05 January 2010

Googly Eyes: The Art of Simultaneously Looking Backward & Forward

And now, please join The Scrappy Octopus for our fantabulous first-half-of-the-season review, to be told the only way we know how: through an inane blurb describing what happened during the first half of the season, which shall be reinterpreted through what we imagine to be the individual players' New Year's resolutions, which shall also double as our predictions/previously unspoken hopes for the latter half of this season.

(Note: I made an effort to focus on players who had received a decent amount of ice time during the first half of the season and/or will be returning soon, so no discussing the likes of Johan Franzen or Jakub Kindl or Mattias Ritola. The Mule, a.k.a. my second-favorite redhead after my partner-in-crime here, will have his own celebratory post upon his return.)

Nicklas Lidstrom

It's no secret that Nick hasn't had the most stellar season offensively. He hasn't scored a goal since...well, let's just say that Brian was sporting parachute pants, and I probably had a chin-length bob that I rocked with my Girl Power platforms (I'm nodding at you, Metal Spice) when we saw it last. We give him a pass to some extent because he's had to elevate his defensive play (wait, is that even possible?) due to injuries, which have managed to core the roster since October. Also, Nick has stayed busy earning assists left and right, so how much can we actually slight him for lack of goals scored of late? Still, as Chris over at Motown Wings pointed out yesterday in his fantastic recap of the first 41 games, Lidstrom and typical linemate Brian Rafalski have managed to earn the best plus/minus of the defensive pairings; conversely, Nick and Derek Meech are tied for the worst of all blueline partners. But really, do we ever actually blame anyone for anything when it involves Derek Meech? I'm pretty sure if you were on trial for the most heinous crime--I'm imagining genocide on the scale of hundreds of thousands of victims--and you could somehow insinuate on even the most circumstantial level that Mr. Meech made you do it or that he was simply present at one of your meetings calculating the megalomania, you would be issued the grandest pardon by the world's superpowers for not only accusing you inappropriately of such a disgusting crime, but, even more insultingly, for wasting your time with the judicial process. (Seriously, guys, keep that one in your back pocket--I know at least a couple of you out there are sketchy derelicts. If it works, here's an advance on an exploding fist bump, directed right your way.)

Resolution: To get over this scoring drought (duh) and to celebrate by making the sweetest form of cyborg love to his beautiful Valkyrie princess (seriously, have you seen his wife?!). Oh, and to look forward to the day when he can throw away his countdown calendar enigmatically labeled, "Days 'Til D.M. and D.J. Get the Fuck Out of My House and Return to G.R." Hmm...

Tomas HolmSTROM

I give Homer the next spot because I love him. Yeah, I say a lot of that on here, mostly sarcastically (do you really think I'd let Georges Laraque anywhere near my goods?!), but when I say I love Homer, I mean I love Homer, in the way that I imagine adoring a slightly older relative who is just really kickass, maybe the way Cody on Step by Step was adored by the denizens of the top two floors of the Duffy/Somers domain. (Dude-sy!)

This guy has had an incredible 41 games. He's the team leader in goals, and, despite the constant shuffling and reshuffling of line combinations, he's managed to maintain his role as official Boss of Net Disturbance (look it up). What makes this even more amazing--and I'm saying this with all the love in my heart that bubbles over whenever I do so much as even type his name--is that night after night, we watch him attempt to chase loose pucks and to outskate opponents, which just doesn't happen very often. We all know Homer is best when he's standing still, preferably in his "office", but an overall lack of chemistry and coherence due to iffy line combinations and a depleted lineup doesn't offer this as often as we'd like. Nevertheless, Homer works his ass off. During the last game, we were sitting at the bar watching the game, and I looked at Brian and said, "Homer is always straight up working his ass off." This isn't to suggest the guy hasn't had off nights--we remember several instances when all he had to do was tip the puck and bury it because his ass was on the receiving end of a mustache ride proffered by the opposing goaltender. But it doesn't matter. When you lead the team in goals and you continue to work hard, such transgressions are easily forgiven and (mostly) forgotten.

Resolution: To continue being such a badass at everything ever and to one day, be able to retire to his favorite new BFF, The Scrappy Octopi, who have generously offered him a per diem of $50, plus living expenses and a holiday stipend, to be our personal companion and guy-Friday. I'm looking forward to many years of him explaining to me how mean Swedish Santa Claus is.

(Kudos to beanie168 for the upload on YouTube.)

