red Wings Central. Like Cory Emmerton ... scored the opening goal and had an assist. Is a "good fit for the Wings' system", or so I've read. informative game recap included some of the following positive notes:


"Darren Helm was all over the ice and without a question belongs at the NHL level..."

"Brad Stuart was Detroit's most physical defenseman, delivering some heavy hits. He also scored the game-winner against his former team."

"Jiri Hudler made some timely defensive plays, which is going to help him solidify his spot on a scoring line with Zetterberg and Johan Franzen."


Another Wing prospect who stood out was goaltender Daniel Larsson. His play through training camp until now has sounded nothing but encouraging. He was solid last night in relief of Chris Osgood, stopping 17 of 19 shots including a big save on Michael Ryder in the 2nd period. Here's what Bruce MacLeod has to say about him:


"Forget about outplaying Ty Conklin. Jimmy Howard hasn't outplayed Daniel Larsson ... and that's a compliment to Larsson, not a slam on Howard. The Swedish netminder has come to camp ready and looks very strong. He's an excellent position netminder, who looks much better than a No. 2 AHL goalie."


For those of us who aren't sold on Howard, that's a good read. Oh, and if you've never seen what Larsson looks like, treat yourself now. I know it says he's only 22 but you can't tell me that picture isn't from 1977. He looks like the lovechild of a Formula 1 driver and Luke Skywalker.

September 25, 2008

Millen-less Day #1

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This video from over at Tirico Suave was too hilarious not to comment on. Enjoy their work if you haven't already.

I can't get over how great this liberation from the tyranny of the Millen Era feels. It's like a torturous ruler had been suppressing an entire nation for decades until somebody finally put him out of his misery and shot him in the forehead. It's like Hitler died. It's like Saddam was captured. It's like we finally figured out how to take down the enemy spacecrafts in Independence Day. It's like Simba defeated Scar and restored order at Pride Rock. It's like it rained for 7 straight years -- not just a drizzle but a fucking monsoon -- and the clouds finally opened up and let some sunlight in.

And oh the camaraderie. People honking horns, calling their friends, calling in sick to celebrate, conceiving children out of boundless bliss and uncontrollable joy. Seemingly everyone I know who is a Lions fan, even fringe Lions fans, have found a way to express their happiness whether it's via telephone, email, Facebook status update, blog post or whatever. This was our Berlin Wall, and it has been torn down. The general manager void could be filled by Osama Bin Laden and we wouldn't care. Millen is gone.

Get 'em a body bag: It's the start of the Preseason

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Red Wings 2-3 Canadiens (SO)

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The Wings' amazing run comes to an end as they lose for the first time in three and a half months. Just a remarkable stretch of un-losing. To this I give a respectful standing-O. The Queeradiens, on the other hand, win for the first time since May. Took you long enough, douche bags. Go fly a kite.

But how chilling to come home from work and read (at TSN),

Detroit also had a player go to the hospital. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom was hit in the face with a shot and was helped off the ice 3:05 into the third period. He took stitches above his right eye and went to Detroit Medical Center for precautionary X-rays.


Holy shit. It's Game 1 of the preseason -- cool it with the scary shit, guys. I guess as long as he doesn't look like this, I'll get through it. (God that picture is gross.) Who shot the puck? Was it Samuelsson missing so bad that the puck boomeranged backwards?

And wait....Detroit "also" had a player go to the hospital?

(Mathieu) Carle was carried off the ice on a stretcher 5:25 into the game after a hit by Detroit forward Tomas Kopecky at the Red Wings' blue-line.


It ain't cool to hear people getting stretchered off. But if he's gonna be alright -- then heelllll yeah, Kopie. Do the damn thing.

Goals came from Homer and Former Michigan State Spartan And National Champion Justin Abdelkader (that's his full legal name). I would like to see a line of Kop/Helm/FMSSANCJA (that's his abreviated name) in the future. I think it would be the balls.

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P.S: So long, Millen. You fuck.


September 24, 2008

Ask and we shall recieve

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I wake up to find my plea for change answered, today it has been announced Matt Millen is no longer the Lions GM and CEO. It's not yet known if he quit or if he was fired. But one thing is for damn sure. If you want something done, go on tv and publicly embarrass your father.

Now I'm not dumb enough to think this solves all the Lions problems. We still have a matter of the coaching staff, scouts, and 90% of the player staff. But it's a huge step in the right direction and maybe another step in Bill Ford Jr. gaining a bit of control in team matters. Now time to see if the Lions go forward or pick a failure for the next eight years.

