Devastating Loss Candy: Timely Edition

Kind of like this.

In the sixteen or so months since we launched The Production Line, we’ve learned a handful of things: offer the audience something different… spell important names, like Lidstrom and Ilitch, correctly to be even a touch respectable… and the last thing you want to read the morning after an ass-whooping is a 74th recap, describing what a dumpster fire looks like.

Following that train of thought, it’s time to break out a classic TPL coping mechanism. The first loss stung, but it didn’t HURT the way that the Stars jailsexing did. That was a thorough dismantling, and we all need something happy to help wash the salt out of the open wounds. And with that, I’d like to present the 2010-11 season’s first Loss Candy — and, like many things here, there’s a quasi-theme. Both of these stunners are in the news this week — for very different reasons.

EXHIBIT A :: Jenn Sterger

The unbelievably gorgeous 26-year-old (Jesus Christ, we’re old) has found the spotlight on her this week for a reason other than those magnificent sweater puppies. Once-American hero Brett Favre seems guilty of sending creepy ass voicemails and picture-camera shots of his junk to this young lady, who (I assume) is sweet as pie, makes a mean lasagna, and enjoys monster truck rallies. If she needs somewhere to lay low until the heat (and chodes) blow over, we’ve got an extra set of keys to TPLand in the drawer.

EXHIBIT B :: Tom Hardy

On the complete opposite end of the “How Are You Measuring Up This Week” scale sits the English actor. Stealing scenes in this summer’s mindfucker Inception paid off, as director Christopher Nolan has cast Hardy in “a lead role,” presumably as a villain, in the third installment of the Batman series — which means he’s probably set for life, and hopefully it lasts longer than the departed Heath Ledger.

There you have it. If these two can’t make it all better, I’m not sure anything will. If you have suggestions for future Loss Candies (that is, assuming the Red Wings lose again) — feel free to drop them in the comments or send us an e-mail.

Oct 14 :: Look Real Close Cuz Strobelights Lie

For De-Nah Nah Na-N-N-Na

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
Wings and Stars. 8:30 in the East. 2030 in Ribeiro’s cell.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
The Wings attempt to bounce back after a deflating, uninspired shootout loss. Chris Osgood gets the start, thanks to a whack effort from Howard on Tuesday — and a good one from Ozzie on Saturday. Mike Modano returns to Big D to play, for the first time, as a visitor. I’m sure southern hockey fans know better than to boo him.

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
The Wings and Stars last played on January 16th. It was an afternooner. You may remember it as the game in which we were screwed by a phantom shootout call.

OH, HI AGAIN.
Fabian Brunnstrom was almost a Red Wing, but no actual former Wings are on this roster.

MEMBA ME?!
New addition Mike Modano played a handful of games here and there for the Stars organization. Doug Janik spent some time in Dallas — but where didn’t he spend some time?

BEST NAME NOMINEE
Karlis Skrastins = “Scratch Stitch.” Explain.

THEIR LAST GAMES
:: The Wings lost in a shootout, 5-4, to the Avs on Wings Wings Tuesday.
:: Dallas hasn’t played since Saturday, a 5-4 win over the Isles.

EXPECTED LINEUP

Dangles Datsyuk — Hank Z-berg — Tommy Holmstrom [Roll Tide]
Mulo Franzen — Flip Filppula — Murder Tuzzi
Scuttles Hudler — Willa Modano — Loins Cleary
Salty Miller — Danger Helm — Patty Eaves

Norris Lidstrom — Hooks Stuart
Potter Kronwall — MVP Janik
Amazon Kindl — Cirque du Salei (h/t Amer)

Xtina Osgood
Tiberius Howard

Injuries [for @Wings3_26_97]
Brian “I’m Feeling Under the Weather, Soon I’ll Be Better” Rafalski (knee)
Kris “It’s Been Seven Days, the Same Clothes” Draper (groin)
Justin “The Funk Might Fracture Your Nose” Abdelkader (ribs)
Jonathan “Now That I’m Sober You Ain’t That Fine” Ericsson (back)

