Are We Not Men?!

“Back in my day, we had people that stood up to ruffians.
We called them ‘MEN.'”

This isn’t going to be pretty. But I won’t apologize for a single word of it. Because I woke up and put boxers on today. Not whatever lacy, screen-printed, sweet-smelling bullshit Adam Burish and Teemu Selanne slowly pulled around their ankles, up over their love handles and onto their tushies. I say tushies because only men have asses.

It’s important to say right up front that I respect the game — and those who play it. I understand that there’s a definite need for some semblance of diplomacy. Shit-talking others off of the ice is generally a no-no. As is doing whatever the fuck it was Rick Rypien did in Minnesota that made that poor, poor 28-year-old grown-ass boy shat in his Huggies.

I played hockey for a long time. Nearly two decades. Much of it at a decent level. Nowhere near the NHL (obviously), but there were a few things I learned along the way that I feel are benchmarks to point out right off the hop:

  • Running your mouth is acceptable. Hell, it’s expected. You can make fun of a guy’s mother, his girlfriend/wife, his SAT scores, and whatever hillbilly barn he rolled out of and into the rink. Very little is off-limits (however, CANCER is one of them, Sean Avery). It’s fair game because you know that when the game is over, you’re going to be men, shut the fuck up, shake hands, buy each other a beer, laugh about something that happened that night, and go your separate ways. That’s called “hockey.” I’ve said vile things about people’s family members and only once did the guy take me seriously – and it was in a men’s league, so it hardly counts. Don’t ask if I actually did those things to his daughter — because I won’t tell.
  • Physicality is one of the cornerstones of this game. It’s what separates the greatest game on Earth from (sorry, dad) soccer. I dig soccer. It’s a cool game. It takes a serious athlete with unbelievable endurance to be a soccer player. But don’t tell me for a minute those fellas are tough. HOCKEY PLAYERS are tough. At least, they’re supposed to be. When you strap on skates, you should expect to be hit — cleanly, obviously — and expect that it’s going to hurt. During the course of a career, you’re going to hurt someone, too. If you’re lucky, it’s doing something you’re supposed to be doing (Niklas Kronwall) — and not doing something stupid (Shane Doan). The point is crying like a little princess about getting checked is pretty fucking stupid. You don’t like contact? Go play basketball with all the other talentless crybabies.
  • Almost every player that’s a superstar at running his mouth (Kirk Maltby, Michael Petrella) is also very often the first player to stand in line to shake hands at the end of a hard-fought playoff series or — in the latter’s case — a game against rednecks in Lexington at the University of Kentucky. You do things throughout the course of a game that you may not be proud of, but it will always — and I mean ALWAYS — end on a note you can be proud of: putting it behind you, admitting to yourself, your teammates, and your opponents that it’s just a game and it isn’t personal. We’re all supposed to know that.

The reason for this rant is two-fold. Somehow, there were two different moments over the last week that make our game look like it’s full of whiny hipster poets, instead of testosterone-fueled supermen like Cam Neely was.

First, Adam Burish apologizes for his comments about Chris Pronger. After winning the Stanley Cup (since apparently kicking the shit out of your opponent on the biggest stage in our game isn’t enough anymore), he ran his yap about Chris Pronger being stupid and the worst player on the Flyers. We all know some of that’s true. We don’t need All-Pro (and possible Mensa member — I’ll have to get back to you) Adam Burish telling us how retarded and skill-less a repeated Norris Trophy candidate is. You don’t say something like that (although, it was very Blackhawksesque, taking a moment to kick a rotting horse carcass instead of — I dunno — celebrating the best moment of your life). But what you REALLY don’t do? Apologize for it six months later, re-hashing a moment that made you look like a penis. I forgot it happened. I’m damn sure Chris Pronger forgot it happened (since, as we’ve learned, he’s stupid). I don’t want to discount the value of an apology, because every once in a while, one is deserved. Which is why you pull Chris Pronger aside, as a man…in person…having made an actual effort, and say “hey, that was a dumbshit thing to do, my bad.” 100 times out of 100, a MAN will respond “it’s part of the game.”

There was a night, when we were playing Bradley University in Peoria, that I took a shot that must have caught the defenseman in just the right spot because he went down like a tree in the rainforest. Turns out I broke his ankle. Obviously, I didn’t mean to — it was a shot, a total freak accident. Nevertheless, I know that sucks (having broken an ankle myself) and I made sure I found him the next night to shake his hand, tell him I hope he got back out there soon and to keep his head up. The point is — he appreciated that I made the effort to say “hey dude, my bad.” I didn’t have to turn in my man-card, and the fine gentleman that wore #2 got to use his, as well, by not being a punk and thanking me for doing something that — really — didn’t seem like an option at all, I wanted to do it. Because it was the right thing to do.

In Burish’s case — he shouldn’t have said what he said publicly. You have two options if you’re Burish: 1) Keep your goddamn mouth shut once the buzzer sounds or 2) Sack up and own those words. Don’t curl your tail between your legs now that you’re not riding the euphoria of finishing on top.

Second, Teemu Selanne got his fucking Nokia nuked by our very own Niklas Kronwall. Only sissies and grade schoolers will say that was a dirty hit. Niklas Kronwall used his shoulder. That shoulder hit a well-aware Teemu Selanne, who was more embarrassed than shaken — as evidenced by his returning to the game immediately and eventually scoring a goal.

Again bringing personal experience into this: playing against Northwestern, I was knocked unconscious by a hit. It was a clean hit, mind you, although it would be arguable if it needed to be taken. It was probably overkill given that I’m 5’8″ and he was in the neighborhood of 6’3″ and he had already beaten me to an iced puck. But I didn’t bitch and moan about it because I’m a man and I signed up to play hockey, not Skip-It. Trust me when I say I didn’t score a goal after that. I could hardly remember my goddamn name for 72 hours. I was given the smelling salts (not recommended), played a shift or two after my eyes uncrossed, and — the following night — rocked a kid from that same team in open ice and watched as his purple helmet bounced into the stands. You win some. You lose some.

Bob Probert and Tie Domi fought 150 times. And every single time, despite clearly hating one another for those 90 second intervals, they tapped one another on the shoulder and knew they’d meet again. Do you understand how massive Tie Domi’s balls must be to sit front and center at Mr. Probert’s funeral and CRY about losing a fellow man?

The moral of this diatribe is if you play hockey, you’re going to get hit. And you’re going to do something that might step over the line a bit. The NHL has to do a better job of regulating what’s legal and what isn’t, but if you put your steel on the ice and expect to make it out unscathed and without hearing something about your Playboy-posing alleged-rockstar wife, you should maybe consider being a barista instead.

