All right, everybody — out of the pool!
I’m talking about the naysayers, groan-masters, worrywarts and talk-show junkies who can’t stop nitpicking about the Red Wings, only the best team in town.
“Oh, woe is us!” they cry. “Our defense needs help. . . . Oh, woe is us! Our stars are getting walloped! . . . Oh, woe is us, no Probie, no Probie. . .
In the immortal words of The Pretenders: Stop your sobbing.
And lighten up. The Red Wings have won three times as many games as they’ve lost, they have the best record in their conference, they lead the league in crucial categories, and if you travel around the country, people raise their eyebrows and say, “Whew, Detroit, they’re awesome.” Yet all you hear around here is how this team isn’t tough enough.
What are we, New York?
Hold still while I take your wallet. Then you’ll really have something to complain about.
“We’re a different team than last year,” says Shawn Burr. “It’s like people here want a race car that goes super fast, but they want it to be safe and get great gas mileage. No one team does everything.”
Exactly. And I don’t know about you, but with a football team that is losing its players, a baseball team that can’t name its players, and a basketball team that has won six games on the road all season — and the season ends next month — well, I have no complaints with a pro team in first place.
Here. Let me drive your car into a wall. Then you’ll really have something to complain about. Let us count our blessings
The other night, Scotty Bowman went ballistic when a reporter asked a Red Wing a question that had already been asked of the coach. Now, I have seen Scotty mad. It is not pretty. You keep waiting for steam to come out of his ears and his head to pop off his shoulders.
Still, Bowman had a point. He yelled about reporters “always trying to stick the knife in.” That’s OK for turkey breasts and birthday cakes, but not for first-place hockey teams.
So let me pull the knife out. One complaint at a time:
1) The Wings are soft, and they’re getting pounded.
Yeah, yeah. And Michael Jordan can’t shoot anymore. The fact is, this town got spoiled when Bob Probert went skating around with blood dripping from his nose. Someone else’s blood.
But the fact is, the Wings play better without Probert and his Freddy Krueger approach. And goons are useless in the playoffs. Don’t worry about Steve Yzerman or Sergei Fedorov. They’re not made of tissue paper.
“They can take a hit,” says Darren McCarty, who delivers a few of his own.
“It’s good to be tough, but you want to be tough and win.
“These days, we’ll take a hit and let the other team take a penalty. Then we’ll score on the power play. That’s how you win.”
Right. So what if the Wings are less fearsome than in years past? Fear didn’t get them past the first round of the playoffs, did it?
2) We miss Probie!
Yeah? So does Chicago, and it’s paying him.
3) Sergei Fedorov isn’t scoring like last year.
Maybe he doesn’t have to. “This is a different system we’re playing,” Fedorov says. “We’re winning a lot of games, 3-2 and 2-1. People don’t understand that. I am a team player.”
Besides, do you think he has forgotten how to score?
4) But Sergei hasn’t been the same since he got bopped in the head last year.
Yeah? What’s your excuse?
5) Steve Yzerman is in a scoring drought.
Statistically, yes. But, as Yzerman says, “Except for a few games, I’ve been pleased with the way I’ve played. This team doesn’t need me to score every game like it once did.”
Or, as Bowman says: “A lot of people don’t see the things Steve is doing now defensively. I’m happy with how he’s played.”
Yzerman: “We’re winning, the players are in good moods, the coaches are in good moods.”
If they’re not bothered, why should we be?
6) They have to get a defenseman, they have to get a defenseman, they have t–
SHUT UP! Is there any team out there that doesn’t need something? Sure, the Wings could use a big, tough defenseman with great skills. And I could use a Cadillac. But have you checked the Wings’ goals-against? It’s the best in the NHL. The best!
Obviously something’s working.
In fact, a lot of things are working. And here are some old favorite complaints we suddenly don’t hear: 1) The Wings have no goaltending! 2) The Wings don’t seem to be following Bowman. 3) Paul Coffey, when’s he gonna start scoring? 4) The Wings aren’t a great road team.
Wake up. Life is good. The fact is, fans here — and media — fall into a rut. Lions fans always expect the worst. Tigers fans are foolishly optimistic. Michigan fans never expect to beat Notre Dame.
And Wings fans fear the worst.
“At least give us the benefit of the doubt,” says Coffey. “If we screw up in the playoffs, then I understand. But we’re in first place.”
Listen. How’s this? I say right here the Wings will make the Stanley Cup finals. In fact, I guarantee it.
If I’m wrong, you can all be mad at me.
If I’m right, I sic Bowman on you.