30 November 2010

Be Thankful: Honest Abe's first choice was the last Tuesday in November

One of the fun things about being a horrendous procrastinator is that often, you tend to miss deadlines. Enough so that you get rather used to it. In that spirit, lets talk about Thanksgiving.

Each year, Thanksgiving is the time to sit back, watch your football team embarrass itself, shove absurd amounts of food in your face, and pass out in your own drool. It really is a beautiful holiday. It's also the time of year where the Greatest Minds in Hockey take a look at their team and feel that they can give it an accurate assessment.

This year, there's plenty to be thankful for.

After having played fewer games than any other team in the West, we sit atop the conference in standings. We have a league best Win % and we seem to be doing just friggin' dandy. While there's a long season ahead of us, a great start is always helpful. As I'm sure we all recall from the Year of Aurie, it's no fun looking up the standings. It's a helluva lot better sitting at the apex, looking down, swatting away any pesky would-be contenders. We're used to that. We're good at that.

But our team's record isn't the only thing to be thankful about this holiday season. So lets take a second to present to you:

The Winged Wheel's List of Shit to be Fucking Thankful For, Damnit.

Put that on a Hallmark card. Here we go.
  • Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond
Recently, a highly-funded think tank of scientists and MENSA elites conducted a study of all professional sports announcers (and Matt Millen), and came to a determination to an absolute degree of scientific certainty - Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond are the best in the business.

Now, don't bother trying to make any argument that absolutely anyone who has ever said words into a televised program's microphone is any better than these two gods among men. It's science. From Ken's excited shouts and compelling play-by-play, to Mick's hilarious-crazy-drunk-grandpa-esque color commentary, I wouldn't rather listen to any other pair describing the greatest team play the greatest sport on the planet.
  • Being Proven Wrong All The Damn Time
Ok, bear with me on this one. Last year, early in the season, I rabble rabble rabbled all over the place about how Jimmy Howard was not an NHL goaltender. Those rebounds! He's inconsistent! Terrible positioning! Go sign Dan Cloutier!

Whoops.

This year, Bertuzzi signs a contract. Fuck that! He's a liability! He passes to nobody! He takes lazy penalties and scores inconsistently! He can't play defense and the Joe is way too close to the DMC's maternity ward to employ a guy who eats babies!

Sigh.

Turns out, I don't know shit about fuck. And I'm way OK with that. The fact that Bert, admittedly, is playing real good 2-way hockey and seems to be earning his paycheck does two things. 1) It makes me look like a moron, and 2) it gets me half-mast. I'll be the first to admit that my ability to comprehend things is generally laughable. I'm more than willing to throw my dignity to the wolves in the interest of a team that's clicking on all lines. Bert, I'll keep wishing you off the team while you keep making a fool of me. That'll be just fine.
  • Hometown Discounts.
Cough, Jimmy, cough.

 /subtlehint.
  • Budd Lynch and the Joe

There's just something about walking into the Joe and having it slap you in the face with old-time hockey. The concourses are littered with Red Wings statutes, portraits, and memorabilia. The seats are arranged for one purpose - to watch hockey. The banners in the rafters - and there are banners - all pay homage to the great history of this team. There's no friggin' inflatable mascots running around making balloon animals for those uninterested in paying attention to the product on the ice. There's no gimmicky laser-light shows celebrating every regular season game like it's game 7 of the cup finals. The seats are filled with knowledgeable fans who cheer their asses off, giving the place one hell of an atmostphere. It's just pure hockey.

And you know, theres part of the Joe that is often overlooked. There's something about Budd Lynch's voice over the loudspeakers that just shouts hockey. It's no douchey guy shouting everything in some annoying shrill. Tell me this: Is there any sweeter sound in the history of sounds than Budd saying "One minute remaining in the third peroid" while the Wings are protecting a lead? We've got a 93-year-old gem in Budd. Just another reason why the Wings are the greatest franchise in sports.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that part and parcel deals with the mistreatment and genocide of indigenous people. So what kind of Thanksgiving list would be complete without spending some time picking on the team that uses that absurdly racist caricature for a mascot?

The Hawks happen to be sitting 4 points behind us right now. Oh yeah, and we have 5 games in hand. They're currently rocking a .500 record, and Marian Hossa just went down for 2-3 weeks. In other words, 1/4 of their NHL forwards will not be taking the ice for a while. Sure, last year the Wings weren't in dramatically better position than the Hawks are now. But recall, last year our team was knucklefucked up and down with injuries. The Hawks?