We don’t get to tattle to the principal. We don’t get to sulk and kick dirt. We don’t get to roll around clutching our ankles after a Frenchman ran by us. We don’t get six days off in between games — of which we only play sixteen a year. Yeah, I went there, football. What are you going to do about it? The answer is nothing because A) you probably can’t read and B) it’s your bye week.

You shake it off. You shake hands. You dust off your icechip-soaked jersey. You dust off your favorite one-liner (“how’s your wife and my kids?”). You stand up for your teammates. You stand up for yourself. You get your revenge cleanly. You get to play again.

Niklas Kronwall and Mike Babcock have both said publicly how much they respect Teemu Selanne, and how they never want to see a player — any player — get hurt. For their part, Teemu Selanne and Randy Carlyle whimpered and blamed Joe Louis Arena.

Mike Babcock’s a man. Kirk Maltby’s a man. Steve Yzerman’s a man. Bob Probert was a man. Tie Domi still is.

I take great pride in knowing that I’m a man.

Niklas Kronwall’s a man. And you’re lucky to have met his shoulder, Teemu.

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.

An Open Letter to Kirk Maltby (Now with Postscript!)

UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 12: Kirk Maltby #18 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on during the game against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on January 12, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Hey Kirk.

Good to see you again. Hope the summer has been restful and relaxing for you, although it sounds like you’ve got alot on your mind. I don’t envy you Kirk. It’s just a major life changing decision in front of you, right?

I mean, let’s look at it objectively. On one hand, you’re the odd man out on the team that you have played with for 14 seasons. You’ve won four Stanley Cups in Hockeytown, and number five is more than a fleeting thought as training camp gets ready to crank up in a few weeks. Despite that, you’ve already been told that you probably won’t make the big club out of camp – given that there are a number of younger guys that can pretty much do everything you can – but have been offered the opportunity to take a two-way deal in case the Wings need you down the stretch. It’s obviously not an ideal situation, but you’re a loyal guy and want to give the franchise that has taken care of you the benefit of the doubt before looking elsewhere. That’s admirable for both sides, but it’s a harsh reality that sees you taking the AHL maximum $105,000, a far cry from the $750,000 you made last year and the $950,000 you made each of the two years prior.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. Despite the relegated role you would have in Detroit, you know you still have some good hockey left and you really want it to be in the NHL. A couple of teams have expressed interest in your services, including the Tampa Bay Lightning and their GM – and your good buddy – Steve Yzerman. Sadly, it’s not the Red Wings, but it IS NHL hockey (with an NHL payday) and there’s a familiar face or two around the St. Pete Times Forum for you to connect with. Let’s not forget that it’s warm pretty much all year round, and there’s some great beaches that you can check out on those off days.  It sounds great, sure, but I feel you: it’s just not the same as playing in Detroit.

What to do?

Allow me to give you some advice Kirk: Go South.

Now, before you and the rest of the Wing-O-Sphere get out the pitchforks and torches, allow me to explain the logic here Kirk. First, I understand that you want to be loyal to this organization and to the fans who pack Joe Louis Arena every night. It’s an intoxicating feeling playing in front of the rabid Hockeytown fanbase, I’m sure, and one that will NOT be replicated in Tampa Bay. But the stark reality of your situation is that you won’t get that feeling on a regular basis here in Detroit, and if you do, you’ll most likely be taking it in from the comfort of a luxury suite high above Joe Louis Arena instead of on the ice with the teammates that you share the bonds of friendship with. Regular season, playoffs, it doesn’t matter. Time is of the essence in your situation and I can’t imagine the idea of appearing in (at best) 10 games this year is really worth it. The Lightning can offer you exactly what the Red Wings can’t right now, and that’s a legitimate shot at playing in the NHL this season on a regular basis. At the end of the day, isn’t that what this is really about? The fact that you can still play hockey and still can offer something to the team? Under that criteria, TB makes sense and you know it.

Sure, it’s a difficult situation with the family and you’ll be moving to a new place, but it’s only a temporary thing, right? Give it a year in Tampa Bay and if you’re ready to hang it up, the house in Grosse Pointe and the job with the Wings will still be right there. Hey, you may even decide you REALLY like it down in Tampa and I’m sure Stevie would be more than willing to hook you up with some work when the playing days are done. If not, hop on that jet back to Southeastern Michigan and pop on that training jacket and get to work scouting the young kids. Both the immediate family and the extended Wings family will be waiting for you with open arms when you return, and that’s a guarantee.

Look Kirk, I know it’s a tough decision and one that you want to take your time with. But take my advice to heart buddy. Nobody will question your loyalty when you head down south. The Wings have respected your work with the organization with the best offer they can muster and you’ve respected the organization by taking the time to carefully consider it. You’ve done your due diligence and you’ve thought long and hard about this one, I know it. You’ve earned it though. You’ve earned the right to have this decision put in front of you and you’ve earned the right to be a Red Wing for life. If that’s what you choose, I’ll give you a big virtual hug and say “Welcome back!” But you’ve also earned the right to play hockey at the highest level possible while making the best living possible for not only you, but your family as well, and sometimes that means making the difficult decision.

So sit back, wipe the cloudiness of the nostalgia from your eyes, and take a good long look at where the best fit for you is next season Kirk. It’s time to see the forest through the trees my friend.

A forest full of palm trees.

See you in a year,

Chris

P.S. (2:42 PM): Kirk, one more thought I meant to add in my original note and completely forgot to…

You might hear some people tell you that you should stay in Detroit based on the fact that good friend and former Grind Liner Darren McCarty did something similar on the way to the 2008 Stanley Cup. Remember that nostalgia I was talking about? Yea, that reference is nothing more than that. Any so called precedent that McCarty set is complete and utter bullshit.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love D-Mac as much as everyone else, but his stint in GR was a shrewd move by Ken Holland to give a guy who was struggling both professionally and personally a chance to finish out his career in a place that he knew as home, while bolstering the roster with some physical, veteran depth for the playoffs. The only similarity that the two of you share is the fact that you would (POTENTIALLY) provide that same playoff depth should the Wings need it. That’s where the similarities end. McCarty had ZERO options other than the contract in GR. You have NHL offers waiting for you. This is most definitely not the same situation and you know it. Do what’s best for you.

NHL Reaches Across Table, Extends Finger

If you were awake late last night, you likely saw the  now-infamous NY Post piece from Larry Brooks regarding the NHL and its butting of heads with the NHLPA regarding — essentially — the pending Kovalchuk contract. Good friend of TPL @mserven was kind enough to shoot me an IM since I wasn’t really hanging out on Twitter at the time.