Red Wings Season Preview: Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby

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2007-08 Statistics

Draper * Maltby
Games: 65 * Games:61
Goals: 9 * Goals: 6
Assists: 8 * Assists: 4
Points: 17 * Points: 10


I'm doubling up with Maltby and Draper today as I try to squeeze each player in before opening night. Over the next week and a half I may take a break as I try to catch up on homework and maintain a social li....okay just catch up on homework. If I post anything before the NHL season starts you can bet that I had a serious anxiety attack after devoting something pitiful like 15 minutes to my 10 page research paper and turned to The Deke to temporarily lift my spirits. (I don't trust myself to get this thing done. I'll probably sit down to do the assignment with the initial intent of spending 4 to 5 hours on it, might even make some coffee, only to lose focus and write some weird sci-fi epic in which Johan Franzen steals Red Bird Two in an attempt to fly across the Atlantic in search of Jiri Hudler's wayward spirit, but then I'll realize that I'm a piece of shit writer because I'm obviously stealing the plot from Star Trek III and all that work will be a waste.)

Kirk Maltby has put me in a bit of an emotional pickle. I like the guy, as it's pretty hard not to if you're a Wings fan. He's a high character guy, and judging by his interviews and such I can say that I wouldn't mind sharing a game of Jenga with him. You know, the one with the blocks and shit. It's great. And when you eventually fuck it up and make the tower fall, and your nemesis yells "JENGA" at you like an asshole yelling that "the light is green" at an intersection, you get to play dominoes and make everything better. Jenga is fun. Oops, I'm doing it again. Let's start over.

Kirk Maltby adds almost nothing to this team. It feels bad saying something so blunt about a guy who has won 4 Cups, but that's what the salary cap does to you: it makes you a stone cold prick. You start analyzing every last player in your head, comparing him with other players of similar pay and statistical output, before coming to the conclusion that it looks like it's time to part ways. Back in the Grind Line days it was cool to see Maltby buzz around the ice and get under people's skin, and he did it better than anybody. He doesn't really do that anymore though; he kinda just tries to get his shift in without severely messing anything up. The little offensive skill he used to have has completely left him now, making him a total non-threat when he crosses center ice. With our top scoring line also moonlighting as our best defensive unit, it's hard to define a role for him other than bit penalty killer.

I don't want this to be a eulogy, however. How much is leadership, experience and character worth? I don't know. But I'll leave the door open on Maltby because there's just so few holes on this team that worrying about him seems so fucking petty. I mean really.

As for Draper, he's got a little bit more to offer, even if it's not much.

He wins a shitload of faceoffs. He can still skate. And most importantly, his playoff beard was the stuff of legend, and is something that is still talked about on a daily basis. He needs to grow a preseason fu-manchu. Then he needs to grow an Abe Lincoln for the regular season, and then pull it all together in April. His beard alone could keep him a spot on this roster for the next 15 years. I'm not kidding. Don't fuck with the beard karma, Ken Holland. This man stays a Wing until he can no longer stand, or until he decides that growing a beard is gay.

Now that that's settled: I read an interesting piece this summer about how Draper and Maltby are expendable. Well....yeah, I'd say so. Technically. Technically, we could dig up two other guys who would be cheaper and do pretty much the same things statistically. But it would be just plain weird to "get rid of them" or "replace them". If they retire or leave on their own, then whatever, but actually making the effort to replace these two? Wouldn't that be strange? As weird as it was seeing Fedorov or Shanahan in enemy colors, for some reason I think it would be far more weird to see Draper or Maltby on another team. I'm picturing Draper taking a defensive zone draw with a Minnesota Wild jersey on and it's making my brain turn itself inside out. It can't process it.

And just so my entire argument for them being here isn't based on how "strange" their departure would be: I think their presence adds something legitimate to this team. Together they're nearly a 3 million dollar cap hit, which sounds a little pricey for what they offer statistically, but for whatever dollar amount you assess their value to be, I think it's worth paying that little extra. A more accurate price total might be like the $1.5-1.75 million range for what they produce, but maybe that "leadership/character" value ends up being around $0.5 million per, in which case the Wings aren't really overpaying that much for them.

I love reading as much statistical shit as I can get my hands on, but for this one circumstance, I make a special case to talk about the intangible. The team is better with these guys around, even if it's in a limited or diminished roll. Helm and Abdlekader will arrive eventually, but I'm cool with Draper and Maltby hanging around for at least one more year because of who they are, for what they've done, and because of beards and Jenga. This logic may be flawed -- or completely void of sense -- but because it's Draper and Maltby, it fits.


