A couple thoughts as the Red Wings and their dads peel out of Florida, with 4 points in their luggage and two rinks full of satisfied Snowbirds in the rear view mirror:
– I love Steve Yzerman as much of the next guy, but while some of the gobs of copy published last week praising the job he’s done in Tampa Bay was good, it got to seem cheap and patronizing by the end. The Lightning are winning, but in the ‘awwww that’s adorable’ kind of way that makes it safe to root for them. So far.
But Yzerman’s getting paid to try to beat the Wings now, and if you recall how smart, serious and determined he was in his 27 years here, well, I wouldn’t be scared. But I would give pause.
– The Lightning are a better team this year. A lot of that’s attributable to Yzerman. But, perspective: He did inherit a team with no less than 4 once-and-future franchise players on its roster.
Full credit to Stevie for going out and getting an exciting young coach and a goalie capable of stealing a series – as no one moreso than Yzerman is painfully aware.
But all Yzerman has done so far is get the Lightning from fair to good.
In pro sports the difference between fair and good is negligible.
Good to great is another thing.
And if you think you understand what it takes to achieve Enduring Greatness in a salary capped league you’re one of two things: Ken Holland or delusional.
As TB coaches and players were lining up to note afterward, Thursday’s game clearly demonstrated why the Red Wings are the Red Wings, and why you could dress the Tampa Bay players in one of at least 15 different NHL sweaters and no one would know the difference.
Yzerman knows this as well as anybody. He also knows it’ll take several years of success at the helm of a JV team to brush past Jim Nill in the order of succession.
So to sum up: The most beloved athlete in the history of Detroit is going to spend the next several years trying to kick Detroit’s ass. I respect that; I just don’t understand why people get so mushy about it.
– Thursday night was an event; Friday night was a professional effort. I’d bet the Red Wings aren’t all that concerned with catching the Canucks, but it is nice they seem to have stopped sleepwalking through games when it could be excused.
– The Florida Panthers use tarps to cover up the empty seats in the BankAtlantic Center on most days. The rink was sold out Saturday because the Detroit Red Wings were in town. I’m totally in favor of a salary cap, but I’m starting to think it would be fair if a team’s cap number was somehow tied to the revenue it generates.
UEFA has toyed with the idea for years, but club soccer is way too crooked to pull such a thing off. But the NHL could do it.
Clearly the NHL benefits when the big ticket franchises are good. Generating money could be rewarded without compromising parity.
Smaller market teams might not be thrilled with this idea. But if you’re worried about, say, the Rangers spending their way to contention you haven’t been paying attention.
* Please NHL scheduler, don’t give writers and fans 4 days to wax poetic before TB comes to Detroit next season. Making the game a second of a back-to-back is probably too much to ask, but do what you can.