Hard to believe, but Wings will only get better
One of NHL's top teams in years has young talent, wise GM and cap space
Get used to this scene hockey fans. The Detroit Red Wings figure to be a Stanley Cup contender for several more years to come, writes contributor Mark Spector.
PITTSBURGH - The Detroit Red Wings are the most deserved Stanley Cup champions the National Hockey League has seen in some time. The Big Brown of the hockey set, they were the best team in the league from September through June.
But the way the Red Wings got here poses a serious problem for everybody else in a league where the bottom feeders tend to spend the summer copying the style that produced the latest champion.
Because it’s not like you can simply watch some film and game plan the way GM Ken Holland’s team does. No, unless teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings can figure a way to draft Conn Smythe winners like Henrik Zetterberg with the 210th pick overall, there will be no emulating these Red Wings.
“They deserve a lot of respect. We got beat by a quality team,” agreed Michel Therrien, the coach of a Pittsburgh club that never really caught up with Detroit in this six-game finals, playing from behind throughout. “They showed it all through the regular season and through the playoffs. They were tough to play against, and the hockey Gods were not on our side.
“They deserved to win the Stanley Cup.”
When you do things as right as the Red Wings do, from the top to the bottom of this Original Six organization, success is bound to come. When it does, however, the flow appears not to cease.On Wednesday night at Mellon Arena, Detroit clinched its fourth Stanley Cup in the past 11 seasons.
Not a dynasty by Oilers or Islanders standards, but dynastic in its own rite.
In between that they’ve won their division eight times, finished second in the other three seasons, and won three Presidents' Trophies as the NHL’s top regular-season team.
The last time the Red Wings missed the playoffs was in 1990 — that was 18 seasons ago.
And the most impressive part?
Despite the hardships the salary cap will cause in keeping this current group together, Holland has all kinds of cap room to work with heading into the summer. He also has more talent — namely Swedish defenseman Jonathan Ericsson — coming up through what has clearly become the best pipeline in the NHL, courtesy super Swedish scout Hakan Andersson.
All of those are future concerns, however. Today, the Red Wings are still warmed by the glow of a most impressive Cup victory, one the upstart Penguins were simply never going to deny them.
“Go through the last three years in the NHL, and the amount of games we won,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “We won 58, we won 50, and we won 54. Then we flamed out. We went 2-4 against the Oilers [in ‘06], and last year we got to the final four. It’s been a process; it didn’t happen overnight. We’ve been a good team ... an elite, elite team for the last three years. And we were finally able to get it done.”
There is irony in the fact that the Wings have been building towards this ‘08 Cup. Because nobody in the NHL builds better than the Red Wings, namely through the draft.
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who is likely to collect his sixth Norris Trophy at the upcoming NHL Awards ceremony, was chosen 53rd overall in the ‘89 draft. Zetterberg was picked 210th overall. Pavel Datsyuk, a Selke Award finalist alongside Zetterberg, was drafted 171st. Johan Franzen — the 97th pick. Tomas Holmstrom — a 10th-rounder. Valtteri Filppula — 95th overall.
The comparison to what normal organizations must go through to be this good was right out on the ice this spring, in the form of a Pittsburgh club that’s loaded with fine young draft picks. The Penguins needed to miss the playoffs for four straight seasons however, securing high enough picks that made players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury easy choices.
PHT: The Penguins pushed the Senators to the brink of elimination on Wednesday night after six unanswered goals yielded a 7-3 Game 4 win.
The Senators held a lead twice in the first period, but Pittsburgh's offensive fire power proved to be too much to handle. James Neal and Jarome Iginla each score two as the Penguins cruise to an impressive 7-3 victory in Game 4.