Honorable Mentions
Todd “OH NO! Look At Who They Let In the Back Door” Bertuzzi
Nicklas “Nobody Does It Better” Lidstrom
Johan “You Can Check My Gangsta Files” Franzen
Jiri “Bumpin’ From Coast to Coast, Yeah Yeah” Hudler
Jiri “Three Way on the Freeway” Hudler
Jiri “These Hookers Lookin’ So Hard, They Hit the Curb” Hudler
Jiri “The Next Stop is the Eastside Motel” Hudler
Jiri “I Get More Ass Than a Toilet Seat” Hudler
Chris “Axe Them Originals, Cuz They Know” Osgood
Jimmy “I Best Pull Out My Strap And Lay Them Busters Down” Howard
Jakub “I Said Oooh I Like Your Size” Kindl
Jimmy “We Gon’ Rock It Til the Wheels Fall Off HOLD UP” Howard
Dan “If You Know Like I Know, You Don’t Wanna Step to This” Cleary
Patrick “Sixteen In The Clip and One in the Hole” Eaves
Valtteri “I Just Left a Gang of Hoes Overe There On the Curb” Filppula
Niklas “We Still Makin’ Gangsta Hiiiits” Kronwall
Henrik “Ain’t No Mystery I Do This Shit Right” Zetterberg
Pavel “Watch It Stick to Me Like Glue” Datsyuk
Darren “Once I Hit It, I Get Up and I Leave” Helm
Drew “Copy Machines Can’t Copy Platinum” Miller
Ruslan “YOU Bring the Bottle of Wine” Salei
Tomas “I Give My Body and I Give My Soul to the Funk” Holmstrom
Tomas “Shake…That…Ass…For…Me… ShakeThatAssForMe” Holmstrom
Brad “You Can Test Me, Get Discombobulated” Stuart
Mike “I Once Met This Sexy Little Dame” Modano
Willa “Ring or No Ring, a Hoe Gon’ be a Hoe” Ford
Doug “Ooh, You Make My High Come Down” Janik
Derek “Finally Got Myself Up Outta Them Chains” Meech
Brendan “I’m Not a Kid No More, I Just Don’t Give a Fuck” Smith
Kirk “I’m Gonna Stay Fly” Maltby
Aaron “Man I Was Dancin, Prancin, Laughin, Bouncin, Swingin, Movin, Groovin” Downey
Mikael “Not Tryin’ to be Duckin’ and Divin'” Samuelsson
Brad “Just in Case, Better Bring a Weapon With Me” May
Jason “Ain’t Nobody Playing With Me” Williams
Brett “Buyin’ Me a Spaceship and a Condo on the Moon” Lebda
Andrea “Damn It Feels Good to See Long Beach” Lilja
Todd “Always Out for Money Cuz Hey That’s the Game” Diamond
Ville “I Got Game So Don’t Fight It” Leino
Sean “Your Wife, My Bitch” Avery

QUICK THOUGHTS
1. Chris Osgood, eh? He played well Saturday. Let’s see where this goes.
2. Doug Janik vs. Krys Barch? Couldn’t be worse than Brad May.
3. Mike Modano might want to shove it down the Stars throat — keep an eye on him, especially after a less-than-stellar game from the third line on Tuesday.
4. The second line has scored something like 103% of the goals this season. My math might be off.
5. 3-1 feels a lot better than 2-2.

WHAT WE LEARNED AGAINST THE AVALANCHE
Getting it up goes a long way. Wait, what…

Oct 12 :: If You Spew, Spew Into This

THIS JUST IN…
Busy day in Red Wings Nation.
:: First, and easily the most important, Kirk Maltby has played his final game — and will accept a scouting position with the Red Wings. There goes one of the hardest noses, and baddest asses, that ever played our game.
:: Kris Draper was placed on short-term injury reserve, retroactive to last week. His salary doesn’t come off the books with STIR, but it opens up a spot on the roster, which was necessary to call up DOUGIE JANIK! because…
:: Brian Rafalski is having his knee scoped at noon tomorrow. He’s been experiencing some discomfort and they’re going to go in there and check it out. He shouldn’t be out too long, but expect Janik to be in Detroit until Rafalski’s healthy enough to be re-inserted into the lineup (or until Shitbox stops crying).

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
Our boys play their third of season — and the first Wings Wings Tuesday! Go get those Blazin’ and Sweet Teriyaki wings from your local B-Dubs. Ranch. Bleu Cheese if gross. Puckdrop is at 7:30 — where it belongs.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
Dude, who made this schedule? Ducks, Hawks, Avalanche. It’s like getting all of the hatred out of the way nice and early. The Wings are rolling, 2-0, thoroughly dismantling and ass-whomping the Ducks before winning a dog-fight (on the scoreboard, anyway) with the Hawks. Each netminder is 1-0, Pavel Datsyuk has a goal and a fighting major on the season, Mike Modano looks like he hit his stride right away, the second line has accounted for 57% of the team’s goals this season. The aristocrats.

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
The Wings and Avs last played one another on March 1st. It was a 3-2 win for the good guys, and your goal scorers were Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Johan Franzen. Jimmy Howard was in net — and it was Andreas Lilja’s first game back.

OH, HI AGAIN.
Kyle Quincey is a member of the Avs. Hey, did you know he was waived in favor of Derek Meech and Chris Chelios? Boy, oh, boy that Ken Holland really needs to take a class from all of us armchair GMs. Jokes. I haz them.

MEMBA ME?!
Ruslan Salei was a Colorado Avalanche for the past three seasons.

BEST NAME NOMINEE
For our very own Chris Hollis, and our Norwegian friend Andy, we have to choose Jonas Holos. If this were 1995, and Chris Hollis was anything like I would be, he’d totally trade for Holos just so he could hear Jim Hughson call his name during the play-by-play.