2008-09 Pointless Statistical Guess

Draper * Maltby
Goals: 9 * Goals: 5
Assists: 14 * Assists: 4
Points: 23 * Points: 9

September 22, 2008

I'm washing my hands of the Lions now

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It has to be done. Everyone should give up on the Lions now. What's the point in supporting them at all anymore? Another season of being embarrassed of every game, every drive, every play call. Year after year it's the same thing. Every news outlet in the state hypes the new season with how the team should know the plays better now or the troops should gel this season. Yet here we are again three games in.... No improvement in sight. It's a shame a talent like Calvin Johnson gets to play in Detroit. He deserves much better. He's pretty much the only weapon the offense so unless the other team really fucks up he's got every single defender in his shadow. No one can catch and it doesn't help that Kitna is absolutely abysmal. It's time to pack it in and bench him..... Bring in Stanton or Orlovsky there is not way they can possibly make the lions play any worse.

Sadly, Tron Kitna can't take all the blame. The defense is beyond all words to describe. I just call them not good, not good at all. My 4th grade peewee team tackled better than the Lions D. What the hell is going on here?

I listen to sports talk radio pretty much 100% of the time while in my car. A week or so ago there was an interview with ex Lions coach Steve Mariucci and he shed some light on the front office.

"They (Ford and Millen) made me play Harrington. Even after several bad showings and no observable signs of improvement, they still made me start Joey."

To make things worse, Steve was in pursuit of a very probable aquisition of Drew Brees only to be denied by management and ownership stating "Joey's our guy!"

This is insane, how does Goodell let this shit happen again and again... doesn't he plead with the Fords at owners meetings to clean house and actually try for once. But Ford is always too busy playing boss with better things to do than take care of his investments.

The one thing I don't understand is why people still show up to Ford Field every season. Why do you spend your money and support a shitty product. No one would buy a condom with "vent holes" advertised on it. Yet they still sell tickets..... They'll never change anything if people keep showing up. Yes, that means even you "Fire Millen pizza box, paper bag over the head guy".

Then I wake up this afternoon... Yes, this afternoon and I see on espn that if Ford Jr. was in control things would be different. So tell your bastard father you want in on the business and show him how things can be done for christ sake... I just want some change, that's all I ask. Until then I wash my hands of the Lions. Thank god hockey season is near.

September 18, 2008

Red Wings Season Preview: Henrik Zetterberg

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2007-08 Statistics

Games: 75
Goals: 43
Assists: 49
Points: 92



Malkin's in the trunk.


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Z wants 50.

50 goals is a tall order, even if everything falls is into place. But the eternal optimist in me (optimist? Since when?) says he gets there, and then some. It's nonsensical to predict that he won't get injured, especially with his nagging back woes, but I'm going to go about my business as if he won't succumb to any of that.

Z's rapid progression is going to lead to some staggering numbers
one of these seasons. Like, a 1994 Sergei Fedorov type of season. Despite the lazy parallels in the comparison game that would lead you to link Fedorov with fellow Russian Pavel Datsyuk, Zetterberg is the one that holds a closer resemblance the '94 League MVP (except for the off ice weirdness). Sergei, at his peak, was the best pure athlete that I've seen on skates. To my amateur eye, nobody had the natural gifts that he had when he was running the Joe in the '90s. It looked like he was operating at a different speed than every single other player, like he was playing a different game entirely. His skating stride is what stuck out the most; he was second to none in forging out his own space on the ice with his legs. Zetterberg doesn't have that same natural polish, but he's damn near just as effective, and maybe even more so. Each time that he carries the puck over the blue line, you're expecting him to find the littlest crack in the zone and create daylight for his linemates. I don't know that there's anybody better in hockey at swinging around the net and buying 4 to 5 extra seconds of possession. Watching him do that a few times a game is whatever the straight man's word for "breathtaking" is.

I bring up Sergei not because I'm just another dick with a keyboard trying to start an argument, but because I'm genuinely curious about this; I stumbled across a message board a few weeks ago regarding the question of, simply, "who's better -- Fedorov then or Zetterberg now?" and it got me thinking about it. I spent all of like 15 seconds before coming to the conclusion: I'll take Hank.

Fedorov was a freakish athletic specimen back in his Day. Zetterberg can't quite match that, but if it's between his fiery competitiveness and determination versus Sergei's natural talent, this is no contest to me. I'll take the guy who puts everything he has into every shift, who's a better teammate and leader than Sergei ever was. Z's no slouch either -- he's pretty fucking talented himself, but he's got another gear that we see every night whereas Sergei only could muster 100% when properly motivated. Z's got all the motivation....he was picked in the later rounds of the draft, he's "undersized", he's not supposed to be this good. Reading things like "I hope to score 50 goals" is great. He just won a Cup and a Conn Smythe and he's still looking to destroy the rest of the league.