Pavel Datsyuk

I don't know how to feel about Pavs right now. I make it clear on here that he and Homer are my favorite players, so there's no way of getting around that, but he has had a sucky first half of the year. To put it into perspective, I have a dry erase board on which, prior to the beginning of the year, I had written a couple of pointless, mostly hyperbolic predictions ("Tomas Holmstrom will eat the souls of everyone who wrongs him between whistles and will urinate in their ashes!"), but one I thought actually achievable was Pavel notching 107 points this season, ten more than each of the individual, previous two seasons. Sigh. Those 107 points aren't going to score themselves, buddy.

On the other hand, it's hard to be overly critical of Datsyuk considering (A) the circumstances and (B) the fact that watching most games, he works hard, too. More often than not, he is attempting to make plays happen. The problem is they don't always...happen.

Resolution: To remind everyone why he was nominated for the Hart Trophy...oh, just a little more than six months ago. In other words: More shoot, Pasha. You still need more shoot.

Henrik Zetterberg

Prior to his Ohlund-inspired injury, Zetterberg, in true future-captain style, had made a role of doing that thing he always does during crucial, difficult times (think last year's playoffs): Taking on the role of offensive and defensive everything ever, basically attempting to be everywhere on the ice at all times, doing whatever necessary to keep the points on our side. He's simultaneously a playmaker and a strong defensive forward. And he does most of this quietly--of course, we all know how awesome Z is, but god knows he doesn't get the attention from the outside world that he deserves (or--sigh--that he may receive if he played for another team). Also worth remembering: Hank was the procurer of curly fries to the masses, something that hasn't been achieved again by anyone this season.

Resolution: To return to the ice in a blaze of glory so marvelous, we'll feel as if we have all been enveloped in one big, thick Hank sandwich. (Brian made me write that. He has such a huge man-crush. Do you think I really blame him?)

Todd Bertuzzi

It's difficult to write this without giggling. Who would have thought?

Resolution: You're in for a treat, heathens. I actually got a hand-written (with crayons...or, wait, I think he upgraded to pastels this time) note from Bert with his resolution. To wit:

To invest in a nice set of clippers, to make nice with the fans of Detroit once and for all by continuing to put his best face forward [giggle] on the ice, and to RSVP "affirmative" to this invite I got from one M. Petrella to a Brothers from Another Mother symposium this summer. Question: Is there swimming? Because you'll have to tell me if I can pack my mankini or if it's more of a strict bro-seph sitch where anything other than trunks is frowned upon.

Sounds like fun. Let us know how it goes, TPL?

Dan Cleary

Dan Cleary had frustrated the living fuck out of me prior to his injury (ugh, that we saw in person). This guy was white-hot during the playoffs last year, but came back with a fraction of the energy and grittiness we saw months ago. Most nights, he was invisible on the ice, especially as one of the veterans on the second power-play unit (Cleary-Bertuzzi-Leino) that made me want to reach for the nearest bottle of toxic substance and call the game right then and there.

Resolution: To drive the net more and to get the lead out while chasing pucks. You can't show us you have the ability to be practically superhuman in the spring and expect a free pass now, amigo.

Valtteri Filppula

The first of the long-term injured guys to return to the lineup, Fil made his presence known by notching an assist on countryman Ville Leino’s once-in-a-lifetime goal on New Year’s Eve. Prior to his injury, he had really gotten down to work, benefiting from more ice time due to the absence of Johan Franzen.

Resolution: Get back in the groove, V-Fil. (Sounds like an evil European villain, a la Simon Gruber, doesn’t it?)

Ville Leino

Oh, Ville, Ville, Ville. How you confound me, which is why I developed this pseudo-bonercrush to try to deal with my conflicted feelings toward you. (I mean...that's how you deal with confusion, right? You expel it via sexual congress? Right? Right?!) I want Ville to succeed, I really do; I'd rather the team be successful with him than me be right about him...while the team is still stuck with him. But really, how is it possible not to feel completely baffled by Leino? As we often note, he said last year it was Detroit or bust, then he got his chance in spades due to the lineup issues, and he has failed to succeed. Then, after getting benched by Babcock, he mumblefucked some nonsense about not being good at working hard on the fourth line. Jesus Christ, this guy has more identity issues than a country singer striving for an outlet via shitty alter ego.

(And another thing: Is anybody as troubled as I am by the fact that there is no good nickname to be derived from the name "Ville Leino"? I type Villster to be cute, but that secretly annoys me because if there's one thing I can't stand, it's nicknames that are longer than the actual formal name.)

Resolution: To stop toying with the hearts of the good people of Hockeytown and make a decision either to handle the responsibility he's been given accordingly or to release his Chris Gaines-esque studio album. Reach for the stars, Villster.

Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, and Justin Abdelkader

I group these cats together for obvious reasons: They're all young; it's their first regular season with the Wings (Helmer almost doesn't count, but whatever). And, most importantly, they are all achieving in a fantastic, albeit surprising, way. Truthfully, Helm's success is never a surprise, but who among us was really stoked at first about the signings of either Eaves or Miller?

How many times during the average game do you find yourself holding your breath and then releasing, thinking, thank god one or more of the above four names was on the ice to (A) score a goal or (B) make a major defensive play to prevent opposition scoring? Helm and Eaves were absolutely electric against the Coyotes on Saturday; they single-handedly prevented the Coyotes from capitalizing on power plays or sustaining momentum during particularly strong rushes. Abdelkader hasn't always been the most noticeable playmaker on the ice, but he continues to work hard, delivering hard hits, and his play has improved tenfold since his sloppy beginning this season. And Drew Miller, who came over from the Lightning on waivers? Yeah, the guy you never paid attention to beforehand, and maybe hadn't even heard of, but now can you honestly imagine our roster without him, considering the circumstances?

Resolution: To maintain the speed and energy that many of our players feed off of and to continue creating scoring chances and breaking up the momentum of our opponents. And yeah, I'd like to see these guys continue playing as if they know they'll all have a chance to stay in Detroit once the dust clears. Why? Because I like all four of them, and with the way they're playing, especially in light of certain other players sucking ass (ahem, Ville), who gives a fuck who it is who's showing up, as long as it works? It's like being forced to watch The Young and Restless on CBS when you're used to watching Days of Our Lives on NBC. Yeah, it's not exactly your cup of tea at first, but hey, it's still a soap opera, and it was once good enough for Eva Longoria-Parker to grace, and for Christ's sakes, at least it isn't one of those horrid show-your-hooha reality shows those youngsters are watching nowadays.

Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby

Likewise, I group these two together because they have a few more rings around the old tree and because they've both had unsurprisingly average first halves. Both began the season strong, and I think at one point, Maltby had the second- or third-most goals, but to be honest, I don't notice when they're on the ice anymore, unless I happen to see Draper flying around after someone (goddamn, he's still so fast) or Maltby telling someone to "fuck off" between whistles. I like both of them a lot. I guess that's all I really have to say.

Resolution: To put points on the board? I don't know. I read somewhere once that Malts is a big fan of Caribou Coffee. Maybe he'll take me for a Caramel Highrise sometime. Much love, #18.

Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson

Also known as..."Blueliners Not Named Nicklas Lidstrom Who Don't Suck." Creative, yes?

So, yeah, they don't suck. Stuart started off in a sluggish, sloppy manner for the first handful of games, but has since elevated his game to a pitch worthy of a true force of nature. He's hitting harder and moving faster and providing more offensive presence than any of his defensive counterparts. Rafalski's had kind of a weird season, vascillating between awesome offensive moves (passing 2/3 of the way up the ice and earning an assist) and creating un-Raf-like major defensive blunders, resulting in goals by the opposition. Kronwall was being Kronwall before his injury sidelined him; likewise with Ericsson, although it seemed that for every whistle blown, an angel lost his/her wings, and Big Rig earned 1.7 billion dumbass penalties.

Resolution: To play tighter games and to generate more offensive presence; this should be easier once Kronwall and Ericsson return to the lineup. Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Stuart have had their ice times lengthened considerably since their cohorts' respective depatures; their imminent returns should ease much of the pressure that's been placed on the non-injured defensemen.

Brett Lebda

Also known as..."Blueliner Who Sorta Kinda Sucks."

Brett's the Ville of the defensive squad. I just don't know what to think of him. He's still usually unimpressive. He still gets caught pinching (who is he, Mike Green?). But every now and then, he's come up big in crucial moments and actually...played defense. The mind reels.

Resolution: To...play defense, right? Isn't that his position?

Derek Meech and Doug Janik

Also known as..."Blueliners Who Almost Always Suck."

Before Saturday's game, I probably would have paired Meech with Lebda above, but I just can't handle him. I really can't. To be fair, he hasn't pissed me off nearly as many times as I initially imagined; however, he still sucks. He's the defensive Toby Flenderson to my Michael Scott (yep, Ville's still the offensive Toby, thanks for checking). Besides, didn't I already talk about Meech earlier? You can't possibly expect me to write more than one thing about him per decade. I guess this is it for the twenty-teens.

And Doug Janik? Not ready for primetime, but what, is he like 47 years old? Mr. Janik caused me to impulsively shout at the bar on Saturday (after his ridiculous turnover right in front of the net), "I'm going to kill you, Doug Janik!" at which point several groups of people turned to look at me, then they noticed I was watching hockey, and they all breathed a collective sigh of relief/understanding.