THEIR LAST GAMES
:: The Wings beat the Hawks 3-2 after their totally lame banner raising ceremony. One would think there were fewer cello solos following the game than there were before it.
:: Colorado played on Monday night, also after a banner raising ceremony — this time in Philadelphia, where apparently you celebrate abject Leastern Conference failure. Philly won that game 4-2.

EXPECTED LINEUP

Datsyuk — Zetterberg — Holmstrom
Franzen — Filppula — Bertuzzi
Hudler — Modano — Cleary
Miller — Helm — Eaves

Lidstrom — Stuart
Kronwall — Janik
Kindl — Salei

Howard
Osgood

Injuries [thanks to @jennyquarx for the nickname idea]
Brian “Little. Yellow. Different.” Rafalski
Kris “Dick York. Dick Sergeant. Sergeant York. Wow, That’s Weird” Draper (groin)
Justin “Ribbed For Her Pleasure” Abdelkader (ribs <–see what I did there?)
Jonathan “I Once Thought I Had Mono For An Entire Year” Ericsson (back)

Honorable Mentions
Todd “If He Were an Ice Cream Flavor, He’d Be Pralines and Dick” Bertuzzi
Todd “Asphynctersayswhat” Bertuzzi
Todd “If It’s a Severed Head, I’m Going to Be Very Upset” Bertuzzi
Darren “Like When We Used to Climb The Rope in Gym Class” Helm
Pavel “Ex-squeeze Me? Baking Powder?” Datsyuk
Jiri “How About Fffff, You’re a Giiiiimp” Hudler
Ville “Hi. I’m in…Delaware” Leino
Mikael “I Don’t Even Own AH Gun” Samuelsson
Brendan “CAR!…. Game On!” Witt
Chris “LIVE IN THE NOW” Chelios

QUICK THOUGHTS
1. Howard’s second start, following a shutout in the opener. That’ll do.
2. And so it begins… we lost Draper and Abdelkader in the pre-season, Ericsson in the first period of the season, and now Brian Rafalski goes down to injury. Thank all that’s holy for TPL HERO #1 DOUG JANIK!
3. On the most recent TP:60 episode, we all took turns calling out a player that we’d like to see be more noticeable, and I picked Zetterberg simply by default. Everyone else has a tagline this season, and I’d like to see Curly Fries earn us some curly fries.

WHAT WE LEARNED AGAINST THE HAWKS
U2 isn’t an appropriate pump-up band. Who knew?

TP:60 – Episode #2

After a hot start for the Wings, TP:60 keeps the fire going when JJfromKansas of Winging It In Motown and the artist formerly known as Triple Deke Tyler stop by to chat with the TPL boys. The gang breaks down the week that was in Wings Nation, complete with analysis of the Hawks “spiritual” banner raising ceremony, Pavel’s scrap with Corey Perry and an in-depth look at the play of one Rusty Sleigh. The guys also offer up their players of the week, and Willa Ford makes yet another appearance in the discussion as well.

As always, send your questions, comments and feedback to contact@theproductionline.us. Looking to subscribe to the show? iTunes has you covered.

Lilja Signs With Ducks for $600K

Just a quick post today to note that former Red Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja has found an NHL home, on the very day that his work visa was set to expire. Expressen reported earlier today that Lilja had signed with the Anaheim Ducks to replace Andy Sutton, who – in a weird twist of fate – was injured in a fight with the Red Wings Ruslan Salei. That’s right folks, Lilja’s replacement is pretty much responsible for getting Lilja an NHL job. Go figure.

Per Lilja’s agent, Todd Diamond, the deal is a $600,000 base, with the potential for $150,000 in bonuses ($50K each for 30, 40 and 50 games played.)

Best of luck Andreas.

Dekes and Dukes: Wings Drop Ducks 4-0

Courtesy of the Associated Press

Courtesy of the Associated Press

FINAL SCORE (Hi Mr.P!)
4-0 Red Wings

TPL’S TAKE

If you wanted an opening night to remember, boy, this one sure didn’t disappoint.

Scoring? Check. Johan Franzen took care of that just five minutes into the game.

Nostalgia? Count it. Mike Modano scoring on his first shot in a Red Wings uniform should do the trick.

Fisticuffs? Youbetcha. Ruslan Salei, Brad Stuart and the new lightweight champion of the world, Pavel Datsyuk, dropped the gloves and threw some haymakers against the poultry this evening.

Yes, it was a night to remember for sure. The 84th edition of the Detroit Red Wings came storming out of the gates and never looked back as they rolled the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 4-0. Was it 60 solid minutes of hockey? Not quite. But it WAS impressive, and the Wings sure look like they have the potential to put some points on the board this year.

Franzen, Modano, Datsyuk and Dan Cleary had your tallies tonight, but each of the goals was set up by excellent team play and a level of perseverance that wasn’t always evident on last year’s squad. Sure, some will go ahead and chalk this one up to the whole “opening night so we want to play with alot of intensity” mantra, but if you watched the game you know that the Wings hustled pretty darn hard and earned everything they got tonight. That’s not to say that there aren’t some issues that need to be worked out, but it is only the first game of the season so let’s keep expectations in check a bit.

