September 2, 2009

The Roundtable: Deke Day

It is Day #3 of the most preposterously epic roundtable discussion in the history of circular communication practices. Days #1 and #2 took place at the Nobel Prize-winning homes of Christy Hammond and George James Malik respectively, and now the festivities have crash landed here as I was mistakenly included in a group email and nobody had the heart to tell me to go away.

The Question:

Take a break, for just a moment, from being a blindly arrogant, elitist, scumbag, Jew-hater of a Wings fan: How worried are you about the team running out of gas again at the end of the year? I've wondered this aloud a few times this summer. If the Wings are to win the 2010 Stanley Cup, it would be a monumental achievement: It would be their 4th consecutive year in the Conference Finals, 3rd in the Cup Finals; and this will be an Olympic year to boot. They've played 68 postseason games since 2007 -- almost a 4th full season sandwiched between the previous three. They certainly have the talent to do it, as you could once again make a case that the Wings boast the deepest forward and defensive units. So is this a legitimate concern, or no?


If it was not an Olympic year, I would not really be concerned. I think all those postseason games of late have affected their play in the regular season (seems to be more of a grind), but they always pick it up in the playoffs, as they should. With the Olympic break, games are closer together (a lot of games every other night) and our team will not get a break in February since so many will be at the Olympics. If guys are fighting injuries at that point and don’t have time to recuperate, I would be worried that the season may have been too taxing on our guys. But I also could see how a successful showing at the Olympics might boost one of our players. In 2002, we had Yzerman and Shanahan win the gold while Hull and Chelios took home the silver. What happened later that year? More silver in the form of the Stanley Cup. Obviously that didn't quite pan out in 2006, but it tells me that winning the Cup can definitely still happen even with the Olympics.


Kris from Snipe Snipe, Dangle Dangle:

This is one of those questions that fans of other teams would love to be agonizing over. Fatigue is definitely a concern in my mind, but I don’t think it’s going to be the deciding factor. I would argue that the Wings running out of gas in the Finals this year had as much, if not more, to do with their injury situation as anything else. The fact that it’s an Olympic year isn’t a huge issue in my mind either. 1998 and 2002 were Olympic years too, and I think we all know how those campaigns turned out. Babcock does a pretty good job managing ice time and spreading minutes out. Last season, Zetterberg and Datsyuk both averaged less than 20 minutes per game, and were ranked well behind other star forwards in that category (32nd and 46th respectively, according to Even Lidstrom ranked 14th among defensemen in ice time. Since the Wings have so much depth, they don’t need to ride their top guys as much as other teams do. The only way I see fatigue playing a huge role is if the secondary scoring isn’t able to make up for the points the team lost in the off-season and Babcock is forced to increase ice time for the big names to compensate.


Rob from The Production Line:

I spent last night in a Springfield, Illinois bar drinking pints with a Blackhawks season ticket holder. About a half hour before they turned the lights on and kicked us all out with the ceremonial "you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here" notice, I realized something - this guy was incredibly OPTIMISTIC. He was looking forward to the NEXT BIG RUN. This struck me as a foreign emotion. By nature I'm a pessimistic hockey fan. I imagine most Wings fans are, especially when it comes to the postseason, so part of me wants to just say..."oh, playoffs? nervous? ...yes and yes" ...and then call it a day. That said, this question about running out of gas is especially timely. The ONE THING that would have assuaged this fear for me...if that were even possible...would have been smart offseason maneuvering. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the words "fresh legs" and "inspired hockey" don't seem to fit the major acquisition we yanked in to close out our Free Agency Non-Bonanza. I would have been happier if we'd stayed put than if we'd brought in Bertuzzi because I don't think he makes us stronger in the final playoff tilts. I think he'll wear down. I think he'll be a pain in the ass in the locker room. I like our chances better with young, hungry guys coming in from Grand Rapids more than I do with BIG ODD TODD sulking away minutes on the third line. Those are Gator-Minutes, damnit!

Bottom line - We ran out of gas last year. We didn't do anything to address that concern in the offseason. Why SOULDN'T I be nervous? Can I get a scotch over here?


Chris from Motown Wings:

Like you guys mention, it's no secret that this team has played ALOT of hockey over the past three years. Add to it the fact that we have a good number of guys competing for Olympic team spots at orientation camps, and the idea of a restful and relaxing off-season quickly goes up in smoke. But these guys are professionals, and they train at such an exceptionally high level in order to prepare for situations like this, so I don't think that fatigue will be too much of a concern should (when) we make a deep playoff run this year. That said, if we learned anything from this last postseason, it's that the injury bug can bite anyone at anytime, and that is a cause of concern for me. You can be the best conditioned athelete in the league, but when you are griniding against the best in the world on a nightly basis over 82 games, you're going to have to play through some pain. How much pain these guys can handle is something only they know, but it's a fact of life that a poorly timed injury can cost a team come playoff time and the Wings need to be prepared for that possibility.

