Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Wolvewingerstons Post

It's been a while. Hopefully my loyal reader(s) have been following my events over at Tea and Crumpets, otherwise it would seem like I'm a slacker with an un-updated blog. If you actually have been following T&C, it might seem like I'm a drunk slacker in England with one un-updated blog. I'd deny that but I have a pint in my hand. True? False? I'll let you decide but I will reveal my location: computer lab.

As you can tell, some of my creative juices have dried out and the best title I could conjure up was a mixture of Wolverines, Wings, Tigers, and Pistons. Plus, the name sounds kind of sweet. Would you fight a wolvewingerston? I don't think I would, even if it turned out to be a mattress. The name's just too intimidating. Trying to figure out where this post's going? You're not alone. But I'm getting to the ficticious meat of the blog meal. I only ask for your patience.

Okay. So, plenty of things have been going down in the sports world and I've been a bit behind the ball in learning about them because of the Greenwich Time Zone. I'll break the important things down into color coded sections though, to give the false impression of extra effort.

  • The Detroit Tigers are still struggling to find their potential and remain 5.5 games behind Chicago for the division lead and a playoff spot. Even though I was really excited for the season, I remembered how few baseball games I watch before October and realized I'd only care if they got through the marathon-like season and into the playoffs. So, wake me up if they get in the pennant race.
  • They did raise my eyelids from their sleeping position though when the Tigers decided to trade Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez to the Yankees for Kyle Farnsworth today. I guess I see their logic. I mean, what's wrong with letting go of a clubhouse favorite who's a consistent .290 hitter, won 13 golden gloves as a catcher, and appeared in 14 all-star games in exchange for a consistently inconsistent middle reliever who has the odd tendency to suck. Sweet. Welcome to Detroit Mr. Farnsworth. Oh wait, you were there three years ago and you sucked so they got rid of you. Weird. So...welcome back, then.
  • After rumors swirled about the Detroit Pistons trading their best players and hardest workers, like Tayshaun Prince and Chauncey Billups, for headcases and troublemakers with skill, like Carmelo Anthony and Baron Davis, I was happy to see the team stay intact. It was until a couple days ago, when they invested $4 million in Kwame Brown. Name sound familiar? Yeah, he is usually used in sentences that have "NBA's biggest draft flops" in them. The former number one overall pick from 2001 has shown an impeccable lack of value in his years in the NBA and all I can say is I'm glad that this is the change Joe Dumars was talking about after the Pistons lost to the Celtics in the East Finals. Naht.
  • Finally, on a positive note, my lovable Red Wings are still proving to be a perfect franchise. They recently got Valterri Filppula, a great young forward with a lot of potential and key contributor to this past year's championship, to buy into the system and sign a five year deal for relatively cheap ($15 mil...$3 mil per year). I'm pleased.
  • The Wings' 2008-09 schedule was released a couple weeks ago and I'm incredibly psyched to find out that for the second season in a row, they will play the Bruins in Boston. Why does that matter to me? Because I can go see them! I'm already ready to buy tickets for another great Saturday, but they don't go on sale for a while. Be sure to let me know if you'd like to go though, as I will be willing to buy a few for others if people want to go. So, other than the November 29th date with the B's, here are some great games to be on the lookout for this season:
    • October 9th - Opening night. Stanley Cup Banner #11 raised. Oh, and they are playing the Maple Leafs. Great Original six battle. Should be a slaughter.
    • November 11th - Rematch of the Finals vs. Sid the Kid and the new Pens. Should be a good game. We'll have to watch out for Hossa though...he's going to come back with a vengeance. Oh wait...the Wings signed him. Ha, ha.
    • January 1st - The Winter Classic. Red Wings vs. Blackhawks at Wrigley Field. Potential snow. Potential renewed rivalry. Potential awesomeness. Be excited. The only possible downside of this game would be if Michigan makes it to a New Year's Day Bowl Game. I don't want to think about what I would do if such a thing happens. My head might explode.
College Football
  • Well I'd prefer this color to be maize but since it won't be visible on a white background, I'll settle for a navy blue. Anyway, Michigan football season is only 30 days, 15 hours, and some amount of minutes away. Here are some hopes and dreams for the first season of the Rich Rodriguez era.
    • I want a decent bowl game. The schedule's tough and we have the Evil Hick Dicks in Columbus right after Thanksgiving, but with a solid returning defense, there's no reason why I shouldn't expect a post-December-28th bowl game.
    • At least tied for 3rd in the Big Ten. I realize that Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State, and the Huge Assholes are all going to be good this year but it would be a major disappointment not to be at least 3rd. I think the Hellish Mongrels will probably win the conference title, unfortunately, and either Illinois or Wisconsin will play second fiddle, but we should at least get third. Come on Rich, make it happen.
    • Make it a game on November 22nd. I know the Ugly Turdmunchers are going to be good and they're in hell, which is technically their home in horseshoe form, and we're not supposed to be very good, but let's just make sure nothing embarassing happens. Believe me, I still have high hopes that this year's team will be good and can actually win this game but at the very least, don't make things worse than they already are. If you can avoid a fifth straight loss to the Colossals of Crap, that's amazing, but if not, at least make it a game.
    • Overachieve. I've heard everything good about the hard work that's been put in over the summer and that the defense will be solid but I also know that the quarterback situation is a Baltimore Ravens one at best and learning the spread system is a damned tough thing to do in a year. So, even though experts are saying Michigan will be 6-6 or 7-5, go 8-4. Hell, go 9-3 or 10-2. It would make me happy, so get it done.
    • Finally, wear the maize and blue with pride. Run out of the tunnel and hit the banner with all your might. Play hard. Work hard. Study hard. Michigan is the best place for both athletics and academics in the entire world and I expect everyone on the team to show their school that respect on the field. Except in Columbus. I permit anything from shit to spit on that nasty excuse for grass. Still try and be respectable to Michigan fans and the team though. That'd be ideal.
Alright everyone, I've gotta go since the computer lab is closing and we leave for Scotland tomorrow. I hope you've enjoyed this post. It's been a long time coming...I've literally been itching to write about sports since I've been here in England but with so much to do and so little time to do it, I simply haven't had a chance. This will be my last post until I return to the States in a couple weeks though, so, enjoy it. Bask in it. Take it home and chew it. It's delicious. Until next time, adios amigos!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Two Flightless Birds Get Their Wings