That said, the Wings did struggle with turnovers in their own end again, coughing up pucks right in front of Jimmy Howard and forcing him to make some difficult saves. A quick look at the stat sheet might lead you to believe that Howard didn’t have to do alot to earn his fourth career shutout, but don’t let the numbers fool you. Out of the 21 saves he made tonight, there were at least five or six that he had to be pretty darn sharp on, and he answered the bell in this one. For a guy who has had questions marks surrounding him most of this offseason, his first rebuttal was pretty darn convincing. However, if the Wings don’t clean up the play in their own end, some of those turnovers are bound to eventually lead to goals, so you better believe that Babbles and Co. will be putting extra emphasis on puck control and smart decision making when practice rolls around next week.

Additionally, the injury bug reared its head against the Wings yet again, this time claiming Jonathan Ericsson with back spasms in the second period (which may be a good thing in some people’s minds.) The Rig left the bench early in the period and was out for the rest of the evening, leaving the Wings a man down on the blueline for a good half of the game. We haven’t heard a timetable for Ericsson’s return to the lineup, but we know it won’t be against the Blackhawks in Chicago as Jakub Kindl has already been tabbed as the sixth defenseman.

OK. Now that we’ve covered the bad, let’s take a second to cover the good. And for that, I’m dusting off the trusty bullets…

  • Jimmah: 21 saves, a shutout and a blocker facewash to Corey Perry. Now that’s a good night.
  • Rusty Sleigh: Look, he’s not the flashiest guy out there, but Salei has really impressed me since he arrived in Detroit and his first regular season game didn’t disappoint. He;s incredibly confident with the puck, making smart decisions and showcasing a smooth, controlling demeanor on the ice. Rarely out of position tonight, Salei is a definite upgrade for the third pairing in my mind (Andreas WHO?) and was excellent tonight against a chippy, physical Anaheim team. Hell, he even got into the first fight of the season for the Wings, although he only got two minutes for roughing.
  • Loins: Cleary is supposed to be back and healthy after surgery and rehab, and he quietly got it done tonight. 2 points (1 G, 1 A) and a +2 is a pretty darn good night for Cleary, although his biggest contribution may have been cleansing all of the bad goal review juju out of Joe Louis Arena when his kneejob goal was ruled as good when it looked pretty clear that it should have gone the other way. Whatever, we’ll take it.
  • Line #2: Tuzz’/Mulo/Flip looked pretty darn good all night long, although Filppula still needs to be a little bit more judicious in his shot selection. I understand that the coaches want him to shoot more, but it doesn’t do anyone any good when 95% of those shots are into the opponents shin guards. Unless they go down, that is.
  • Dangle: Dude is the first star for a reason tonight. He had one of the prettiest redirections I’ve ever seen for a goal, made a nice pass on the Loins goal and then dropped the gloves with Bitchtits McNuggets himself, Corey Perry. Despite holding my breath and outwardly praying that he wouldn’t break a hand or get KO’d, it was still pretty damn fun to watch Dats hold his own against that POS from the Ducks, complete with the two-point takedown at the end. Now don’t ever do it again.
  • Brad Stuart: Homeboy was a pissed off animal tonight out there. Not only did he almost destroy Bitch McNugs ona  huge hit in front of the net, he dropped the gauntlets himself late in the game and ANNOUNCED HIS PRESENCE WITH AUTHORITY! (Yes, that’s a Bull Durham reference in this post. Deal with it.)

Again, alot of good in the win tonight, but there are definitely some things that will need to be worked on from an execution and decision making standpoint. At the end of the day though, this is a fun team to watch and a team that looks like they are primed to tackle the lofty expectations that both the media and fans have set for them. Alot can happen over an 82 game season, but for one night things were pretty damn perfect.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Petrella is in enemy territory with the wifey for the weekend, and I’m switching off the hockey mode for a few hours in favor of that pretty important FOOSBALL game that’s taking place tomorrow. Disch has graciously stepped up to the plate and will have your pregame before the puck drops in Chicago. You owe him a beer at H2H2.

Time to Officially Run and Tell Dat

This one's for Probie

It’s been an eventful summer. We’ve moved over to some fancy new digs, re-launched and re-branded the podcast, wished Steve Yzerman good luck, said a more permanent goodbye to Bob Probert, made friends with The Diamondcovered the Draft, hosted the second annual roundtable, tried our best to find Johnny Rig some work, appealed to Commissioner Draper for some semi-nude hockey players, someone agreed to marry me…

Quite a bit has happened in TPLand — but even more has happened in Red Wings Nation. We suffered through the longest summer in years, where we were forced to watch Little Brother grope the shit out of our ex — but had a good chuckle as they were dismantled like a Cadillac left on the street near Cabrini Green. We had a scare that Nick Lidstrom might move onto the next phase of his brilliant career, we had a good chuckle at Lilja’s situation before feeling bad for him, we got to debate the finer points of Team Miller vs. Team Ritola, we panicked ever-so-slightly when Darren Helm wasn’t signed — immediately — to a 400-year contract.