The only other potential "fatigue" issue that I could see coming into play for the Wings this year is the mental fatigue of the 82 game season. It was obvious that the team took some nights off and just went through the motions during a few games last season, and even Babcock noted that it's not always the best tactic to push a team as hard as possible over such a long stretch. But it's going to be an incredibly tight division this year, and if the Wings don't bring their "A" game on a regular basis, it could cost them as the playoffs near.


Kyle from Babcock's Death Stare:

It's definitely a legitimate concern -- if you look at the past three seasons you can probably count on one hand the number of fans who weren't banging their head against a wall come the February meltdown. It's expected. But overall, I'm not too worried about running out of gas in the playoffs. We have not lost all that much from the team that won the Cup in 2008. The parts we lost are replaceable, and I think Holland has done as good of a job as he could given the rough hand he was dealt by every unrestricted free agent bolting in the first few days of free agency. On top of that, Hudler pulls some shenanigans and all the players without baggage had been picked up by other teams.

We've got a handful of young players who know the system and know their role who will add in some enthusiasm and new blood, then we've got a couple semi-new faces, all who have something to prove. This team has all the motivation they could ever need. On the bright side, everyone's writing them off before the season's even started, and Detroit seems to perform their best when they can comfortably dominate in the background.


Animal Drew from Nightmare on Helm Street:

My advice to you would be stick to sarcasm and stay away from statistics. Seriously though, the 67 post-season games since 2007 is a bit of an eye opener. During last year’s ridiculously frustrating regular season, I would find myself wondering why Babcock didn’t crack the whip on the team when they were playing well below their capability. I came to the conclusion that Babcock did this because he knew that doing so would probably be the worst thing to do to a tired and unmotivated team. Instead he let the mediocre play slide, kept encouraging the guys and let the team drift into 2nd place in the West, basically on talent alone. Babcock knew that Detroit had the extra gear, and that they would turn it on in the post-season. I don’t believe this year’s play-off stretch ended with them running out of gas so much as it was running into injury problems. Of course, the more games you play, the more chance there is of someone getting hurt. So to make a long story short (too late), I believe the fatigue/injury concern is indeed a legitimate one, but we should find comfort in the fact that we have an excellent coach who knows how to make a tired and battered team win.


Jessica from Bingo Bango:

Leave it to the Triple Deke to ask the one question that may leave me rocking back and forth uncontrollably in the fetal position….and hockey season hasn’t even started yet, so thanks. Do I think it is a legitimate concern, absolutely. I think to a degree it was an issue last season especially mid way through the cup finals. However a number of factors will affect their fatigue. How much will the Olympics ware on all the potential Red Wing Olympians, will they run into another 8th seed sent straight from hockey hell by a little mysterious black magic, and will the desire to piss in Bettman’s cereal once again outweigh the sleepy feelings they’re sure to have? It’s hard to say. The fatigue, exhaustion, and even perhaps complacency will creep in at times. But this isn’t the Colorado Avalanche, it’s a team of Champions and with a little old fashion Babcockian ass kicking they should get over these humps. But please, remember the season hasn’t started so if I change my answer 30 more times before they inevitably, once again, reach the Cup Finals, you understand.


The Chief from Abel to Yzerman:

I just don't buy that anymore. These guys are better conditioned than any generation of hockey player in the history of hockey players, plus they have a motivation different than any other team's. At some point this summer I'm betting that nearly every one of the Wings took their infant child by the hand, led them to the kitchen, gave them a crunchy and delicious Klondike bar, sat them down on the edge of the counter and said, "You know, we should have won three straight motherfucking Stanley Cups."

2007 lingered with this team. I think it still hurts, actually, but it's receding. But last year is going to stay with them. It's going to be a dull pain that never really fades until resolution next June. If last year was a Stanley Cup Hangover, this season will be the year of the Game 7 Blue Balls. Not only did they lose their Cup to an inferior team and a league agenda, they lost their Dynasty in the eyes of most "objective" fans and media.

Fatigue won't be a factor because that's going to be an angry room starting in Sweden against the Bitter Bitch Brittle Blues and continuing through the Finals against Boston next June.


Matt from On the Wings:

It's definitely a concern and I completely agree: it would be a monumental achievement if they win the 2010 Cup. Making it any distance into the playoffs is going to involve very careful handling of the team's top players during the regular season and increased reliance on the bottom side of the roster. Fortunately, the very fact that the Wings are in this position means they have experience in pacing the big guns as well as getting the best out of the smaller ones. This will be a bigger challenge than the years before due to the Olympics, obviously, but that experience should help. The motivation to win following the embarrassment of Game 7 will help, too. One other thing to remember: this team took hits in the skill department this summer, but not as much in the heart department. That'll come in handy when the legs start burning.


And now, George has the floor:

First of all, I like the Jews, like them quite a bit, but I am most definitely arrogant and elitist.