And then I lost my goddamn mind.

Apologies to anyone that was caught off guard by my garlic-fueled, expletive-laden tirade on the matter, but as Philip J. Fry says…that dog won’t hunt, monsignor.

The League, it would seem, has issued an ultimatum to the players association. Long story short, the league is demanding the following:

1. The League will allow the new Kovalchuk deal — as well as two other questionable contracts in Marian Hossa and Roberto Luongo — to stand, IF:

2. The cap hit on future deals will not count any seasons after a player would turn 40.

3. The cap hit on future deals longer than five years will use a system to weigh the most expensive five years more than the rest of the deal.

If the NHLPA does not accept these tenets, the League has informed them that the following will take place:

1. The Kovalchuk deal will be rejected.

2. The League will move to void the Luongo deal.

3. The League will open formal proceedings to investigate the Hossa deal.

Here are my no-holds-barred thoughts on the matter, and you’re welcome to disagree with them: the National Hockey League should be ashamed of themselves. There isn’t a person on the entire planet that can tell me that the players “won” the current CBA following the lockout. The League essentially took them out behind the woodshed and had their way with them. Period. There’s a salary cap now, there’s a funky-ass escrow system in place that zero people understand, there’s revenue sharing. There’s nearly NOTHING redeeming about the system in place, from the players’ standpoint.

The one area that the players — or more accurately, general managers and agents — have been able to claim a minor victory is structuring deals in a way that decreases the cap hit — LEGALLY, MIND YOU — making players more affordable in a system that doesn’t promote paying players what they’re worth. The Hossa, Luongo, Zetterberg, and even the old Kovalchuk deal are examples of admittedly shrewd tactics designed to circumvent the spirit of a salary cap. That’s a given.

But guess what? It’s totally within the jailsexing rules! Just because the League didn’t have the foresight to predict this particular loophole doesn’t mean they have the right to bitch and moan and scream and kick and knock over furniture. At some point, you need to look in the mirror, admit that you’ve been defeated in this tiny battle that — when all is said in done — has zero impact on the war. You’ve WON the war, by thousands of soldiers. To demand that someone kick over the last midget on the way to the victory party is shallow and unbecoming.

I agree with @JJfromKansas, the things that the League is demanding aren’t unreasonable. In fact, they’re downright GOOD ideas. It isn’t what they’re demanding, it’s how and when they’re demanding them. You’ll have your chance to make sure you close these loopholes in 2012 when the CBA expires — to demand anything of the PA right now seems like it’s circumvention of the CBA in its own way. I have a hard time believing that the League has the right to make these kinds of offers/demands when the Players have played within the rules the entire time. I’m sure the League has some sort of clause giving them the right to fuck with the Players whenever they want (why not, they got everything else they wanted), but in the court of common sense, that’s a full-on OBJECTION from the hot Law & Order chick.

There are a lot of good points out there: that the Players should play ball, bend on these reasonable requests and continue to win the hearts and minds of the public. JJ thinks that it will go a long way in the new CBA negotiations, and that’s certainly possible. I respectfully disagree — if the League is willing to piss all over their agreements with the Players now, what’s stopping them from continuing to steamroll the NHLPA if they it won’t stand up for itself? These bully tactics are, tangentially, the reasons that the NHL and the sport of hockey are second class sports citizens and will never be taken seriously: too much machismo and muscle-flexing instead of focusing on how to grow the game.

If the Players back down from their stance — which, as we’ve said, is well within the rules — and fold for the League (again), they deserve everything that’s coming to them. I get the argument that it might make negotiations more pleasant in a few years, but I have a hard time swallowing it. If the PA is going to allow the League to pound them mercilessly, there will be no stopping the massacre until there’s nothing left of the Players.

As for the prospect of another lockout. I have a hard time envisioning a world in which there is no work stoppage. Considering how petty the League is being with this one deal (by the way, thanks a lot, asshole…you couldn’t be a team player and take a less ostentatious deal to make life easier for everyone? Get humped) and how much they’re crying about a system they won, the group that’s going to lose the most in 2012 is us — the fans.

Welcome to the new home of The Production Line!

Oh NOW that photo makes sense…

Welcome to the new home of The Production Line — complete with our own non-blogspot domain! Maybe now we’ll stop having our posts eaten as we’re just about to bitch about getting jailsexed by the Shetuzzi or making up Las Vegas Lebda stories. Please take a few minutes to update your bookmarks, blogrolls, RSS feeds, and Google Reader subscriptions. The feed – and home page – will continue to have the full content, because nothing pisses me off more than having to “click here to read more.” I have officially exhausted my vast vocabulary computer lingo.

You’ll find us at www.TheProductionLine.US — NOT .com. Trust us, we wanted .com. But the clown who owns it (and is just sitting on it) wanted four grand for it. So… we tried. It just wasn’t going to happen.

We’ve got a lot of exciting news to share, so I’ll cut right to the chase. We’re beyond thrilled to announce we’ve added a third member to our little cabal here. Our real-life good friend (nay, brother) Chris Hollis will be joining us as of today after having done an incredible job at Motown Wings — and Winging it in Motown before that. The Production Line is extremely lucky to have such an incredible writer, brilliant hockey mind, and world-class man on its team. Both “original members” of TPL (or “classic gangstas”) had an instant connection with Hollis and within minutes of meeting him knew that there was an opportunity for something special if the three of us put in the effort.

We also have Hollis to thank for this wonderful new site. He built many of the elements (some that we’ll explore in a little bit) to make it far fancier than the old TPL was (Blogger Templates FTW!). The banner, however, is courtesy of our good friend Sara — you may know her as @thetinnishflash — and she did an AMAZING job. In fact, she’s designed more than one for us and we couldn’t decide which one we loved most so we’ll be rotating.

Back to business… not only are we merging our site with Hollis’, we’re proud to announce that the Red Wings podcast — formerly known as The Obstructed View — has also found a new home. You’ll still have the show you’ve grown to love, but it’ll live right here at the Production Line so there’s no need for a second bookmark to keep track of. The podcast has been re-branded as The Production Hour (despite the fact that it’s NEVER just an hour, but  “happy hour is longer than an hour, and no one seems to mind.” Touche, salesman.) The format is going to be switched up a little bit, too, but I’ll let Hollis pass along those details, as he’s still your host and point man for that project.

