Exploring the anger of the Detroit Red Wings fan

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RedWingsFan.jpgAs someone who covers the whole of the NHL, I do my best to remain as
objective as possible. I have no rooting interests either for or
against Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, or any other team or player. While
I have been a Dallas Stars fan my entire life and started off in this
line of work writing about them, I’ve yet to come across a time when
being a Stars fan has interfered with my take on any other team or
player.

That being said, I completely understand when fans get
protective of their team. I have championed Steve Ott for years, and
will continue to do so, even though 95% of the hockey world can’t stand
the guy. Anytime I see someone bashing Ott, I have to fight off the
desire to rush to his aid and to defend his honor; “….how dare someone
attack him like that?”

Still, I’m not irrational in my thinking
process. I know that Steve Ott has flaws, and there are times I just
want to put my head through the wall he does dumb things. So while I may
have the desire to defend him at all costs, I’m not going to blindly
defend Ott through any and all criticism, no matter what the attack may
be. Heck, they may be right about him. Sometimes.

Which is why I
don’t understand the blind defenses you see from certain fanbases. I
realize that calling out fans right now is a bit en vogue, and I really
don’t want to get into all that. But I guess I am, just by
writing this. So here goes…..

It is absolutely amazing to me the
speed and the ferocity that Red Wings will defend their team against any
and all criticism. We all know about the ‘tin foil hat’ conspiracy
theories that gain steam any goal is called into question, but it’s not
just the Red Wings consprieacy crazies that I’m referring to. It’s the
pack attack method in which they descend upon any form of criticism
directed at their team.

This afternoon, I was reading an article
on MLive.com by Detroit radio host Art Regner. Now, I’m not all too
familiar with Art’s work, but it seemed like a perfectly reasonable
article to me. He wrote that the hockey world is just waiting for a Game
7 loss tonight by the Red Wings, as it would finally signal the
beginning of the end of a historic run by the Red Wings.
Writes Art:

Make no mistake; the Wings have their collective reputations on the
line tonight in the desert. So many times hockey’s pundits have wanted
to write Detroit’s epitaph. So many times hockey’s elites have labeled
them old and done. So many times opposing general managers have
‘leaked’ that Detroit’s star players are overrated and basically not
that good.

Begrudgingly Detroit has been given praise for their enormous
accomplishments on the ice but, if they fall tonight, it will sadly
signal that the Wings’ run of dominance has sputtered and their decline
has officially begun.

Art goes on to say that the talent level of Detroit has decreased
with the salary cap, to the point that they are now facing elimination
at the hands of the Phoenix-freaking-Coyotes. Perhaps the team is
missing some of the veteran role players of the past, that’s hurt the
team as the superstars have sputtered at times in the series. The
Coyotes are a team that wins as a team; if the Wings aren’t getting
production from their star players they have issues.

Not exactly what Red Wings fans want to hear, but I doubt it’s worth a
personal attack. Yet that’s exactly what happened here, as Wings fans
descended upon him in the comments section like piranhas on a bloody
carcass in a pond.

They called his article “garbage.” Multiple times in fact. Called Art
“talentless”, “delusional” and his opinion a “joke”. Also, by saying
that it’s possible the Red Wings could be headed for trouble he
obviously “knows nothing about hockey”.

I know, I know….it’s not smart to read the comments for these
things. But it’s what you see all the time. In fact, I’ve experienced it
myself when
I wrote earlier this season
that perhaps the Red Wings were closing
in on their final window for success. By just bringing up the fact that
Detroit is getting older and isn’t exactly the dynasty it once was, I
was attacked.

George Malik, a very loyal and
beloved Red Wings blogger
, is great at what he does. But I’ve seen
countless times where he reacts with an air of appall and disdain
towards anyone that suggests something critical of his team. Suggest
that perhaps Holmstrom or Lidstrom retire? Then you have no clue what
you are talking about, young sir, and should be put out to pasture. By the way I have nothing against George, it’s just an observation.