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Like I said, it's a tall order. He managed 43 while unloading a huge number of shots (358), and with Hossa around he might not get that many again. But, fuck it, why not:


2008-09 Pointless Statistical Guess

Goals: 54
Assists: 59
Points: 113

September 16, 2008

Red Wings Season Preview: Tomas Kopecky

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2007-08 Statistics

Games: 77
Goals: 5
Assists: 7
Points: 12


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We're coming down to the stretch run of the baseball season and I haven't said shit about the Tigers in what feels like forever. Regardless if they've been a disappointment or not, I'm still a baseball fan and the title of this here blog says "The Triple Deke: A Detroit Sports Blog." If I was a dumbass redneck like the ones I see on a daily basis at my video store job, I'd claim that this is false advertising. (Never mind the actual written rules of the law and what classifies as "advertising", you wouldn't believe the stupid claims that people make unless you've experienced South Lansing for yourself. I'm sure there are droves of communities that are on the whole dumber than the piss-poor sack of miscreants that make up this town but they can't be winning the battle of ineptitude by too far of a margin. It's weird....I traverse 5 minutes north to Michigan State's campus during the day and see some of the snobbiest, silver spoon-iest looking people on the face of the planet, but then, I can go 5 minutes south at night and witness the social equivelent of looking under a giant, maggot-infested tree stump.) Admittedly, I haven't exactly been TiVo-ing every game to watch after I get home from work each night. It might be fair to say that I've been somewhat of a fairweather fan the last few weeks and the thought of that makes me a little sick. Even when this team completely sucked I still followed them as closely as I could, but I've been lazy about that recently.

Most of it, I think, is this: I've been so utterly consumed with the upcoming hockey season that everything else has taken a back seat to the Wings and the NHL. I don't know what it is. I think a lot of it is because of our involvement in the hockey blogosphere, and reading sites of other teams. As a relatively young person who likes sports I'm sort of surprised that it took me until less than a year ago to really get sucked into the Internet/sports landscape. Messageboards, blogs, you name it. I wake up every morning with a habitual urge to make sure I'm up to date on everything in the world of sports, and all summer long, hockey has been the first priority. Even though it's the offseason I feel like anything hockey-related is satisfying. I could find a story about Ken Hitchcock repainting his dining room and that would keep me happily occupied.

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So if you've been wondering why this has been so hockey-centric lately, there's your answer, kind of. Anyway, this was supposed to be about Kopecky, and since the only publicity he gets is when people mention how he's BFF with Marian Hossa I should start talking about his hockey playing ability. (And yes, I pretty much picked today specifically to use those first two paragraphs as fillers. He's fucking Tomas Kopecky -- it's not exactly going to be a 10,000 word post.)

I get the impression that I like Kopie more than most Wings fans. Not that there's a grass roots movement to have him rushed out of town or anything like that. Just a feeling. I don't think anybody really pays that much attention to him, but then again that's probably expected considering the level of talent surrounding him at every position. However, we're going to need somebody to fill in for that all important roll Dallas Drake played last season, and there's nobody else to turn to except for Tomas Kopecky right now. He's coming back from a major knee injury, which is a big concern. But when at full health he's got size, can throw his weight around and muck it up in the corners. Not only that but he holds the possibility for offensive potential that Drake lacked, which is encouraging.

When he does come back it'll raise the question of who's the odd man out of the top 12. If Kopie makes his spot, then he'll probably fit somewhere around...

Holmstrom/Datsyuk/Hossa
Franzen/Zetterberg/Hudler
Cleary/Filppula/Samuelsson
Maltby/Draper/Kopecky

Well then. Depending on your preference, that fourth line would either have Kop or Darren McCarty as the RW. In a perfect world -- and I feel bad saying this -- Maltby wouldn't be there. You know he'll be there, though. Hopefully there's some sort of rotation with Kopecky/Mac/(insert young Griffins player here) where they can all see a portion of ice time, because breaking in the young guys while still using the ability of the regulars should be viewed as an important part of this season. I'm sure with Kopecky's knee there will be opportunity for more than just a "regular 12" to suit up and show us something.


2008-09 Pointless Statistical Guess

Goals: 4
Assists: 9
Points: 13

September 12, 2008

Red Wings Season Preview: Chris Chelios

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2007-08 Statistics

Games: 69
Goals: 3
Assists: 9
Points: 12


Hockey is a funny sport when it comes to numbers. For whatever reason, I feel compelled to begin each player's preview with a minimal statistical summary. But does it really tell you anything? Does anybody give two shits about how many points Chris Chelios put up last season? No and no. I've only recently gotten into the whole hockey sabermetrics thing, and am still trying to grasp what little of it I've read about it so far. I'm curious to learn more so that I can have another perspective from which to view the value of a player like Cheli instead of just relying the same old gut judgements.