But summer’s over. Guess what today is. It’s Hockey Day. It’s like Christmas, only better. More poetic. More exciting. More intense. More celebratory. It’s the best day since May 8th (aside from August 7th).

Our Wings are back. Man the #fuckyeah torpedoes.

WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?
The Detroit Red Wings begin their 84th NHL season, by taking on the Anaheim Ducks in Detroit. Puck drops at 7pm — a half hour earlier than games at Joe Louis Arena have begun since the beginning of time. SCRATCH THAT! Clearly, someone thought better of this ridiculous plan and pushed games back to 7:30 — where they belong.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
Right now, the Wings are in first place. But they’re also in last place. Start the season off on the right foot, and avoid feeling what we felt last season — when the Wings mailed it in in Sweden, setting the tone for a mediocre (by Red Wings standards) season. Let’s stay healthy all year and see what a difference it makes. The pre-season was scary as hell in this department, but these games count and players play through some things they wouldn’t in the exhibition season. If we pray to the right folks, perhaps none of our boys will have to play through anything.

NOW WHERE WERE WE?
The last time these two clubs met was February 3rd. It was a continuation of Hate Week and the nickname theme was Ice Cube lyrics. The Wings were 3-1 losers, and Tiberius took the L. Pavel Datsyuk was the only goal scorer for the good guys — and Franzen was only two games away from returning. It was Ville Leino’s final game as a Red Wings and he — SURPRISE! — spent it in the press box.

OH, HI AGAIN.
There are no former Red Wings on the Ducks.

MEMBA ME?!
Drew Miller, Ruslan Salei, and Todd Bertuzzi are all former Ducks.

BEST NAME NOMINEE
I think it’s pretty obvious we have to go with Cam FOWLer here, because that joke is going to get old real fast.

THEIR LAST GAMES
The Wings dropped Game 5 of the Conference Semi-Final, and the Ducks kicked the shit out of the Oilers 7-2, but failed to make the playoffs — proving that, yes, more than one team can win their final game of the season.

DUCKS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Captain Getzlaf :: Corey Perry :: HooHoo! :: Bobby Ryan :: Ryan Whitney :: Whitney Duck

EXPECTED LINEUP
In the spirit of aforementioned matrimony, I used songs from our playlist for the nicknames. See if you can pick which (if any) of the songs were chosen by yours truly, and which belong to my lovely bride.

Datsyuk — Zetterberg — Holmstrom
Franzen — Filppula — Bertuzzi
Hudler — Modano — Cleary
Miller — Helm — Eaves

Lidstrom — Ericsson
Stuart — Rafalski
Kronwall — Salei

Howard
Osgood

Scratches
Jakub “And We Danced” Kindl

Injuries
Kris “Staying Power” Draper (groin)
Justin “As Wicked” Abdelkader (ribs)

Honorable Mentions
Todd “I Hate Everything About You” Bertuzzi
Brian “American Jesus” Rafalski
Brad “California Sky” Stuart
Jonathan “Ready to Fall” Ericsson
Darren “Your Name is Tattooed On My Heart” Helm [that’s for Herm]
Chris “For the Longest Time” Chelios
Andreas “Talk Dirty to Me” Lilja
Willa “P.Y.T.” Ford
Ville “Who Sucked Out the Feeling” Leino
Mikael “Wild Thing” Samuelsson
Josh “Shit Luck” Harding
Wayne “The Gambler” Gretzky

QUICK THOUGHTS
1. A strong effort from Jimmy Howard will go a long way in proving that 26-year-olds are immune to sophomore slumps.
2. If earlier-in-the-week’s practice lines are to be trusted, Jonathan Ericsson (arguably the worst player in the solar system) will begin the game paired with Nicklas Lidstrom (inarguably the best player of all time). Ellen’s got a little bit of a pool going, and if she asked how long this pairing would last — the answer would have been “two shifts.”
3. The Reunited (And It Feels So Good) Circus Line should click immediately since they’re… ya know… three of the best in the business at what they do.
4. Mike Modano jumps on the ice at home (in a game that counts) for the first time since high school. What an incredible feeling that has to be — and I wish him the best of luck. Go get ’em.
5. I’m sure that the Wings have something magical planned for the opening ceremony — as they always do — but I sincerely hope it involves 20,058 people chanting “Probie” so loud that it drowns out the national anthem. Like it did when he was with us.

WHAT WE LEARNED WITH A PROLONGED SUMMER
Summer sucks. And I bet you dollars to donuts that the players would trade those thirty days off for a shiny piece of jewelry.

DUCK WE COVET (JJ SPECIAL)

Frozen In Time

Every hockey game begins with a clean sheet of ice.