Two days of the NHL free agency period are in the books and the Detroit Red Wings have made an incredible splash. The Wings followed most of my advice from the previous post and also threw in an amazing signing that I thought was impossible. Let's get right down to it.

First step: Re-sign a guy who wants to come back and help the team try to repeat as champions. The Red Wings did exactly what I hoped in re-signing Brad Stuart to a four year deal worth $3.75 million each year. I initially thought that this deal was a bit too expensive but with the way Stuart contributed in the playoffs, he deserves a little extra. I'm glad to have him back and his addition makes the Red Wings' top four defensemen arguably the best in the league (Lidstrom and Rafalski, Kronwall and Stuart).

Second step: Pick up a veteran goalie to serve as a back-up to Chris Osgood. I called this one perfectly. The Wings signed Ty Conklin, previously with the Penguins, to a one year deal worth $750,000. That is such a good deal for a guy who went 18-8 for Pittsburgh last year when Marc-Andre Fleury was injured and kept the Penguins in contention for the East's top seed. I love the move, and as A2Y points out, there's an added laugh with the crude sexual connotation that goes along with Conklin whenever the Wings play the Blue Jackets. Confused? Follow the link.

Third (and probably final) step: Lure the best free agent on the market to your team solely because you won a championship. Detroit signed Marian Hossa today in the second day of free agency for a one year, $7.45 million contract. Not only does this deal give them another fantastic two-way player who will make them an even better team, but the move helps them keep that hunger that they had this past year. Dallas Drake hadn't won a Stanley Cup coming into this past year, unlike the veteran players on the Wings that had already won two or three championships. He pushed them to be better. Hossa wants a Cup badly. He almost got one this year. He will push the Flying Tires to new heights next year and I cannot express enough how much I want October and the new season to arrive.

After what has happened, I'm stunned. The first two moves that the Red Wings took care of were ho-hum kind of moves...the ones that people were expecting. Hell, even I predicted them. Then, when they weren't even supposed to be in the running anymore, they went out and signed Marian Hossa. I'm speechless. After thinking about it for some time, I will make a strong argument that if the Red Wings hadn't won the Cup this year, he would never had considered Detroit as a destination. Let me explain.