Resolution: Whatever. Return from whence you came.

Chris Osgood

Oh, Ozzie. We have a ridiculous soft spot for Ozzie, along the same lines of my adoration for Pasha and Homer. So many of us feel that way about him, no matter how infuriating he can be during the regular season. Andy over at Fight Night at the Joe observed in his first-half recap that Ozzie hasn't played as poorly of a regular season as he did last year; still, when the number of games he's played out of the last 20 can be counted on one hand, I'm not sure it makes me feel any better.

Resolution: To perfect his time machine prototype to set worldwide clocks forward to approximately April 15. Oh, and to totally razz Jimmah by replacing all the numbers on the speedometer on his helmet with "69". He fucking hates that.

Jimmy Howard

Jimmy has been absolute lightning as of late, making insane stops and even adding his first NHL shutout to his resume. Where would we be without Jimmy right now?

Resolution: To keep up the good work. And to punk that Osgood bastard by interrupting his Zen naps before games he starts with a foghorn blast to the ears. That'll show him.


  1. You sure that hand-scrawled note isn't actually written in blood?

    You know how I know that note isn't REALLY from Todd? Everything's spelled correctly.

  2. What a frickin awesome recap. Posts like this are the reason this might just be the most straight out entertaining Wings blog.

    Two shoutouts in one day, YAY!

    But minus points for Simon Gruber. Hans is the man. So much cooler, so much better movie

  3. Michael, I noticed you didn't comment on the issue of Mr. Bertuzzi's water-ready attire. I think you're afraid of your mounting man-traction to him. Own it.

    Thanks, Andy! The reason I used Simon is that he was the lame one, which doesn't really make sense because Filppula rocks, but I always like using the lamest example possible. I guess it's a thing with being a constant underachiever; it's my own personal ethos.

  4. hehe nice. It's okay then. Die Hard 1 & 2 both rawk, 3 & 4 not so much

  5. Okay, first things first...

    DUDE. With a Vengeance is great. "Zeus...this a friend of yours?"

    Secondly, I don't even know what half of those water-ready outfits are. I assume a mankini is a kind of banana hammock?

  6. For the record, I absolutely enjoyed the big budget-y, cheesy goodness of the 4th Die Hard. And the 3rd one, although equally cheesy, is on TV like every other weekend, and I always seem to catch it at exactly the same part, when Sammy L. is left alone in the subway on the payphone. But to be honest, I worked on that post until the wee hours of the morning last night, so maybe I could have picked a better Euro-villain. Not Ivan Drago, though, because I'm reserving all rights to use him as a reference until the time is right. Permanent. Dibs.

    By the way, the Die Hard series may not have been consistently stellar, but compare it to the Rocky series, in which there is a certain sequel I refuse to acknowledge, but maybe that's because I love Rocky way too much.

    Also, the banana hammock? Please Google Image search it. Once you do, I expect you to be a tad more concerned.

  7. Oh the Borat thing... Ew. Todd Bertuzzi is probably like Harry from Harry and the Hendersons.

  8. See, I could have just said it was like the thing from Borat, but that would have detracted from the magic of viewing it yourself and immediately picturing it on Bert. TSO is all about manipulation.

    Really? Harry from the Hendersons? I picture him as more of a cuddly type, like an Alf. It doesn't hurt that I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to learn that Bert eats cats on the regular.

  9. I guess I meant as hairy as Harry (but that just sounds weird). Something tells me that curly Italian hair coats his entire frame.

    No comment.

  10. Die HArd 3 & 4 are both good, but cannot compare to 1 of 2 which are among my favourites

  11. I'm going to be honest: You lost me at "curly" and "hair". I don't even...well, the bright side to having had this conversation is that now I get to make Alf jokes ad nauseum when it comes to Bert. I'm really going to enjoy that.

    Andy, fair enough. It's true that if there's one thing Hollywood does well, it's exploit a popular movie (especially action movies) to the point of tears. The Rambo series is another one I love...and while I can't really say anything horrible about any of the films, nothing compares to the first two.

  12. I must admit that I don't really like Rambo 3, And yeah, they exploit things alot. Still, I loved all 4 Lethal Weapons movies

  13. Incredible post. In-freaking credible.

  14. Thanks, Chris! This was my attempt at redemption for failing to write about...er, hockey...for the past month or so on a hockey blog.

    Andy, I'm not as big of a fan of Rambo 3, either, but I thought they did a pretty good job on the last Rambo, considering it had been almost 20 years between the 3rd and 4th movies and Stallone is now 847 years old.