If you haven’t already, please take a second and follow @TPLhockey on Twitter and fan us on Facebook. Not quite sure what we’re going to do with the social media, but that’s where all the kids are hanging out. Fret not, all three of us will continue to tweet from our personal accounts, but only the TPL Twitter will be sending the post’s feed. Because it’s uber-annoying to get four tweets in a row with the same link. You know who you are.

Anyway, to access our Twitter and Facebook pages — as well as the RSS feed — click those nifty buttons in the upper right hand corner. Directly below them thangs is a tabbed box. Ask Hollis how badly I wanted that. I almost blew the whole partnership on my crazyperson obsession with it. But it worked out, because it’s FULL OF WIN. The first tab is our blogroll, the second is the categories the posts will be filed under, and the final is a direct link to a PayPal account. Under no circumstances should you feel obligated to use this button, but Hollis ain’t cheap… that was a paying gig we tore him away from, and we had to promise him a decent petty cash account.

All joking aside, we’re hoping to find a handful of sponsors for The Production Hour — and the site as a whole. If you’d like to send a few bucks to help cover hosting fees for the massive podcast files, we’d graciously accept it. But the exciting part of this kick-ass button is that periodically we’ll be hosting fundraising events — like the H2H pledge drive last February. Rest assured, we’ll still be your home for the H2H2 pledge drive — just like last year. Boom, built in PAY UP SUCKA! button for when Bertuzzi goes all December ’09 on that ass.

Below the banner on the LEFT side of the page, you’ll find a few more tabs. You can use the About Us page to send us individual e-mails (fan-mail and hate mail equally accepted and expected) or a question/comment for podcast. We’ll be having some guests on the show from outside of the Wings blogging community, and I’m sure they’d be happy to answer some questions and engage in discussion.

So look around. Make yourself at home. Take off your shoes, stay awhile. We’ve been excited about making this announcement for months, and we know you’ll enjoy all the fun new developments at TPL.

So, with that, I’d just like to welcome Chris Hollis into the fold — we’re unbelievably lucky to have acquired a free agent of his stature. Boogaard (6.6 lol) be-damned, this is the best move of the summer.

Despite signing in June, Todd finds a way…

Tuzz, seen here molesting an eventual-teammate

Gather ’round, boys and girls, it’s story time.

It started on a Tuesday. This past Tuesday, as a matter of fact. We’re just under eight weeks away from exchanging vows, and everything was on the up and up. We have quite a bit left to do, but the big, important things — venues, food, guest lists, invitations, etc — were all done. Tucked away into a neat little box. Plenty of little things left to accomplish — Engelbert bowls, for one — but we could rest easy knowing that, even if we didn’t do anything else before August 7th, we’d have an awesome party on our hands.

And then, at 9pm Tuesday evening, the phone rang. We lost our caterer. Something about embezzlement and jailsex or something. Within 24 hours, Todd Bertuzzi had re-signed with the Red Wings for two years and a TWENTY NINE PERCENT RAISE!

An unfortunate coincidence?  Nay.

Bertuzzi’s agent/Satan’s helper Pat Morris threw out a ridiculous number — two years and $3.875M — in hopes that negotiations could be stalled until seven Saturdays from now, when Todd’s Operation: Fuck You Janov-Petrella Wedding could be executed. In a surprising turn of events, the recently re-signed Ken Holland and Jim Nill — who have always had my back, they’re my homeys — wouldn’t allow such things to transpire.

SOLD!


There’s no other way to look at it, folks. Our fantastic general managers jumped on a mighty big (not to mention mighty slow, mighty wobbly, mighty gap-toothed) grenade for me and my bride. It’s the true character of the Red Wings organization. How many weddings have Stan Bowman and Ray Shero saved from disaster?

Zero, that’s how many.

Point is — in order to make the deal happen this early, and to appease the Dark Lord (presumably), some facet of our wedding plans had to be destroyed. Holland and Nill are fantastic men, but gods they are not. Allegedly.

A cap hit of $1.9375M over the next two seasons. He’ll earn $2.25M this season (150% of his salary from a year ago)  before dropping into $1.625M for 2011-12 (still 8% higher than 09-10). In terms of numbers, dollars, and cents — the cap hit might not be too far off if we can guarantee 15-19 goals (see what I did there, Andy?) and 40 points each of the next two seasons — and the chemistry with Henrik Zetterberg and Valterri Filppula is undeniable. But that’s like saying “whoa this sausage really goes well with bacon and eggs.” Of course it does. But have you ever looked at sausage by itself? It’s fucking disgusting.

GRIDDLECAKES SIGNS ON (aka, continuing the breakfast theme)
Valtteri Filppula’s older brother has been signed to a one-year, two-way deal with the Red Wings. At first glace, this move seemed little more than depth signing for Grand Rapids — and a potential call-up in a pinch — but all of a sudden, with Todd Bertuzzi’s contract sinking the ship that seemed so happily afloat, Ilari Filppula has a chance to wedge himself onto the big club.

I still think that’s a long-shot, given his age and pro experience up to this point. Nevertheless, he’ll be given a shot in training camp and if October rolls around with two Filppulas on the roster, prepare to be out-prettied. I’m looking at you, Todd.

HOLLAND AND NILL FTW!
As has been speculated for weeks now, both of our top-flight general managers, Ken Holland and Jim Nill, have been signed to long-term extensions to remain in their respective capacities. Five-year extensions, which kick in next season, guarantee that our men in charge will most likely last longer than Nick Lidstrom’s contract after-all.

If either or both guys decide they’ve had enough hockey and hang up their clipboards, there’s a guy in Tampa that might be available for the job. He’s new, but I hear good things.

CAP MAGIC
Continuing the good news, Red Wings capologist Ryan Martin decided to stick around instead of joining good friend Steve Yzerman. First order of business: allow the Bertuzzi deal to happen. Bang up job, Ry.

All jokes aside, it’s a great bit of news — the Martin part — and it should mean continued excellence in the cap-manipulating department.

Speaking of which, here’s where we stand — with all one-way players listed:

G :: Howard, Osgood [2,133,333]
D :: Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall, Stuart, Ericsson, Kindl [20,683,333]
F :: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, Filppula, Cleary, Hudler, Bertuzzi, Holmstrom, Draper, Ritola [32,175,378]

Total salary dedicated to 18 players is $54,142,044. The cap is expected to increase to somewhere in the $58M’s, so the Wings have $3.8 – $4.6M to spend (depending on the actual cap number) on the following holes:

:: A sixth/seventh defenseman, depending on what role Jakub Kindl earns during training camp. Doug Janik can drop in — as can Brendan Smith, but that’s unlikely given the Red Wings desire to over-ripen prospects in the AHL. It seems all but official that Andreas Lilja is out, unless he takes a drastic pay-cut to remain a Red Wing. Good news, everyone! Derek Meech might be back because he never bitches, always takes an insanely low salary, and is a forward sub when needed. Expect whoever takes this slot to slide in around $750-$850k tops.