If Detroit had lost in this year's playoffs, in any round, either the Penguins or some other Western Conference team would have taken the title. Had it been the Penguins, Hossa most certainly would have re-signed with them. Why would he choose another place to play when he was already with the best team in the league? On the other hand, if it had been a different West team, why would he consider taking a pay cut to play for Detroit if they had lost and once again shown that they were unproven on the biggest stage? He would have signed with someone who was going to pay him $9 million+ per year. And believe me, teams were offering. The Oilers offered Hossa a nine year $81 million contract. That's crazy. It clearly tells me that Hossa is the type of player I want on my team. He obviously values winning over money and that is always nice to see in professional sports, where athletes are paid significantly more than they should. I'm so excited that Ken Holland got this deal done and that Hossa will be wearing the red and white next year. It's amazing. Welcome to Detroit, Marian. I hope you like it. Help us bring number twelve to the D.

Finally, before I go, I must give you some winners and losers in the free agent market over the first two days because I wouldn't feel like a complete hockey fan if I ignored the other blockbuster moves that took place. So here you are, sus ganadores y sus perdedores (excluding the Wings, of course, since they clearly had a great first two days).

Biggest Winners:
  • Chicago Blackhawks. The team that missed the playoffs last year by only three measly points signed the best defenseman, Brian Campbell, and the best goalie, Cristobal Huet. Campbell is going to be paid a little too much, seeing as how the 'Hawks are going to pay him the kind of money that Lidstrom makes and he's not even close to that level. Still a good move though. Also, with the addition of Huet, their goaltending is completely solidified for the coming year and I expect them to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning. Without even including the #1 overall pick and the new head coach (The Mullet himself), the Bolts signed Olaf Kolzig, Radim Vrbata, Adam Hall, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, and Vaclav Prospal. This team just went from last in the league to top five in the East. They are going to be good and they are my sleeper in the East already.
Biggest Losers:
  • Ottawa Senators. The underachieving Sens from last year needed to make some serious moves to put them back in the race for Best in the East and they did nothing of the sort. They signed perennial sieve Alex Auld, picked up unknown forward Shean Donovan (didn't he go to Kennett?), and signed useless pest Jarko Ruutu from the Penguins. The team will still have a solid core of talented players but with sub-par goaltending and injury prone guys, I don't see the Sens avoiding another first round exit next year. And that's only if they make the playoffs with the rising Bruins, Capitals, and Flyers also in the mix.
  • Pittburgh Penguins. Don't get me wrong, I still think that these Penguins will contend for the title next year. They have Crosby. They have Malkin. They have Fleury. They're damn good. But they are only pieces of the team that they were this past year. They lost Hossa and Conklin to the Red Wings. They lost Malone, Hall, and Roberts to the Lightning. They lost Ruutu to the Senators. When the Cup was clinched, the Penguins management basically had to juggle their options and come out and try to sign whomever they could. What happened instead was a bumbling bunch of buffoons throwing too many balls in the air and freaked out as they all fell to the ground. The only guy they managed to keep that's worth a damn is defenseman Brooks Orpik, who they signed for way too much money. The Pens had so much left over after not signing anyone else, Orpik had no choice but to accept. I will say though, that if the Pens can pick up Jaromir Jagr in the coming days, which looks possible, they will move from the losers square to the winners circle and will receive some praise for bringing back a city hero. But for now, they sit in somber defeat as the team they took to the Finals this past season is now in jeopardy of falling apart.
I have to get to bed but this day was too exciting for me to not blog about it. The Red Wings are going to be so good next year. Possible first powerplay line of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Hossa, Lidstrom, and Rafalski. Will the referees just award a goal to Detroit whenever the opposing team gets a penalty? They might as well. I can't wait. This will probably be my last entry here for a while, as I will be continuing the blogging experience over at Tea and Crumpets for when I'm in Cambridge, England. Have a good Independence Day everyone! Enjoy the fireworks!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mix It Up or Stand Pat?

I have been pretty lazy about updating my blog this summer. During the school year it was a weekly task that I fulfilled with ease, but the combination of work, heat, and apathy has turned blogging regularity into blogging rarity. All of that will change when I leave for Cambridge soon because I plan to update Tea and Crumpets weekly at the very least. As long as I'm still in America though, the apathy has a hold of me. I've seen plenty of movies since I last blogged but I refuse to review them. I will give them grades, but I'll let the numbers speak for themselves.

Pan's Labyrinth: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
The Big Lebowski: 4 out of 5 stars.
The Godfather: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Goodfellas: 5 out of 5 stars.
Heat: 5 out of 5 stars.
Chariots of Fire: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Definitely, Maybe: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

I still have yet to watch Reservoir Dogs and Fargo after borrowing them from a friend, but I will get to them by the end of the week. Basically, I'm catching up on my classic movies...and somehow saw Ryan Reynolds' recent romantic comedy somewhere in between. The real reason for writing this post though, apart from simply updating the blog, lies in the mystery of the NHL offseason. Yes, more hockey. I know that creates curiosity for some of you and serves as a stop button for others but I will continue because it draws my interest.

