2/11/11 Jiri Hudler @ Boston: 1G, 2A +2
Acclaim for Jiri Hudler’s return from the KHL was less than universal, and that’s understandable.
Happy is a skilled player, but even his loved ones would admit he was strictly a luxury item during his first stint in Detroit. So considering the Wings always are bumping up against the cap, the 2-year, $2.8 million per annum contract the Wings offered him in 2009 surprised his supporters and infuriated his detractors.
He spurned the Wings for even more money in the KHL that, and people understood. But it still hurt. And while it wasn’t shocking he came back after one season – some folks have to learn the hard way – that didn’t mean all was forgiven.
So when Hudler struggled out of the gate in 2010, there wasn’t a shortage of people ready to pounce on him for his shortcomings both demonstrable (small, European) and specious (one-dimensional, lazy).
The Organization preached patience at the start, but eventually Hudler tumbled from third-and-fourth-line duties to a press box lottery with Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller. Hudler’s critics argued he should be a spectator every game, if not a Grand Rapidian.
But Hudler didn’t sulk, and he certainly didn’t quit as your stereotypical mercurial European would. In fact, he became noticeably more active at both ends of the ice in the weeks prior to his <Eureka!> pairing with Pavel Datsyuk.
In retrospect Hudler wasn’t nonplussed or indifferent in the early stages of 2010-11, he was just confused. Abby, Helm and Eaves et al., are very skilled and it would be incorrect to call them North-South players. But those guys are trained to take space away from the other team, whereas Hudler excels at taking advantage of the space opponents give him.
So while Wings’ play has been uneven of late, the result of pairing Datsyuk and Hudler hints the magic that can happen when guys who think a couple plays ahead are paired together.
I know it’s early to say I told you so with re: Hudler’s current run of form. But there was no shortage of folks ready to call the Hudler signing a disaster as early as October, so I’m going to toast the Happy man tonight.
Other thoughts: The Bruins are decent but the Red Wings are one several teams in the league that can kick them all over the rink when it matters. Boston got embarrassed tonight and I don’t blame them for being mad. But if they try to thug their way out of JLA Sunday afternoon I trust one or both of the Campbells will get a dunk in the Detroit River before the dust clears.