I’m not even going to link to the Red Wings blog article that was in
response to Greg Wyshynski’s revealed Norris Trophy ballot that didn’t
have Nicklas Lidstrom in the top three. That was one vicious and angry
piece of writing. So it’s not just the commenters, although that’s where most of the anger seems to stem from; there are multiple areas across the interwebs this blind “defend at all costs” mentality comes from.

I also realize and know that not all Red Wings fans are like this. In fact, one of my best blogger friends is a Red Wings fan. So if you aren’t a crazed and angry blogger or commenter on the internet, then ignore me.

So what’s the point of all this? Am I calling out a fan base? I guess
I am. Look, everyone has the right to defend their team, but sometimes
it goes a bit overboard into “loony land”…I’m looking at you Caps
fans.

And I realize this is the internet; it’s the land of anonymous
personal attacks. That’s never going to stop. But Red Wings fans, I have
to ask why you are so defensive. Is it because you’re tired of people
suggesting your insanely successful, four-time Stanley Cup winning team
(in the past 20 years) may actually be mortal? If so, then take a
breather.

This doesn’t apply only to Red Wings fans, it all fans. It’s just
hockey. Perhaps when someone suggests your team has
flaws they might be right.

I know it doesn’t happen often, but sometimes….they might be right.

Martin Jones is still pretty ‘new’ to this

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 06:  Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks stands in goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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You’d have to be an awfully harsh critic not to be impressed with what Martin Jones did last season.

He “didn’t flinch” under the pressure of a run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer described his efforts as some of the best championship round work of “all-time.”

His signing really made the Sharks look smart. With a strong .919 career save percentage in the regular season and a fantastic .923 playoff save percentage, the 26-year-old has succeeded more or less whenever called upon.

That brings us to the interesting part, though: there’s not a lot of tape, so to speak, on Jones as an NHL goalie.

Small sample

The 2015-16 season was just his third of NHL action, and he’s now at just 99 regular season appearances. That fantastic run of 24 playoff games makes up a significant chunk of his overall experience at the top level.

Jones has excelled when tested, but if you have any concern with him, it’s just that he’s relatively inexperienced at carrying that No. 1 workload.

He started in 65 games during the 2015-16 season, towering over his work as a Kings backup (15 appearances in 2014-15, 19 in 2013-14).

On the bright side, the Sharks have additional evidence that he’s not just a flash in the pan.

Strong numbers at each level

Looking at his AHL stats and even going as far back as his WHL days, his numbers have almost always been good to downright impressive.

It all continues the pattern of Jones looking like the real deal, but next season presents the latest test for the promising goalie.

So far, he’s passed all of them with flying colors.

What will Brent Burns’ new contract look like?

SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 29:  Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at SAP Center on February 29, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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This is part of Sharks day at PHT…

There’s only one Brent Burns, that much is clear. Both on and off the ice, there’s no one like him.

So, what do you pay a guy that’s always imitated, never duplicated?

That’s the dilemma the San Jose Sharks will be faced with in the coming weeks/months.

If you were impressed with Bruns’ 17 goals and 60 points in 2014-15, then his 27 goals and 75 points in 2015-16 was out of this world.

Over the last three seasons, not many forwards have produced as much as Burns, let alone defensemen.

Since being acquired by San Jose in 2011, Burns has hit double digit goals in all but one year (he scored nine in 30 games in 2012-13).

“You know how we feel about Brent. Phenomenal year,” GM Doug Wilson said back in June. “When we acquired him it was a big piece to acquire. There’s no doubt he’s important to us. We want him. I think he loves being here. Those conversations will take place shortly.”

Time to talk numbers…

It sounds like Burns enjoy playing in San Jose, so him taking a bit of a discount is possible. But if we look at the closest comparable…

Dustin Byfuglien, who is 31-years-old like Burns, signed a five-year $38 million contract with the Jets this winter. That comes out to an AAV of $7.6 million.

Both are big, physically imposing and have put up some great numbers in the last few years.

Over the last three seasons, Byfuglien has scored 19, 18 and 20 goals for a total of 57. Burns has scored 27, 17 and 22 for a total of 66.

That’s not a huge difference over three years, but Byfuglien wasn’t coming off a 27-goal season and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final when he signed his contract.