The NHL free agency period officially began about an hour ago and there is certainly some intrigue for Red Wings fans and hockey fans alike. There are plenty of players that will sign with other teams and all of the excitement of the next few days will create a whole new look for the upcoming NHL season.

First off, before I turn towards my hopes for the Red Wings' summer, I must say that the Tampa Bay Lightning are doing an incredible job of turning the franchise around in oh, about a week? I mean seriously, they were the worst team in the league last year and in the past week they have chosen the #1 overall prospect in the NHL draft (Steve Stamkos), hired Barry Melrose as their head coach, and lured Gary Roberts and Ryan Malone away from the Penguins. With Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis already anchoring that team, I see a playoff spot and maybe even a division title in their near future. What a turnaround. Way to go Tampa.

Moving on, I would like to address what has already happened and what I want to see Kenny Holland, the Red Wings' GM, do during the offseason.

What Has Already Happened
  • Dominik Hasek retired, leaving Detroit with an untested Jimmy Howard as their backup goaltender. Nice work Dom. You were a class act when Babs replaced you with Ozzie and you led the Wings to the Cup in 2002. I always enjoyed watching you play and you will be remembered as one of the best goalies in the modern era.
  • Andreas Lilja resigned with the Red Wings for the next two years for barely more than $1 million a year. This is like keeping the crazy cousin around the house when you know he's better off at a mental home. He could be bothering some other team with bumbling turnovers and poor skating skills but hell, let's keep him. The Red Wings love a good challenge. I will admit though, as much as I wouldn't mind Lilja leaving, the Detroit front office has a bit more knowledge than I do when it comes to these things, so I'll hold my tongue and hope for the best.
What I Would Like to See Happen
  • Sign Valtteri Filppula. He was a key contributor in the regular season and the playoffs in 2007-08 and he's only 24. His skills have been heralded by fellow Finn Teemu Selanne and I think that he will only get better. I want to see him back in a Detroit uniform.
  • Sign Brad Stuart, but only if it's at a reasonable cost. Stuart deserves about $3 million a year, even though that would be a slight pay cut for him. I think he may try the open market, but if he's smart, he'll take the smaller paycheck for some additional rings on his fingers. If he does want to test the market, let him go. But, other than game three of the Finals in Pittsburgh, I thought he was a great asset to the team in the stretch run to the Cup and I'd like to have him back with Kronner as part of the second defensive pairing.
  • Sign Brian Rolston. The man has a laser beam for a slapshot, comes from Michigan, and would be a great addition to the clubhouse. He's fun to watch and would be reasonably priced. I think that Dallas Drake will announce his retirement soon and we'll need another forward to take his place. Rolston is more offensively talented than Drake but also gritty enough to fit right in. Get on it, Kenny.
  • Forget about Sundin. Toronto's hero is getting older, he's expensive, and wouldn't be around for very long. I certainly wouldn't have a problem with Holland landing Sundin but with Zetterberg and Franzen needing new contracts next summer, I think taking a cap hit with Sundin could be a mistake.
  • Please leave Todd Bertuzzi alone. I've heard plenty of rumors of the Wings' interest in him and how he meshed so well with the clubhouse in 2006-07 but I don't like the move. I don't want him back. His actions on Steve Moore will forever haunt him in the NHL and I think he's more trouble than he's worth. Stay away from the 'Tuz.
  • Bring in an old veteran goalie who can back-up Ozzie. I'm still not sure about how well Osgood will do in the starter's role for the entire season but I embrace the idea of someone who can adequately share the load. Possibilities: Olaf Kolzig, Alex Auld, or Ty Conklin. All three guys would be able to play 15-20 games and keep the Wings in winning form. It would help keep Ozzie healthy for playoff time.
Overall, I'm excited to see what happens and how the rosters look when all the dust settles. Even if Detroit doesn't make a move and enters the season with the same lineup minus Hasek and Drake, I'm pretty confident. Holland has been a great general manager for so many years now and I know for a fact that the Red Wings would not be blessed with so many championships if not for a lot of his hard work. I'll be happy with whatever happens, I just have my preferences.

And here ends another post in the blogging world. I've got to get to's late and I have another day of work ahead of me tomorrow. I'll be relaxing in jolly old England in less than a week's time though, so there's that to look forward to. Hope you're all enjoying your summer! See you next time!