He doesn't leave his mark in the stat column, that much is obvious. So what exactly IS his value to the club? Leadership? Yeah, he's got that. Experience too. And all of that other intangible bullshit that you can't quantify. So let me just a couple things from Behind the Net and try to generalize an opinion out of it:

At even strenght, Cheli was best among regular defensemen in goals against per 60 minutes with a stingy 1.47. Keep in mind, however, that he played mainly on the 3rd pairing and didn't see the level of competition that Lidstrom/Rafalski/and some others did. Offensively, his icetime resulted in only 2.18 goals/60 minutes, which isn't surprising.

While he's no longer a top-4 defenseman, his main roll is penalty killer. 5.77 goals/60 mins were scored against the Wings with him on the ice, which is a little bit better than middle of the pack as far as other NHL D-men who played comparable PK minutes last season. Lidstrom was right around those same numbers, which I found a little surprising considering I assume him to be #1 in every category in life, not just hockey.

In the blocked shots department of the PK, he doesn't really stand out: 10.6/60 minutes. Lilja nearly had double that with 19.5 (God I hate saying anything remotely possitive about Lilja....yeah, that's a bit petty, I agree). And as far as Missed Shots go, he's middle of the road as well.

I don't really know if that tells me a whole lot more than I already thought about Chris Chelios' 2007-08 season, but regardless, it's still kind of interesting to see numerically. He plays a lot of minutes while we're a man down, and he's pretty good at it. He doesn't have to defend the same skill players at 5-on-5 that Nick Lidstrom does, so the goals allowed with him on the ice don't look too shabby either. But as he continues to get older and older and keeping up roster space while our stable of young defensemen are forced to watch from either the bench or Grand Rapids, you have to start to think about whether breaking them in right now isn't a better option than letting a 46 (going on 47) year-old guy get that ice time. Luckily I don't have to make those tough decisions.

Chelios was in a weird situation at the end of the season when he was apparently healthy but was sitting in favor of Andreas Lilja. In his defense, I still think something wasn't right with him physically and we just didn't hear about it. He had a couple of bad games late in the postseason, and even though he and Babcock said he was fine, I don't buy it. Why would Lilja or Lebda play instead of him, but they bring Cheli back this year? It makes no sense to bring him back if he couldn't even play well enough to beat out those guys. I guess we'll see how it shakes out after camp gets going.


2008-09 Pointless Statistical Guess

Goals: 2
Assists: 12
Points: 14

September 11, 2008

Sick Day

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Feeling.......lazy. This sinus infection can eat shit and die.


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No player preview today. File this post under "Unnecessary Use of 90 Seconds."

For the ultimate in Wing previewing you should check out Puck Daddy if you haven't already (as if there are people who check here before the top hockey blog on the web.) If for nothing else it should be read just to see that Aaron Downey video.....dude reads Plato. Yeah, the philosopher.

I feel like if I had a calendar that had a different obscure Downey quote for each day my life would be at least 5 % better.


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Currently, Big 10 Network is airing an Oregon/Wisconsin football game from 2000, with Joey Harrington quarterbacking the Ducks. They showed an interview with him -- he just seemed like such a sure thing. Terrific combination of competitiveness and smarts. It's almost impossible to grasp how stupid that thought is now.

September 10, 2008

Red Wings Season Preview: Johan Franzen

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2007-08 Statistics

Games: 72
Goals: 27
Assists: 11
Points: 38


And, if I recall correctly, about 25 of those goals came in the last week of the season. I seem to remember a "hot streak" or something.

How different were the two halves to his season? The Mule went down with a knee sprain in the second game of the year against Chicago, which reunited the Datsyuk/Zetterberg/Holmstrom line. He struggled to find his groove for a while, and didn't notch his first goal until November 22. At the start of 2008, he had only accumulated 6 goals. And while he's not on the team for his passing, he still only had 2 measly assists, adding up to 8 points at the start of January.

The Wings needed some sort of pickup. We were wondering alound about acquiring another scorer before the trade deadline. Pav and Hank couldn't do it all by themselves, so something needed to happen. Little did we know that help would come from within - within the possessed, transformed soul of Johan Franzen. His performance down the stretch was the very definition of "pleasant surprise". He was so glaringly out of synch before...now he was our most dangerous scorer night after night. He kept it going through the postseason, and put on one of the most incredible single-series performances in Detroit Sports History when he slayed the Avalanche. 9 goals in 4 games. Video game shit.

In the back of my head, where the pessimistic portion of brain is, I worry that this was a fluke. But the rational side of me says that a "fluke" cannot look as untouchable as the Mule was from the beginning of March onward. Even when he looked a little slow from that scary head injury shit in the playoffs, he put on an electric display with that insane move in Game 3 of the Finals. Stickwork like that indicates that he's got enough confidence to last him 3 more careers, which greatly subdues any pessimism I may have.