:: Three or four bottom half forwards. There are plenty of restricted free agents in need of new contracts, so it’s safe to assume many of them will fill out the roster. Darren Helm (who is probably next in line for a deal), Justin Abdelkader, Patrick Eaves, and Drew Miller would make 14 forwards. It’s just a matter of numbers now. After that seventh defenseman mentioned above, there will be about $3M — maybe $4M — to get all four under contract. Drew Miller may be the odd man out, and Patrick Eaves might not want to take a near-league minimum contract again.

If we use the numbers I predicted a few weeks ago, signing the fab four will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.1M. Here’s hoping, because they all deserve deals and looked good in red and white.

Photo Credit: Jeff McIntosh, AP

H2H :: A Survival Guide

FIRST OF ALL…
What a weekend. As we all return to reality, and the relative break that work will be, it’s time to reflect on what can only be described as three days of awesome. Friday was legitimately one of the best days of my life – I had an unbelievable time meeting everyone, doing a little partying, and welcoming a friend from South America to the States. I am truly honored and grateful to have had a role in making this come together, and it’s something everyone should be proud of. We raised over $5,300 for Children’s Hospital, and that’s above and beyond what was raised to get Herm to Hockeytown. So we’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $7,500. I’ve said it before, but the generosity of Red Wings fans shouldn’t surprise anyone anymore, but that’s a huge number. Your pledges accounted for about a third of that grand total — and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Rob and I felt a little strange not having anything up on TPL for a few days, and here’s hoping you’ll forgive us. It’s been a wild 72 hours, but we should have you back to your regularly scheduled jailsexing shortly.

THANK YOU
The sincerest of thank you’s to everyone who had a hand in making H2H happen, but particularly Jennifer Macrostie, Mike Serven, Chris Hollis, Ellen Manuszak, and Bill Houlihan – the Chief architect that couldn’t be with us, but was there in spirit. That’s a cabal I’m humbled to be a part of.

Herm, it takes serious cojones (sorry, I don’t know the Portuguese word for “balls”) to do what you’ve done – between meeting hundreds of strangers and having a camera in you face for two days.

To the Detroit Red Wings – particularly Ryan Michaels and Nicole Yelland. These two people are perfect, shining examples of why the Red Wings are the best organization in all of professional sports. The lengths to which both went to make this dream come true is inspiring and everyone needs to know how much they’ve done for us. Some of the photos and stories that follow will help paint that picture.

H2H FIX
If you’re looking for photos, videos, and recaps, check out these links. If you’ve got photos you’d like to share, or a post I may have missed, send me an e-mail and I’ll rectify that situation pronto.
 :: Herm2Hockeytown Official Site – for all your H2H needs.
MEDIA
 :: Fox Sports Detroit – Trev takes on Herm.
 :: Fox 2 – feel free to mute my interview.
 :: WXYZ – with jumbotron footage.
 :: Herm in the locker room with Darren Helm.
 :: The Detroit Red Wings Twitvid.
 :: Detroit News – photo gallery. Check out photos 10-16.
 :: Hollis’ interview on XM Radio.
 :: Kris’ mom‘s photo gallery. These are awesome photos.
MUST READS
 :: Part I of Herm’s recap at Red Wings Brasil.
 :: Caue’s post at Red Wings Brasil.
 :: J.J.’s must read for some perspective.
 :: Paul Kukla‘s Post at NHL.com.
 :: Abel to Yzerman
 :: A Nueie Perspective photos
 :: Babcock’s Death Stare
 :: Big Red Machine
 :: Jennemy‘s Flickr Stream
 :: Etched in Cold (and Part II)
 :: Motown Wings
 :: On the Wings
 :: Red, White, Black and Blue
 :: Sara’s LiveJournal recap

 :: Snipe Snipe Dangle Dangle
 :: The Triple Deke – who totally pre-stole my timeline idea.
 :: Winging it in Motown

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW AND SEE
If you weren’t there, hopefully this will give you a tiny glimpse into the extravaganza. If you were there, hopefully it’ll help piece together what may otherwise be a total fog of beer, accents, and the occasional hockey game.

The flight that Ellen and I were on landed in Detroit at 2:41 on Thursday. That’s basically the last time I realized what time it was. We went from baggage claim to Joe Louis, where I found Herm and Orst a few minutes later. It was in the mid-40’s, but our favorite Brazilian was freezing his ass off, so we headed on inside.

Fittingly, longtime-blogger-turned-Red-Wings-staffer Christy Hammond got the tour kicked off right, telling Herm he’s going to meet grinder/deity Darren Helm after the Wild game.

A few seconds later, Nicole presented Herm with a Hockeytown: No Limits sign, graced with the signature of the entire club.