Although we haven’t really heard much regarding Burns’ contract demands, it wouldn’t be shocking for the final cap number to be in the 8 or 9 million range.

Poll: Will the Sharks make it back to the Stanley Cup Final?

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 25:  Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly presents the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to Joe Pavelski #8 and the San Jose Sharks after their 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game Six of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 25, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Not many people expected San Jose to be in the Stanley Cup Final in 2015-16, but with expectations at an all-time low, they did it.

San Jose has put together some talented teams and before last season, they weren’t able to get over the hump. But now that they’ve gotten over the hump, expectations are back up.

How realistic are these expectations though?

On paper, the Sharks are still loaded. They didn’t lose much this off-season and managed to add speedster Mikkel Boedker in free agency.

Still, when you’re dealing with a number of veterans, you never know when their production will start to dip.

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski are all over 30. Marleau and Thornton are 36 and 37-years-old and they’re entering the final year of their contracts.

The Stanley Cup hangover is real. Although the Sharks didn’t win it, those veterans went four rounds and played in some grueling games along the way. Will they be in tip-top shape come October?

On a more positive note, those veterans are surrounded by some good young players. Logan Couture has developed into a go-to guy, Tomas Hertl proved to be a difference maker at times last year, Joonas Donskoi scored some big goals in the playoffs and prospects like Mirco Mueller, Nikolay Goldobin and Timo Meier are on their way.

The team also has some remarkable depth on defense, as Burns is joined by Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Paul Martin, Justin Braun and a few other key contributors.

Between the pipes, Martin Jones‘ first season as a starting goaltender went pretty well.

“A special group,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said after losing in the Stanley Cup Final, per the team’s website . “But only one team can win. That doesn’t take anything away from what those guys accomplished. I don’t think anyone should ever question the leadership or the character or the will of the group of men in there. I think it’s been misplaced for a decade.

“I would hope they answered some questions. Let’s be honest. Not many people had us making the playoffs. Not many people had us beating [the Los Angeles Kings in the first round]. On an on. I thought a lot of questions were answered by that group.”

It won’t be easy for them to make it back to the final. They’ll have some stiff competition in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville and any other team that might surprise.

So, can this “special group” do it all over again next season?

Time to vote!

Under Pressure: Patrick Marleau

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 04:  Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on April 4, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Sharks 5-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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This is part of Sharks day at PHT…

Before the 2016 playoffs, there had been a lot of disappointment in San Jose and Patrick Marleau has been there for all of it.

Over the last 18 seasons, Marleau has been the most productive Shark during the regular season. Unfortunately, he’s also one of the players that’s received the most criticism during San Jose’s playoff failures.

Last season, the 36-year-old saw his point total dip for the third straight year. Marleau was still productive (25 goals and 48 points in 82 games), just not as productive as he had been in previous seasons.

It’s no secret that Marleau’s been the talk of trade rumors for years. Even at the beginning of last season, it was reported that he submitted a list of three teams he was willing to be traded to.

“I’ve been here forever and it’s been a great place to play,” Marleau said last November, per CSN Bay Area. “I’m not going to get into specifics or anything like that. There’s always been rumors in my career. I don’t really want to feed into it anymore or comment on it. I don’t want it to become a distraction or anything.”

The Sharks held on to Marleau, and even though the rumors have died down, his days might still be numbered in San Jose (for real this time).

Marleau will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and although he’ll probably make less than his current $6.66 million AAV, it could be the end of the line between these two sides.

The Sharks have younger players like Tomas Hertl, Mikkel Boedker and a number of prospects like Nikolay Goldobin, who will be ready to jump into the lineup soon.

With an aging core, Marleau might be the first veteran San Jose cuts ties with because Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski are still performing at a high level.

Also, the fact that Thornton and Brent Burns both need new contracts after next season certainly doesn’t help Marleau’s case. And in two years from now, Tomas Hertl will be looking for a bump in pay as well.

The odds seem to be stacked against Marleau. If he wants to remain a Shark, he’ll have to take a significant pay cut or have a huge bounce back season.