2008-09 Pointless Statistical Guess

Goals: 36
Assists: 19
Points: 55

September 9, 2008

Red Wings Season Preview: Mikael Samuelsson

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2007-08 Statistics

Games: 73
Goals: 11
Assists: 29
Points: 40


Let's look back upon Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals first.




and,





What I'll always love most about Sammy's out-of-nowhere performance was Mike Emrick's call on both of the goals. In the first one he tried to squeeze as many words as he could into a 2 second-long sentence and nearly crapped his pants in the process. And in the second one when he yells "SAM-UEL-SSON!!" you can literally hear the disbelief echoing in his voice.

I bring this game up because, without it, what the hell else would I have to say about Mikael Samuelsson? We'll have another full year ahead of us to bitch about his inability to hit the net and live up to the hollow top-six-forward expectations that Mike Babcock sees in him. Why not hark back to a time (even if it only lasted 2 periods) when he didn't make us want to tear our hair out?

It's kind of funny when you think about it, even if this is a bit extreme: If the Penguins win that series (hilarious, right?) then our opinion of Sammy is just as low as it was prior to the Finals. Instead: we win the Cup, we get Hossa, Sammy's relegated to 3rd line duty, and his failure to meet the lofty aspirations of being our 2nd line Right Wing isn't such a big deal. In fact, if Cleary/Fil/Sammy is our 3rd line for most of the season, he only has to play as average as he has been playing to keep things moving smoothly, and his horrid accuracy will be far less noticeable.

It's not that he's a bad player. He can forecheck well (as seen in the second video), he can play the possession game, he's usually a smart positional player, and he's got pretty good size. But he's an easy target for our ire, even if he doesn't always deserve it. It's easy to poke fun when the organization put at least some of their eggs in the basket of a guy who, prior to his signing, owned one double digit scoring season by the age of 28. He's gone from 23 goals in his first year to 14 and then 11 last season, so while he's finally found a team to settle down with, it looks like his best offensive numbers have peaked.


2008-09 Pointless Statistical Guess

Goals: 13
Assists: 15
Points: 28

September 8, 2008

Red Wings Season Preview: Brian Rafalski

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2007-08 Statistics

Games: 73
Goals: 13
Assists: 42
Points: 55

Think he enjoyed his first year in Detroit? Career high in goals, matched his career high in points from the year previous. Got to play with Nick Norris and enjoy an actual Stanley Cup celebration, not some shitty get-together in a parking lot. After playing in the defensive Nazi camp of New Jersey, Raf made the easy decision and came to the Wings, and he has been a perfect fit thus far.

He's turning 35 this month, which normally wouldn't sound great for a smallish defender who relies on his strong skating ability. But he showed zero signs of slowing down last year and I don't anticipate him looking old for at least another couple seasons.

Like a number of Wing defensemen, injuries slowed him down last year for a stretch during the regular season. A stretch that he was sorely missed. With Raf out of the lineup, the Wings took a swift kick to the sack as they had a February to forget, losing 10 out of 11 from February 7th to the 29th. Fucking leap year (shakes fist at sky). Even with all of our depth, it's still tough to lose a #2 as good as Rafalski. He and Lidstrom provide a dynamite power-play tandem but where he was truly missed was the transition game at even strength. Moving the puck up ice in a hurry is his main attribute, so it's no wonder that he has excelled in the Wings' system so far. This year, if he stays healthy, he'll finish with a new career-best in assists.

With all of these previews I don't want to come off as if it's only the Marian Hossa addition that will make this offense even better -- it's a full year of The New Johan Franzen and Brad Stuart, the progression of Filppula, Hossa, and everyone else. We're not expecting a regular season quite like 1996, but best-case-scenario? The '08/'09 regular season is relatively free of injury and we see a ton of stat-padding to ease our minds 'til April. Brian Rafalski will have a great year and once again be an integral part of this club as the Wings (hopefully) lift Cup #12 next summer.


2008-09 Pointless Statistical Guess

Goals: 9
Assists: 50
Points: 59

September 7, 2008

Optimism and Your Detroit Lions

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Lions 21-34 Falcons

Ahhh, the new season is finally here. After all of the draft picks, free agent signings and philosophy changes we have a whole new edition of the Detroit Lions to blindly follow into the wilderness of the NFL once again. For Lions fans, it's the best time of the year because our optimism is at its peak. We can be nervous and on-edge while still enjoying the team we love without too much to think about. It's just us versus them and everybody's undefeated. It's Week #1 and time to once more turn over a new le --

Oh you're fucking kidding me. His first NFL pass? A touchdown? Just like that, 7-0? I couldn't even get through the fruity opening soliloquy without Matt Ryan coming face-to-face with his best case scenario? 1 for 1, 62 yards, 1 touchdown...this blows.