It’s sitting there right now in arenas all over the world. It remains one of the only constants in a game that showcases individual creativity, and it’s ready and waiting for the first skates to step on it and usher in another season of NHL hockey. It’s waiting for the skates of the greatest in the world to trace elegant grooves into its smooth surface. It’s ready for the best-of-the-best to throw down a hard stop and create a shower of snow on the glass that separates spectator from superstar. It’s ready to hold up dreams and support disappointment. It’s ready to catch the blood and sweat of those individuals who take to its surface to compete not only for individual and team pride, but also for the pride of a city and the people who inhabit it. It’s been painted and primed, its caretakers ensuring it’s as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day, ready to take the breath away from all those who gaze at it.

It’s ready.

It was ready in 1926 when a group of men named the Detroit Cougars took to the ice at the Border Cities Arena in Windsor, Ontario. Those men, many who had come from a team that bore the same name in Victoria, had no idea that their steps would launch one of the greatest organizations in the history of the NHL on it’s path to success. For those men, it was a chance to play the game they loved. It was ready in 1935, when a different group of men from the same organization – now known as the “Red Wings” – stepped on to it to begin a season that would bring the city its first professional hockey championship. It was ready in 1946, when another pair of skates hit its surface, and it supported them without fail. Maybe it knew it was supporting one of the greatest to ever play the game. Maybe it didn’t.

It was ready on December 15, 1979 when it hosted its final guests in the old barn known as Olympia, and it was there again when “the Joe” opened its doors. It was ready as the dynasty grew and it was ready as the bottom fell out of a proud organization. It never wavered, not even when a city lost faith in those “Winged Wheelers” and their inability to recapture the magic of years gone by. Of course, it was there when names like Yzerman and Fedorov began to shift the tide of the franchise and it was all too happy to catch the blood of a villainous opponent when a man named “Mac” put fist and foot down and roused an entire city to the cause. It was there when Vernie smoked his cigar in 1997, it was there supporting the heavy hearts of a city while it also held up the wheels of a chair carrying a man called “Vlad.” It’s been there for the start of every Stanley Cup run and it’s been there when the final team picture has been taken.

While some will argue that it’s nothing more than a frozen sheet of water with lines painted into it, the true hockey fans know that there is much more than meets the eye. And while we all know that the stories and the history live in that sheet of ice, no matter how hard we squint or how many hours we stare, the icy surface will never show us her past or divulge the secrets that she contains. Maybe it’s because the experience is different for each person that sees it and skates on it. For Mike Modano, it’s a return to the ice that he began his young career on. But does Mikey Mo know that just last year a young man journeyed all the way from Brazil and gazed upon its surface for the very first time? Probably not, but that’s OK. In the church of hockey, the many different experiences at the altar of the ice surface are what makes the moment special for all those fortunate enough to partake. Yet no matter how far apart we may feel from those men that skate on that surface, we are all uniquely tied together in the bond of a city and its franchise.

Tomorrow, the 84th edition of the Detroit Red Wings will walk out of the tunnel and see that sheet of glimmering ice in front of them. Tomorrow, fans both young and old will walk through the red plastic curtains and see a surface that means something completely different to every set of eyes that view it. For some, it will be the first gaze of a lifetime. For others, it will serve as familiar source of comfort and reassurance that one of the constants in life has returned yet again. Many will watch the game on its surface and will worry about things that they just can’t control. It’s the nature of the beast and it’s difficult to contain, but emotions are a powerful force and a very real one at that. Some will wonder if this is the last time a guy named Nick will take the ice for a home opener or whether or not a young goalie named Jimmy has what it takes to lead his team to a series of victory laps around the chewed up surface next summer. Yes, there will be worry and there will be excitement. There will be joy and there will be despair. There will be wins and there will be losses. It’s inevitable and ultimately accepted.

Through it all, though, IT will be there for each and every game, knowing full well that the game it supports is what all of those emotions are ultimately about. And while it can’t ultimately dictate the wins and losses on any given night, there are some who believe that a frozen sheet of water is a living, breathing thing. Maybe it shifts ever so slightly to pool the water in a certain way that causes an errant pass to somehow find the tape of a teammate. Maybe a fortuitous bounce off of the surface leads to a goal instead of a save. Who are we to tell them they are wrong? Who are we to cast doubts on those beliefs? Some people believe in God. Others believe in a higher power. Some believe in fate, luck and chance. Us? We believe in hockey.

Red Wings hockey to be exact.

The season is upon us. Hockey is back.

It’s ready.

LGRW.

Deep Thoughts, Player Evals PART II

Coming up after the break: the thrilling conclusion to the Dropsy Downsy Puck Turnover Marathon (Claus Anderson, Getty)

The continuation of yesterday’s novel regarding pre-season player evaluations.

37 Doug Janik [waived October 4]
He may be TPL’s Hero #1, but he knows the score. He’ll be spending the year in Grand Rapids, maybe getting a call here and there to fill in if injuries occur on the blueline. I didn’t see much of him —  but I don’t have to. I know what he brings. Awesomesauce. Every single shift.