They just have a shitty roster.

As the season goes on, the injuries will occur. It happens across the league. It's just a fact of the game. As that happens with the Hawks, their amazing lack of depth will catch up with them and they'll do even worse. 

And that, my friends, is something to be thankful for.


Wings have the Sharks tonight for the first time since playing a whole series on the PK. Unfortunately, Nabokov's in Mother Russia so we don't get to pick on him. Make this one hurt them. Light that shit up.

Lets. Go. Red. Wings.

22 November 2010

Getting Over the Hiccups: Just hold your breath and light the lamp

Last year was a major boot in the ass.

It was a bit less than fun. The trainers table was chuck full of Larry Aurie's victims, we were stuck looking up the standings at teams we traditionally enjoyed pissing on, and that whole "winning" thing that we'd become so accustomed to over the previous two decades, yeah that wasn't really happening that often.

Turns out, thankfully, it appears that was a bit of a hiccup.

Hell, I'm never satisfied with a season that doesn't end in a parade down Woodward and a bunch of drunken heroes hoisting 35 pounds of glory in Hart Plaza. But the shitshow that was last year has some bright sides. Among them, is the appreciation we get to have for this year's performance. 

This was particularly clear yesterday at the midpoint of the showdown against Calgary. We had just come off an OT loss to the Wild (really? the Wild?) and our performance didn't seem to indicate that we were going to overcome the two goal deficit we were facing any time soon. We all felt it then. "Ah fuck... two in a row?? That's just a pile of horsecock." 

Almost immediately after that thought though? A little bit of relief. Recall how late in the season it was last year when we could finally say we've strung together a few wins in a row. It really wasn't that odd to be facing a 2 game loosing streak during the Year of Aurie. Personally, it brought a smile to my face yesterday when I considered how the prospect of a 2 game drought could bring such frustration as being out of the ordinary.
  • And then Pavel Datsyuk slapped that smile right off my face.
He decided I was being a little bitch, and that I should know better than to ever give up on this team. Not with half the game left - not with 10 seconds left. Just as we were all ready to click off our sets, sigh, and start the mourning process (piss warm PBR and a fist full of Rufilin) Pasha was busy reminding us that last year wasn't a paradigm shift - it was a fucking hiccup. A blip. An asterisk year in an otherwise dominant two decades of hockey. This year? This year it doesn't matter how shitty the team's played throughout the first 59:50. All they really need are those 10 seconds.

Just when almost everyone decided the game was over, Pasha decided he wanted to play a bit longer. He dangled through three defenders and fed a perfect pass to his Eurotwin, giving Z the opportunity to bury it home with 3 seconds left in regulation. Minutes later, in OT, The Perfect Human secured yet another notch in the ever expanding 2010 win column with a beauty.

Why break almost a month of lethargic silence here just to recap a game? To me, this game so far is the season in a nutshell.

That's not to say that the game itself is a good indication of the level of play at which the Wings have been playing this year. Hell, it was one of their worst efforts thus far for an overwhelming majority of the game. Rather, it's a good example of exactly where the Wings are at right now. They didn't play to their full potential, but still pulled out the big win.

That to me, is where we're at right now and it's got me as excited as a Hawks fan hearing about $16 dollar specials on cosmos at John Barleycorn. We're currently proud owners of the best win % in the entire league. We're atop the West in points, despite having several games in hand on many of the teams below us. And considering all that? We aren't even performing our best. The Wings are #1 and still have lots of room for improvement. That's an OK place to be.

Just consider how dominant this team is going to be when Happy sacks up and starts lighting the lamp. Or when Mikey Mo finally settles in fully and starts lighting it up. Or when Babs settles on his lines and gets everyone going at once. The depth in this team is evident. We've won almost every gave we've played and in not one of those wins has every line played to its fullest. That bodes well for the future.

Speaking of which, we're rolling in on Thanksgiving. That's usually the mark where Holland and Co. feel its appropriate to really assess where this team is at. Now, I'm no Ken Holland... but I'm thinking "First" is an OK place to be sitting right about now.

Lets keep it up. Skate to throat; all the way through till Spring.