Wow. Guess we'll just have to shake that one off, huh? Can't do anything about it now, no matter how bad you want to hit the reset button this is the same shitty defence we have to live with year after year. 7-0 after 3 plays to a rookie QB is no way to start a season, but if it's a shootout they want, a shootout they can have. Calvin Johnson, Roy Williams, Jon Kitna, the emerging Kevin Sm --

Dammit! 14-0! There's no way, just no fucking way. This is supposed to be the worst team in the league. At least, they're the worst rated team in Madden so that has to count for something. New overrated QB, new head coach, Michael Turner as the running back....this team is supposed to suck. I can't believe we got our hopes up with this team and not even halfway through the first quarter of Game 1 the season feels like it's over. If we can't beat the Falc --

Son of a bitch, can I finish a damn sentence without them scoring? 21-0. In the first quarter. This has to be record for shortest time into a season that any team has given up on their season. There's no recovering from this. Not when you fail to show up against the former worst team in the league (that honor was shifted to Detroit after the first 10 minutes) and blow what was probably one of the first "must-win Week 1" games ever.

We needed this one and nobody on this sorry defence had it today. The tackling was attrocious. Pathetic. Embarassing. So terrible that I can't even pick a good enough descriptive word to settle on. Rod Marinelli must be some kind of fraud to pass himself as an NFL coach and not have his defense ready for fucking Game 1 of the season. 318 yards rushing for the Falcons: that says it all.

And for all of this talk of the running game, we saw all of 62 yards to hit back with. Although, after going down 3 touchdowns early running wasn't really the first option. Calvin Johnson had a fine game with 7 catches for 107 yards. Roy Williams had 3 catches and a great touchdown catch. That's about all there is to remark upon.

We Lions fans have this inexplicable quality about us that allows us to simultaneously hate and love this team at the same time. Equally inexplicable is our renewed optimism at the start of each season. We see success stories of other teams that have come from nothing and challenged for division and conference championships and think that could be us someday. But God this team sucks.

0 for 1. Go Lions.

September 5, 2008

Red Wings Season Preview: Jiri Hudler

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2007-08 Statistics

Games: 81
Goals: 13
Assists: 29
Points: 42

I think this is Jiri's last season as a Wing.

He's got a world of offensive talent. Smooth skater, good shot, holds onto the puck well. But his tendency to fall into prolonged slumps and lose focus for games at a time is bothersome. He's got the skill to put up a 50-60 point season on other teams that would give him more even-strength chances, but on this squad it's not happening. Oh, wait a minute -- what's that coach?

(From Craig Custance earlier this week..)

...Detroit coach Mike Babcock is back from a hunting trip to Tanzania and he must have thought about Hossa somewhere along the way because he told me today he has a good idea how the lines will shake out in Detroit.

"I'll start Hossa with [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Tomas] Holmstrom and [Johan] Franzen, [Henrik] Zetterberg and [Jiri] Hudler will start together," Babcock said. "Then you go [Dan] Cleary, [Valtteri] Filppula and [Mikael] Samuelsson. That's as good as any third line in hockey."

Now, the news here is suppose to be how the top two lines fall with Hossa in the mix. But the true stand-out nugget here to me is Hudler's name floating around on the Line 2 with Franzen and Zetterberg.

I don't anticipate this as being anywhere near concrete, nor do I anticipate this being a season-long solution to the top-9 forwards' jigsaw puzzle that Wings fans have been mulling over all summer. Still....while Babcock was out hunting lions and dinosaurs and shit he came to the temporary conclusion that Hudler had earned the privilege of skating with a possessed Mule and Hank Smythe? Over Cleary or Filppula. I hope not.

Jiri has never been known for his defensive prowess. And when you skate big minutes on a Red Wings team (and especially a Mike Babcockian Wings team), you've got to do more than look pretty with the puck on your stick. Unless he makes up for it like Homer and challenges the 30 goal plateau, I don't see Jiri staying in the top 6 for long.

Last season he put up some decent numbers and scored one particularly gargantuan goal in the Stanley Cup Finals. He tallied 42 regular season points which was good for 4th among forwards, but keep in mind that Clearly and Homer missed big chunks of time. To his credit, he was 4th among forwards in postseason points even after those guys were back. He also accomplished this while on 3rd/4th line duty with 8 other forwards posting a higher average ice time. He's only 24 years old -- he's got plenty of opportunity to prove himself in this league over the next decade, but for the purposes of the Red Wings, he might only have this year.

He'll be an RFA after this season is done. Ken Holland will have as busy of an offseason in '09 as he has thus far in '08, and of his many impending decisions, Jiri's play this year will determine his future in Detroit possibly moreso than any other Wing. If he breaks out of his shell, if he can keep his intensity up for an entire season and (if this "2nd line" business holds true) set up Mule and Z for a cascade of goals, then perhaps he doesn't get dealt to clear cap space. Perhaps he would give Holland that much more to ponder while he's trying to fit Hank/Hossa/Franzen etc. under the ever expanding cap. He's got the ability -- now let's see how bad he wants to use it.