38 Thomas McCollum [assigned to Grand Rapids, October 3]
I dunno… maybe I’m way off base, but I’m a tiny bit alarmed that he’s not like Superstar Goaltender already. I’m sure that’s just me being anxious for the guy we used a first round pick on to deliver on that promise (and there is plenty of time for him to do so), but I’d love to be pleasantly surprised by a goaltender’s development just once.

39 Jan Mursak [assigned to Grand Rapids, October 4]
I was really impressed with Mursak, and I’d like to think he was the final waiver exempt player left in camp for a reason: to show Mattias Ritola that Mursak worked hard, played well, and actually made the decision difficult. You don’t get a spot just because you can’t get sent down without being waived, but you MIGHT get a spot if you play like you give a shit.

40 Henrik Zetterberg
He’s Henrik Zetterberg. If I know anything, I know that.

41 Ilari Filppula [assigned to Grand Rapids, September 29]
Valtteri’s older brother failed to impressed, but none of us should have expected he’d push for a spot in the Detroit lineup. Anyone worth their salt knew this was a Grand Rapids Griffins signing and maybe he builds his portfolio, and makes the jump in a few seasons — assuming he’s willing to deal with a few seasons in the AHL, unlike Ville Leino.

42 Mattias Ritola [waived October 4, claimed by Tampa Bay]
Don’t quite understand the heartache for a guy that doesn’t play like he wants it. I, too, have a problem with losing a guy for nothing, but it’s clear that he was not one of the top 14 forwards in the system — and who knows if he ever would be? Frankly, even if you remove the Draper/Miller factor and just focus on the players that are most deserving of fourth line minutes in Detroit, he’s still not in the discussion.

43 Darren Helm
Yup. I’m still in love with him.

44 Todd Bertuzzi
Yup. I still hate him. Though, to be fair, as I said on TP:60 — I’m impressed that he dropped the gloves. I still have a hard time swallowing that cap hit, given his complete and utter lack of… what’s it called?…hockey skill, but if the team and the League have given him the green light to SHOW EMOTION again, I’m all for it. I’m willing to give the guy a fair shot this year, after ragging on him pretty regularly for the year before, but I swear to God he’s going to whirling dervish himself into the ice before he scores #20.

45 Chris Minard [assigned to Grand Rapids, October 3]
Hi, I’m Michael Petrella. Who are you? I understand that you were injured much of training camp, and for that, I’m sorry. I wish we could have gotten acquainted a little bit before the bus took off, but — much like my recent wedding — I wasn’t able to spent an hour with everyone I would have liked to. I went around to each table and said hello as best I could… but you must be one of the few that was in the potty when I arrived at your assigned dinner seat. Next time! Another thing I’ve learned since the wedding — writing your thank you note will be insanely difficult if you weren’t there. But it’s totally in the mail. Just sayin’…

46 Jamie Johnon [assigned to Grand Rapids, September 30]
Much like Minard, who Johnson apparently runs in a pack with, I wasn’t able to get much of a look at him at all. He’s wearing Kindl’s old number, so I noticed when he was behind the opponent’s net thinking “what the hell is Amazon doing back there,” but, alas, ’twas not Amazon ‘tall.

47 Brent Raedeke [assigned to Grand Rapids, September 30]
I bet he plays in the NHL. Maybe not as a regular, but he has that “where’d he come from” feel about him that call-ups from the Red Wings always seem to have. I don’t think he gets the call this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see him make a case for himself in the coming off-seasons.

48 Cory Emmerton [assigned to rand Rapids, October 3]
Like Raedeke, I bet Emmerton gets in some games. The difference it…it might be this season. Obviously, I’m not privy to the conversations that take place among the Wings brass (…yet), but I get the feeling that Emmerton has — for the first time, in earnest — made the decision to cut him a difficult one. He clearly isn’t a Top 14 forwards kind of guy just yet, but he’s making a name for himself and proving that the Wings patience and efforts have paid off, and that he’ll be a contributor in the organization on some level for a long, long time.

51 Valtteri Filppula
Sadly, the second line wasn’t able to get a lot of minutes together, thanks to Todd Bertuzzi’s sore back and Johan Franzen’s charley horse, but I’m not worried about Filppula. Here’s hoping he can launch himself into another dimension in the same fashion that Franzen did a few seasons ago.

52 Jonathan Ericsson
Babbles must see something I don’t, because I’m pretty positive that Jonathan Ericsson is the worst player on the team. In that game against the Maple Leafs — where only four regulars dressed on a squad full of Griffins — he was STILL the weak link on defense. Anyone that’s been around TPL since the beginning knows that I wasn’t even sold on him during that “amazing playoff season” he had a few seasons back. He’s somehow gotten worse — steadily — since. At this rate, I give it to Week 2 before he’s occupying the press box and Kindl’s in his spot.

54 Sebastien Piche [assigned to Grand Rapids, September 29]
Does anyone else want to yell BASTIAN! and really wish for a luck dragon when they see this kid’s name?