In the visiting locker room, the organizers and Herm are interviewed by Red Wings TV – who, unwisely, turned the microphone over to Christopher J. Hollis. I look positively thrilled to be there. Or maybe it’s just that I’m so impressed with his perfectly sculpted facial hair.
Later that evening, everyone would meet at one of Hollis’ old stomping grounds, The Old Shillelagh. I arrived at about 8:30. By 8:32, I was being accosted. It was excellent to put some more names to faces, and the ladies were nice enough to pose for an H2H Gone Wild-esque photo. Pictured left to right are SaraJennGreta, Jen Macrostie (I promise she’s there), Jennemy, Ellen, TPL Mom, and Adrienne:
We called it a night around 1am, which would be — by far — the earliest night of the weekend, but Friday was a big day and we all needed our beauty sleep. We were greeted at Hockeytown Cafe with this marquee:
Shortly thereafter, Fox 2 made the mistake of interviewing me – it took all my might to keep myself from screaming “FUCKYEAH JAILSEXED WOO!” into the camera, but I think I was kept in line by the fact that Ronnie Dahl is no less than 7 and a half feet tall.
Just after the doors opened and the crowd flooded in, there was  TPL reunion and all was right with the world. It had been almost two years since I’d seen Disch, and there was much huggage. Rob’s brother Johnny, who I have now adopted as my own, was also in attendance (oh, there’s pictures, I promise). I think it’s fair to say that Johnny is our biggest fan and I would like to say that the feeling is mutual. Sorry Natalie, I have dibs on the entire Discher family – that’s just how it’s going to be.
Before he could put his coat down, Rob was snatched up by Nicole from the Red Wings.
Rob and I presented Natalie and Brian with a signed copy of the She-Tuzzi. 
Herm was becoming a natural in front of the cameras, as Fox Sports caught up with him at Hockeytown Cafe.
Baroque and Jen writing out the giant check.
Chris Hollis reaches into the tub of tickety goodness to reveal some gameday prize winners. For the record, the prizes listed on H2H’s website were drawn late last night and Ellen is getting in touch with the winners and posting a blog about it shortly. 
The moment you’ve all been waiting for: The Shirtuzzi. 
As demanded by Disch, a shot of whiskey for my mother.
The voices behind The Obstructed View. I’d say we all have a face for radio, but that’s clearly not the case at all — look at these beautiful/handsome folks. Pictured, left to right are Kyle, Hollis, Kris, Casey, yours truly, Disch, Ellen, Tyler, and Jessie.
We arrived at the Joe, and there was much rejoicing (particularly by that lady none of us recognize behind us…). Herm was already getting set up in the penalty box to watch warmups. 
It’s a bit fuzzy, like Malik’s chin, but the photo below is our beat writer in residence George Malik atop the Zamboni during the first intermission. He’s waving a Bill Houlihan face-on-a-stick, which will be available at Meijer and Belle Tire outlets within the hour. 
During the intermission, and until the first commercial break in the second period, Herm was wedged between Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond (funny, they don’t let Murph that close), and he was actually in the booth with a headset to call the first two Wings goals. Eat it, Doc Emrick! Around the same time, tinfoil hats courtesy of Lola were being passed through the sections.
I dare you to come up with a better “It’s a Power Play” celebration than flashing a tat.
Arguably the best photo taken at the game came from Miss Red Wing. Check out her twitpic to see Johnny snapping a photo of our row sometime during the second period. Right around the same time, Herm was being interviewed by Wings TV and broadcast to 19,000 new friends.
After the game, we totally accepted a ride from a stranger – but he seemed friendly enough. While waiting for the shuttle back to the Cafe, some other bar’s bus rolled up and said we could all fit. It was a tight squeeze, but Billy Mays jokes and lost cell phone stories more than made up for it. We took up residence at our new hangout, The Town Pump right around the corner from Hockeytown Cafe. It was here that the legend of Mike Serven: Ladies Man was born. Pictured with him are Baroque, Lola (she’s back there), JJ’s sister Anne (who is totally awesome, by the way), and Kris.  
There was “dancing.” Make sure to check out Tyler’s creepy demon eyes on the background.
It was discovered that the reason for the Wings offensive onslaught was, in fact, Dena‘s Swedish underpants.

Saturday was mostly wasted, as nearly everyone was comatose until the late afternoon, but some of us worked up the energy to go to Cheli’s/Hockeytown Cafe/Town Pump to watch the Wings 1-0 shootout victory over the Predators. Pictured (poorly – my bad) are Kris (poking in the corner), Sara, Nurse Nitz, Brian, and Natalie.

I am, in fact, real. As is Sara.

The fucking-hipster-DJ-that-Natalie-hopes-dies-of-herpes did his best to drawn out our laughs. To make matters worse, he didn’t pump the Megamix or Walk the Dinosaur. I have absolutely no idea why Serven and I were talking about Wakl the Dinosaur, but I assure you we were. Putting a cap on a perfectly awesome weekend, it came on the radio as I drove back home. I shit you not. Fate intervened upon H2H this weekend.

After watching the shootout, Kris and I formed, under the watchful eye of Sara and Nitz, the Coalition for Making EAVESED Happen. Look out for the new vocabutastic word in the near future.

H2H2 is going to have its hands full matching this level of awesome, but I don’t doubt it happens. We’ve all made friends for life — not just internet friends, the real kid — and I’m looking forward to doing this again. To those of you that couldn’t make it, know that you were with us and absolutely a part of the fun, thanks to Twitter and whatnot. We’ll see you all next year.

A Call to H2H/TPL Action

***UPDATE 27 :: Friday, March 12***
Ben from Below the Crossbar wants in on the action for the last half-dozen. He pledges cash for the follow phenomena:
 :: $1.30 for every Datsyuk point
 :: $4.30 for every Helm goal
 :: $5 for every Osgood start
 :: $10 for every shutout
 :: $3 for every win ($5 for the Penguins)


***UPDATE 26 :: Friday late night***
Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long for someone to come with the Contuzzi Love. My cousin Jeff has pledged $1 for every Todd Bertuzzi penalty minute between now and H2H. We’re guaranteed some cash on this one!


***UPDATE 25 :: Friday evening***
Rob Masters of Etched in Cold comes in again. I urge you to check out his post at EIC for a better explanation, but here’s the gist: he’ll donate $9 for Helm’s 9th goal, $10 for Helm’s 10th goal, and so on…

Also, each goal scored by a defenseman from below the faceoff dots is an extra $2 (on top of the $2 he’s already pledged for each goal between now and H2H).


***UPDATE 24 :: Friday***
From TPL Mom:

It looks like I need to hop aboard this frolicking, jailsexed train and pony up some cabbage. Michael, as you and I discussed, I was going to plege $2 for every goal scored (ours or the opponents) while the Big Rig was on the ice ’til the end of the season(I know a WIND-FALL for the kids right?!?) Since he’s not in the game tonight (and may not ever be in again) here’s $17 (his current minus stat) Next, if Patrick Eaves scores tonight or Sunday..$17. If Darren Helm scores tonight or Sunday…$17 more (his current pt total) Finally, since Lidstom’s +/- is +17, $17 for each goal he scores tonight and Sunday. C’mon Nick!! Have to run for now; have an urge to find a roulette table…. 



***UPDATE 23 :: Thursday Night***
Greg, perhaps better known as CaptNorris5 of The Winged Wheel, sent me an awesome e-mail (if you’re not super familiar with TWW, go now because the rest of this update is pretty much an extension of it). And I quote….

“in the spirit of Captain Norris himself, I’ll throw down $5 for every time I get to move Babcock up his ladder toward the above ground pool full of fake tits and Jack Adams trophies. $5 for a win, and $2.50 for an OT loss. Plus, I think as a bonus, and just to make your life more complicated and difficult, I’d like to throw in an extra $2.20 for every time Lebda is scratched.”

Well, Lebda’s back in tomorrow, but I’m sure he’ll find his way into the press box. Ya know, for the kids.


***UPDATE 22 :: Thursday***
Clearly inspired by what he saw from the twelfth row last night, my dad has pledged 10% of the total raised at the end of the twelve games. So, the $207 raised so far equals another $20.70.