2008-09 Pointless Statistical Guess:

Games: 78
Goals: 15
Assists: 28
Points: 43

September 4, 2008

Red Wings Season Preview: Ty Conklin

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With the 2008-09 NHL season approaching, I'll be doing a Red Wings player-by-player preview leading up to Opening Night on October 9th. Rather than go in order of jersey number or depth chart position or our favorite players, I figure it would be more compelling to just pick guys at random.

Hence, we have backup keeper and newcomer Ty Conklin to kick things off.

*****

2007-08 statistics

Record: 18-8-5
GAA: 2.51
Save %: .923

Conklin was signed by the Penguins before the start of last season to play behind Marc-Andre Fleury, but was called upon in December when Fleury went down with a sprained ankle. He played an intrigual part in Pittsburgh's run by filling in admirably, wnning his first 9 starts from December 20th to January 10th. As a backup you can't do much better than what Conklin did last year, keeping that team afloat while Fleury recovered. Even though he's playing for a loaded Cup Champion now it's still a reassuring feeling to have him as the insurance policy to Osgood knowing how well he did last year.

Ken Holland showed why he's the best GM in the biz by not missing a beat this summer. Picking up the best available backup goalie in Conklin wasn't the heart-stopping news that Hossa was but it could prove to be a very important move nonetheless.

Fun Fact: Conklin started in both of the NHL's outdoor games; in 2003 as Edmonton's starter and last season when the Penguins beat the Sabres on New Year's Day. He's an Osgood injury away from playing at Wrigley when the Wings take on the Blackhawks this year, which would improbably make him 3 for 3.

Additional Fun Fact: Conklin was known affectionately as "Conkblock" by Pens fans during his stay in Pittsburgh. I'm not a thief, but dammit that name is almost too perfect to not steal. In an era that fails in the nickname department when compared to gereration's past, "Conkblock" might be in a class of its own.


2008-09 Pointless Statistical Guess:

Record: 8-7-3
GAA: 2.45
Save %: .909

September 3, 2008

We might go 5-11, but at least we have Megatron

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An uplifting read for Lions fans by espn.com's Kevin Seifert about Calvin Johnson. We don't get too many of these.

"It's like a veil has been lifted," Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson said after a late-afternoon training camp practice. "It's just been awesome to watch."

And,

"People have told me I would see a big change after my rookie season, and I've seen a big change."

And then,

Johnson put on full display the physical attributes that made him -- in the words of Minnesota coach Brad Childress -- a prospect "with no downside."

Just feels good to read this.

"See that?" (Roy) Williams called out to a reporter standing on the sideline, as if picking up an earlier conversation. "Did you see that? That's what I'm talking about. That's it, right there."

I want Roy Williams to speak at my funeral.


Jefferson again: "He's just loping. He's like a gazelle. Every stride is literally like 5 or 6 yards. That's what we want."


Yeah no shit. We'd also like him to put up monster numbers, keep saying the right things like he's been doing, and put up with the futility of the next 10 playoff-less seasons.


***************

Here's a look at ESPN's fan rankings, which is a couple days old now. The Lions are 31 out of 32, finishing only ahead of the Arizona Cardinals.

I know that measuring something like this is beyond absurd and ripe for debate, but seriously? 31st? Did they take into account that ownership/management has literally gone door-to-door murdering its fanbase for the past decade? Because that should count. There's no way in fuck that St. Louis, Miami, Jacksonville, Carolina, or Atlanta (ATLANTA!??) can pass for better football fanbases than Detroit. I don't care how shitty the team has been, people love the Lions here. It's stupid. Despite all the Hockeytown stuff, the consistency of the Pistons and Tigers revolution, this is a football state. It might not be my favorite sport, but everything else equal, the Lions would rule Detroit.

Oddly enough it's Kevin Seifert again with this rip:

"Visit Ford Field in midseason and you feel like you should keep your voice down. That's how quiet it is. Of course, given the Lions' long history of disappointment, it says a lot about the loyalty of those who do come to the games."


For God's sake he makes Ford Field sound like the Palace. Oh wait -- I didn't say that. Moving on.

We can make Atlanta fans rue the day that somebody else put them ahead of us on some demented list (keep in mind that quip comes from a site that recently brought you NHL Uniform Rankings) by beating them in Week 1 this Sunday. And we should beat them. As thin as the Lions are on defense, the Falcons are just as bad. Only they don't have two freak wide receivers, one being a healthy Megatron.