55 Niklas Kronwall
He has knee problems — EVERYBODY PANIC! Oh wait, he’s already back? Nevermind.

59 Francis Pare [assigned to Grand Rapids, October 3]
I’ve got a soft spot for Frankie “Don’t Call me Frankie” Pare. He’s a tiny, undrafted little spitfire. If he was a deigo and not so obviously French, you’d confuse him with a young Michael Petrella. With two working knees.

60 Trevor Parkes [signed to deal, returned to Juniors, September 29]
I know we said we wouldn’t mention the Juniors guys, but Parkes is someone worth mentioning. He wasn’t 100% healthy, but the Wings thought enough of his play during the prospect tournament to offer him a contract — making him the latest in a series of “bonus draft picks” invited to camp and signed to a deal.

61 Marc Zanetti [returned to Juniors, September 20]
Again, apologies for the Juniors — but I thought for sure that Zanetti would get inked as well, based on everyone’s thoughts about him from camp. He has not been signed, but perhaps they pull a Pare — who was signed by Grand Rapids for a year before Detroit got him inked…

62 Joakim Andersson [assigned to Grand Rapids, October 3]
It seemed like every time I heard his name, it was connected to a qualifier: “Big Swedish Joakim Andersson,” much like the way that Ryan Kesler’s actual, legal name is “Livonia native Ryan Kesler.” Andersson seemed to get involved quite a bit — for better, and sometimes for worse — and if he can gut it out in Grand Rapids for a while (I’m looking at you, Hat Trick Dick), he might be a Red Wing before too long.

68 Sergei Kolosov [assigned to Grand Rapids, September 29]
Gotta feel like he’s been totally leapfrogged on the depth chart by younger, slicker guys like Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff. Maybe I’m way off, but he was returned to Grand Rapids significantly earlier than I thought he would because A) he’s a defenseman and B) he’s been in Grand Rapids for a few seasons, compared to someone like Smith.

70 Willie Coetzee [assigned to Grand Rapids, October 3]
He’s got the fire. Obviously the Wings see it, too, as they elected to have him go to the AHL as opposed to returning him to Juniors — where he could play as an overage player this season. He’s probably a long way’s off — but as long as he keeps playing the way he did this pre-season, there’s no reason to think he’ll NEVER be a big club guy.

90 Mike Modano
Nice that he finished the pre-season off with a goal, but I would have loved — as everyone would have — if the third line got a little more time together. When all is said and done, I’m not at all concerned about Modano, and I think he’s going to deliver exactly what the Red Wings expect of him. Which may or may not be (read: is not) what certain fans expect. One quick note: he’s huge. Like huger than I thought.

93 Johan Franzen
Oh for the love of God, let his knee/thigh be alright. Also, rock the ‘stache, Mulo. The kids are depending on it.

96 Tomas Holmstrom
Having a goal disallowed in the scrimmage was poetic. Let’s hope that’s the last one that’s called back all season. /insert LaRue joke here/

Wings Lose Ritola to Tampa, Place Meech and Maltby on Waivers

Busy few minutes for the Red Wings organization on Tuesday afternoon, as we all learned Mattias Ritola was claimed off of waivers by Tampa Bay Lightning and Steve Yzerman. He had lost the battle for the final spot on the roster to Drew Miller, and in an attempt to sneak him down to Grand Rapids, he was exposed to the waiver wire. There’s no word on how many teams actually put their claim in, but he’ll join the Lightning in time for the season opener.

Ironically, it was the Lightning who waived Drew Miller last season, giving the Wings the opportunity to snatch up a valuable player that found a home in Motown, killing penalties and playing strong fourth line minutes. It sounds odd, but Ritola-to-Tampa, Miller-to-Detroit can be viewed as a delayed trade. And it’s a trade I’d make 100 times out of 100.

While it’s upsetting to lose a player for nothing — particularly, a player that you’ve drafted and developed — it was clear that he wasn’t demanding a place on this roster the way that other young players have — such as Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.

Other players that were waived yesterday — Jan Mursak, Joey MacDonald, and Doug Janik — all cleared and will report to Grand Rapids.

In order to get under the 23-man roster limit, the Red Wings needed to make a few more trims, and at noon it was announced that long-time Grind Line winger Kirk Maltby and defenseman Derek Meech were placed on waivers. Teams have until noon on Wednesday to make a claim for either. If they go unclaimed, both will be assigned to Grand Rapids. Whether they report, however, is another story…

With Meech and Maltby’s waiving, the team is down to 23 players. Meet your 2010-11 Detroit Red Wings:

4 Jakub Kindl
5 Nicklas Lidstrom
8 Justin Abdelkader
11 Dan Cleary
13 Pavel Datsyuk
17 Patrick Eaves
20 Drew Miller
23 Brad Stuart
24 Ruslan Salei
26 Jiri Hudler
28 Brian Rafalski
30 Chris Osgood
33 Kris Draper
35 Jimmy Howard
40 Henrik Zetterberg
43 Darren Helm
44 Todd Bertuzzi
51 Valtteri Filppula
52 Jonathan Ericsson
55 Niklas Kronwall
90 Mike Modano
93 Johan Franzen
96 Tomas Holmstrom