***UPDATE 21 :: Wednesday***
Another pledge from Krononymous, this time referring to the Chicago Blackhawks game on NBC this Sunday. $2 for every gratuitous mention of Sidney Crosby, since he’s not in any way involved in that game. $2 for each airing of the Crosby/Talbot washing machine commercials. $5 for each intermission story done about Sidney Crosby.


***UPDATE 20 :: 8:23pm, Tuesday***

A couple of updates today, from two of our favorites. First, Jennbikegirl is adding to her pledge. On March 5th, against Nashville, $5 for every Kronwall hit. On March 22, against Pittsburgh, each goal is $4. If Crosby is held pointless, that’s a $10 bonus!
Another super commenter, Baroque, has pledged $5 for every Nick Lidstrom point until the 25th. AWESOME!
Chris Hollis wants your direct messages on Twitter. For every correct trade prediction, he’ll donate $5 to the fund! For details, check out his post at Motown Wings.
***UPDATE 19 :: 10:50am***
Another TPL regular, Sara, has matched our $2 per goal pledge, and added that each goal scored by a Euro Twin is worth double!
——-



***UPDATE :: 2:02pm***
That was fast! Our good friend Drew from Nightmare on Helm Street is in. He’s going to match our $2/goal pledge from now until March 25th. He’s the first… who’s going to be second?

***UPDATE 2 :: 2:07pm***
Dena, that’s who. She pledged an additional $2/goal for the Hawks game on the 7th, the Flames game on the 9th, and the Penguins game on the 22nd. She’ll be in attendance all three nights, so she’ll bring some extra personal juju the Wings way!

***UPDATE 3 :: 2:15pm***
Make it three… one of our very best friends, Natalie from the Scrappy Octopus, has joined the fight. She’ll match our donation of $2/goal for the upcoming Canucks, Predators, Hawks, and Pens. In addition, for all twelve games, $2 for every Tomas Holmstrom goal or assist. Keep ’em coming, Hockeytown!

***UPDATE 4 :: 2:25pm***
Another one of our very good friends, JJ from Kansas, is in. He’ll be matching our pledge against the Wild, Sabres, and Oilers. Almost every game has at least one pledger from now until March 26th, but we’ve got no problem doubling and tripling up!

***UPDATE 5 :: 2:32pm***
Wow, another full match! Yet ANOTHER one of our very good friends, Jennbikegirl, is down for all twelve games!

***UPDATE 6 :: 2:46pm***
Count Ellen of Big Red Machine in! She’s co-sponsoring tonight’s game with the Avalanche, along with Drew and Jenn.

***UPDATE 7 :: 3:51pm***
Now it’s time for something a little different! One of TPL’s favorites, Nurse Nitz, has pledged FIVE DOLLARS for every Red Wings WIN in March. Let’s hope we kick that off immediately. Not only that, she’ll donate $5 for every Nick Lidstrom goal. Booyah.

***UPDATE 8 :: 4:33pm***
Just like we could count on him during the original bet, our friend Rob Masters from Etched in Cold has joined TPL and pledged another $2 for all twelve. We now have five parties pledged for tonight’s Colorado game. Keep it coming!

***UPDATE 9 :: 5:17pm***
And we have a ninth! New friend Brad has pledged another $2 per goal for all twelve.

***UPDATE 10 :: 5:48pm***
And Krononymous makes it ten! She’s matching our pledge on March 7th vs. Chicago! Not only that, she’ll throw in an addition $5 for every Jimmy Howard or Chris Osgood shutout (so…. every Jimmy Howard shutout).

***UPDATE 11 :: 6:47pm***
Big news! Another doll of a reader, Vicky, is upping the ante a tiny bit. Her Direct Message on Twitter says the following:

Since Jimmah is 26 on the 26th, I’ll donate $26 for every game we win. I’m hoping to be out $312 to absolve myself from not being at the game.

***UPDATE 12 :: 6:57pm***
BOOM! From the comments rises Andy from Fight Night at the Joe, pledging to donate $9 (for his first jersey number) for every Red Wings victory from now until then! Each victory is now worth $40 in addition to the goals scored pledges. But wait, there’s more! Andy’s pledged an additional dollar for every Helm goal from now until then, paying homage to Herm’s favorite player! Later, drunkenly, Andy pledged $25 if the Wings win on the 7th, and $19 if the Wings win on the 19th

***UPDATE 13 :: 7:30pm***
Frankly, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this already….our good friend Maria has pledged $15 for every Todd Bertuzzi goal. What’s $15 x ZERO? HA!

***UPDATE 14 :: 7:37pm***
Our good buddy Mike Serven has pledged $19 for each Red Wings win, $5 for each Red Wings goal, and $5 if the Red Wings ARE shutout. Let’s hope those last $5 aren’t needed….but awesome generosity nonetheless.

***UPDATE 15 :: 8:43pm***
Wow, a very cool pledge this time. Jason, perhaps better known as sigsegfalt, has matched our pledge of $2 per goal, and will add an additional $5 for each fighting major and $10 for each spot the Red Wings climb from now until March 25th. That means if the Wings are in 7th by the time H2H comes around, there’s another $30!

***UPDATE 16 :: 8:49pm***
I hope these come right up until game time! Beanie is in for $5 per Red Wings win. By my count, that makes each win worth at least $64.

***UPDATE 17 :: 8:55pm***
What a great idea! Sara (it_burns_us) pledges $5 for every time Mickey Redmond says “Datsyukian.”

***UPDATE 18 :: 9:26pm***
Another one — $2 for any Flying Circus goal, pledged by Allison (allisonRW96). And Homer’s goal a few minutes ago counts!
—————————–
Whoa! It’s March.

We’re less than four weeks away from the awesomeness that will be Herm 2 Hockeytown. Rob and I are both very excited to be there, watch some hockey, do some fundraisin’, meet some people, and maybe win some awesome prizes.

There are twelve Red Wings games before March 26th…and that got me thinking. When I made a bet with Maria regarding the outcome of the gold medal game, it added a bit of spice (not that it needed anymore spice). Hearing that our friend Rob matched our bet only added another layer to our idea…

Hear me out…

For every Red Wings goal from now until we get on the plane, Rob and I will donate $2 to the fund. In addition, we’d LOVE to have some of our loyal, awesome, jailsexed readers volunteer to match our donations for each game (or all of them, if you’re feeling super generous).

If you are interested in pledging an additional $2 per goal for any of the upcoming March Wings games, shoot me an e-mail at theproductionline@gmail.com or send me a DM on Twitter. The TPL Pre-Games will be named in your honor and we can all share the joy/blame when things go awesome/terrible!

