Can you imitate the Wings?
Every few years an NHL team wins the Stanley Cup employing a system that is soon emulated by other teams aspiring for the same measure of success.
If they're to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive the Penguins must ... play with far more intensity than they've displayed in most of this series.I'm not picking on Spec in this post because I've been mulling the same thing. And what I just can't get past is the feeling that it might simply not be possible to duplicate what Hockeytown's pulled off in putting together one of the most dominant playoff performances in recent years.
Otherwise, the aftermath of Game 5 will see the Penguins dejectedly shaking hands with the triumphant Red Wings while commentators again sing the praises of a puck possession system that will be copied by more NHL teams in the near future.
It's not so much Detroit's style that's revolutionary, as this is a franchise that's played this type of hockey for years. No, what's incredible is how they've been able to assemble the horses that can skate, score and play defence the way this one has, and do so under a tight budget.
The NHL has never seen a team built quite like the Red Wings: Cheap (and old) in goal, undersized and full of veterans, a roster built 50/50 with Europeans and North Americans, and only three players that make more than $3.5-million on the roster.
If I wasn't talking about the likely Stanley Cup champions, who would have believed that was the winning combination?
Imitating what's being called a "puck possession style" is harder than it seems. It's not a matter of loading up on low-paid bruisers, as the Ducks did in 2007, or having star youngsters drafted from the top of the class.
No, what makes Detroit so successful is that its high-end talent is underpaid, its depth performs above its salary grade and the netminders don't cost a thing.
That's pretty tough to replicate.
Consider these salaries for some of the NHL's most dominant players this postseason:
Henrik Zetterberg, $2.7-million
Tomas Holmstrom, $2.25-million
Niklas Kronwall, $1.5-million
Johan Franzen, $900,000
Chris Osgood, $800,000
And those are just the potential Conn Smythe candidates.
In fact, going down the roster, there's nary an overpaid player to be found. Many of Detroit's veterans took a discount to reup with a perennial powerhouse, while the underrated talent, much of it European, is all homegrown. And then there are the reclamation projects made good — Dan Cleary, Osgood, Brad Stuart — all of whom have earned bigger paydays going forward.
You can't copy a puck possession game without the skilled cast to carry it out, and how on earth will anyone manage what Ken Holland has here?
Everywhere but Detroit, speed and puck skills cost big money.
(Anyway, that's enough fawning over the Red Wings, who we're likely going to be hearing about all off-season. Pulling off what they've managed in one season is a lot different than performing the trick repeatedly, and we've seen plenty of top teams fall quickly postlockout. Perhaps the real question is, can Detroit buck that trend?)
Labels: Red Wings