Second, I have absolutely, positively no concerns whatsoever about the team running out of physical gas if they play another 100-plus-game season. The Wings' dedication to maintaining the levels of physical fitness and mental and physical stamina necessary to play at the highest levels of professional hockey is just...It's borderline psychopathic.

Between Igor Larionov, Steve Yzerman, and Chris Chelios, the Red Wings--under the tutelage of John Wharton, a trainer who had his players utilizing individualized off-season training plans and monitoring their nutrition when the rest of the NHL's players were starting to swear off cigarettes--have learned to embrace the 24/7/365.25 dedication to remaining in elite physical shape that the rest of the NHL has slowly but surely picked up upon over the past decade.

The endless stories about Steve Yzerman pushing himself in the weight room after games, Chris Chelios's bike rides in the sauna and legendary summer workouts with T.R. Goodman, Kris Draper matching his "Chuck Norris" nickname's bushy red beard with an insane amount of dedication to pursuing innovative methods of pushing his body to its extreme limits, Igor Larionov's near-religious pursuit of perfect physical form, and Pavel Datsyuk's willingness to do the kind of punishing weightlifting that make even his own teammates shake their heads and wonder how the hell he does that after a game and makes it to practice the next day...

When you set those kinds of examples, your teammates have no choice but to follow your lead, and the Red Wings do just that. Especially as they're a bit smaller and older than the rest of the NHL's teams, they've got to make up for those differentials by being stronger and having more endurance than their opponents, and they accomplish that feat in a seemingly effortless manner.

I was worried about the Wings running out of physical gas after their 07 Conference Finals appearance, but their level of intensity cranked up a notch, and while they battled a mental "hangover" after winning the Cup, they endured a nastier playoff grind to fall one game short of defending their title, so I fully expect them to come out for this season both mentally recharged and physically ready to play from September to June.


As for me: I do have some concern. I worry about Hank's back, Homer's knees, Franzen's everything and Lidstrom's ball bag. But I'd be worrying about that anyway, whether they were coming off yet another deep playoff run or a 1st round exit. I think the optimistic outlook is the right one; these guys are in absurd shape and have enough heart to make up for any fatigue.

Tomorrow, Day #4: Bingo Bango


Anonymous said...

Your question is my deepest fear for the upcoming year. I too hope the Wharton wizardry overcomes all of the Olympic year over-use. I mean, I am tired just thinking about it.

I hear it's getting chilly up in Traverse City. Go Wings.


Tyler said...

I too hope the Wharton wizardry overcomes all of the Olympic year over-use. I mean, I am tired just thinking about it.

I worry too, but reading these Kronwall and Holmstrom comments at Malik's page certainly are nice to hear:

Holland's players don't buy the concept of mental or physical fatigue, however. Niklas Kronwall told McCosky that the Red Wings are plain old angry about having lost the Stanley Cup on home ice:

September 2, Detroit News: "What bothers me most," said Niklas Kronwall, "is that I feel we had a great team and we didn't play as good as we could have and that's something we will always have to live with."

Kronwall was asked if he was able to rationalize that injuries, as much as anything else, doomed the Wings?

"We did have some injuries to key players and that was part of it," he said. "But all teams go through injuries. It is just a matter of battling through and we came up short."

Tomas Holmstrom was even more adamant on the subject: "You can try to find different excuses for your loss," he said, "but I don't think it was because we were hurt. Their guys were banged up and hurt, too. Both sides, so I don't think that was the reason."

Animal Drew said...

There's no way that's what Holmer said...only the english translation of whatever blathering actually came out.

Garth said...

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but the words "fresh legs" and "inspired hockey" don't seem to fit the major acquisition we yanked in to close out our Free Agency Non-Bonanza."

What about Helm, Ericsson and Eaves? It's not like Bertuzzi was brought in to be an energy player, he was brought in to park himself in front of the net and be annoying.

"I think he'll be a pain in the ass in the locker room."

This REALLY annoys me. Where has anyone gotten any indication that he was a pain in the ass last time he was in Detroit? Holland tried to re-sign him and all indications are that the PLAYERS wanted him back too.

"We ran out of gas last year. We didn't do anything to address that concern in the offseason."

We ran out of gas because of injuries. I'm not using it as an excuse, but an explanation, a fact. It wasn'yt just because we are old and tired.

Bottom line, I don't buy this "running out of gas" thing. They could double to length of the regular season and a team that's hungry to win will play well, night-in night-out in the playoffs. The only way that running out of gas occurs is if, like this past year, we run into a lot of injuries.

I also am not worried about the Olympics all that much. Yeah, we'll have a handful of guys participation, but we'll have a bunch that won't, including some of our older guys (Maltby. Draper. Bert. Holmstrom?), our younger guys (Helm, Ericsson, Eaves) and our middle guys (Cleary, Stuart) who will welcome a break to recharge. And keep in mind that the guys who are going to the Olympics are leaders. They aren't just a bunch of good players going, they're the guys who are going to be as fired up as anyone when the playoffs roll around.