Totally Looks Like… Finalists and WINNER!

We’ve had lots of laughs over the last seven days, and that’s thanks to the dozens of hilarious submissions in our Look-a-Like Contest. Rob and I decided it’d be funny to offer up a “prize” to the winner, the cheesier the better, in hopes that the winner would take said prize (a Marian Hossa banner…really…who would want that, even if he was still on the team?) and take lurid and disturbing photos of it (think: with a noose around it’s thin fabric neck and trailing behind a car).
Since one of the more popular submissions (Todd Bertuzzi totally looks like Charles Manson) was submitted by a member of the family (HI MOM!), I thought it’d be only fair to have her select the finalists and the winner.
Before we announce the winner, we thought it’d be fun to take a look at the rest of the Top Ten. A pretty awesome selection: some that really look like a celebrity counterpart — others that were just too funny to pass up. In no particular order, your finalists:
Herm‘s Kris Draper / Chuck Norris submission
WingedUP‘s Jon Heder / Justin Abdelkader submission
Serven‘s Todd Bertuzzi / Brett Favre submission
Jennbikegirl‘s Nicklas Lidstrom / Neil Patrick Harris submission
UCLA Jenn‘s Carson Daly / Todd Bertuzzi submission
Casey‘s Willem Dafoe / Mike Babcock submission
CaptNorris5‘s Chris Osgood / Weird Talking E-Trade Baby submission
Natalie‘s Ville Leino / Scream Killer submission
Andy‘s Jimmy Howard / Brick Wall submission
Drumroll, please! It’s time to announce the winner of the first TPL-sponsored Look-a-Like Contest (which totally implies we intend on doing it again, because it was too full of awesome)… the winner has been contacted, and we eagerly await seeing what she does with Fabric Marian. We know the rest of you do, as well.
Baroque’s Niklas Kronwall / Speeding Truck submission
Great stuff from everyone – we were all very impressed. We always knew our readers were beautiful/handsome and intelligent… but clever and funny, too? Man… Rob and I thought there were so few of us…

Chris Osgood: despised by Mike Babcock, the rest of us

Boy oh boy, Chris Osgood certainly has the right things to say doesn’t he? Anyone who’s ever done anything even remotely competitive can understand — even appreciate — his desire to play more, and the fire that burns inside him when he’s sitting on the end of the bench, charting faceoffs. In that respect, I feel for him. I didn’t play much when I got to college, and it’s hard to sit back and watch when you love something so deeply.

But, he’s still expected to be a team guy, and be a respected veteran, and a locker room presence. In years past, he’s been an unbelievable influence — and not just on young goaltenders, on young players in general. This year, that train has seemed to become derailed. There’s a very clear rift between Chris Osgood and head coach Mike Babcock, and it all began a few weeks ago when Osgood questioned Babcock’s decision to play Jimmy Howard more often. It led to Ozzie implying that he knows more about goaltenders than Babs does. On the surface, that claim seems downright plausible. However, that’s not the kind of thing you say about your coach, who — surprise! — decides who plays when.

When it was announced that Osgood would play last night against the Capitals, we got more gold from Ozzie, who seemed to infer that he was being thrown to the wolves, making his first start in nearly a month against the high-octane offense of the Caps.

That’s quite a coincidence. Or maybe not. We’ll see how it goes.

Doesn’t exactly ooze confidence, but he couldn’t be blamed for feeling less than ready – it had been awhile, after all, since he last got the nod. Emo Manny Legace he is not, but he’s been opening his mouth quite a bit more often than he’s been known to. Osgood continued by letting his true feeling about how Babcock has handled the situation be known:

At the start of the year Howie didn’t play for about a month and then I didn’t play for a month. To me that’s not a good way of doing things, to let one guy get stagnant. You have to have both guys going, especially with the amount of games we have, especially coming back after the Olympic break we have a ton of games in March. So we have to have two guys in case something happens.

First of all, he’s absolutely entitled to this stance, and like I said earlier, I’d be worried if he wasn’t interested in playing more. However, not all successful teams “have to have two guys” going. New Jersey has done just fine with one, San Jose and Calgary use the hell out of their Number Ones, Roberto Luongo has never needed a “mental break.” Furthermore, these aren’t things that you say publicly, if you’re expected to be treated a certain way.

If you think Osgood has played up to Howard’s standard this year — or Conklin’s last year — you’ve been living under a rock and I feel sorry for you. Make all the excuses you want, like Osgood, but the numbers don’t lie. He’s currently stopping fewer than 90% of the shots he has faced this season, and – frankly – that’s a disturbingly low number for an NHL goaltender.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not blaming yesterday’s loss (solely) on Osgood. But the fact remains that if Jimmy Howard plays that game, we have two points – easily. The Wings badly outplayed the Capitals for most of the  game, hold a 42 second span that completely derailed Detroit. I said the same thing on TOV a few weeks ago, but if things continue to go the way they’re going, there’s absolutely no way in hell that Chris Osgood starts in the playoffs – should we get there. It’s clear that Jimmy Howard is the guy now, and that Babcock is going to go with him to get the wins. Case in point, the post-game press conference where Babcock was quick to steer the conversation toward Tiberius, even when asked about Osgood.

That was an opportunity for him, and I thought we gave him real good support and Howie will start in Minneapolis. 

Notice how he wasn’t asked about the next game, but rather the one that had just ended. The press conference would continue and when asked about how important it is to get both guys going, Babcock informed everyone that would listen that you can’t win without goaltending and that WE’RE LUCKY TO HAVE JIMMY HOWARD. Boom.

Chris Osgood continued to make excuses and pass the buck on a less-than-stellar performance, claiming that if he had played more often, he would have made the saves we needed to win.

It was tough. I haven’t played in a month. I think if I played a little more — they were good goals, but still I would have stopped them if I were in more of a groove. It was tough, especially against a team that doesn’t shoot a lot but waits for their best chances.

I didn’t see the following conversation take place, but it certainly reads like there’s some aggression going on. When told that Babcock is playing Howard on Thursday because the team “needs some points,” Osgood responded with:

I’ve gotten him a lot of points, you can write that. I got him to the Stanley Cup Finals the last two years, you can write that, too.

Nothing like taking total credit for a team sport…and then refusing to take any blame when crapping the bed.

I can’t speak for the organization, obviously, but there’s certainly an uprising among fans who are growing tired of his lackluster play the last two regular seasons, and growing even more tired of him flapping his gums. I totally understand the urgency he feels to get back in the game, but he’s not winning anyone over with his mouth lately.

Photo Credit: Keith Srakocic, AP