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Eric Thomas: Red Wings Stay The Same … And It’s Okay

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DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 25:  Todd Bertuzzi #44 of the Detroit Red Wings lifts the stick of Shane O'Brien #5 of the Colorado Avalanche to prevent a shot during their NHL game at Joe Louis Arena on February 25, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

DETROIT, MI – FEBRUARY 25: Todd Bertuzzi #44 of the Detroit Red Wings lifts the stick of Shane O’Brien #5 of the Colorado Avalanche to prevent a shot during their NHL game at Joe Louis Arena on February 25, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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It’s okay to be disappointed. There is no blockbuster trade coming to the Red Wings this year. Fans who had deluded themselves into saving up for the Rick Nash jerseys sporting the winged wheel have been left wanting. Wings fans were in froth for something to happen. It’s kind of like inviting all of your friends over for a fireworks show and after the fuse sparks into the cylinder nothing happens. Now we all stand around staring at our Twitter screens and figure out what to do next.

The Red Wings have done an admirable job. Detroiters are talking hockey in February. That is a feat itself. Jimmy Howard became an All Star this year, the streak even made parts of January relevant, and Joey Mac was a local version of Rocky. All of this drama and intrigue, along with the spectre of Rick Nash making an entrance, has spoiled us. We were probably thinking there would be a splashy move because there has been so much splash so far in the NHL this year. Detroiters feel within striking distance of Stanley and maybe the Wings are one piece away.

Not so fast. The Red Wings can absolutely win the cup this year but it has nothing to do with the lack of forward depth. The Wings can score even though they are currently in a drought. They are only going as far this year as Jimmy Howard can take them. The good news is that the third year goaltender has been phenomenal. Despite a recent respite of losses. 35 has had an amazing season. He has played well in those recent defeats with the blue line evaporating into mist and leaving Howard vulnerable. The fact that your Twitter feed was nothing but a collection of dancing tumbleweeds at the trade deadline has absolutely no bearing on the ability for the Red Wings to get a championship this year.

Red Wing law states that you might be disappointed but in the end it will be the right move. I know that is a total analysis cop out but it’s also the truth. No organization in hockey has been as successful as the Ken Holland administration and to question its moves at this point is unnecessary.

Here is the good news: there really wasn’t anything that happened in NHL trade deadline. The Blackhawks are getting no help and Rick Nash is staying in Columbus. The Blue Jackets wanted a king’s ransom for Nash, a player that they will lose any way to free agency in the summer. Paul Gaustad heading to the Preds so Nashville is looking more dangerous. The Rangers acquired John Scott from Chicago in their continuing effort to resemble a UFC cage fighting team.

Vancouver is clearly thinking about going for a cup this year, trading rookie Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian. Time will tell if Vancouver will get better from that move, but at first sniff it looks like precisely what the Wings did not do. The Vancouver trade looks a little panicky, as if there a number of tweaks separating Lord Stanley’s return to Canada.

The NHL will remain largely frozen for the rest of the year and that’s good for the Wings. Status quo has been pretty good to them as long as they are playing in downtown; the focus now shifts to securing home ice throughout the playoffs. In years past home ice has mattered little in the playoffs but this year provides a major psychological advantage.
I imagine the real free agency heat happens this summer. Holland has a lot of cap room to play with and will be poised to make some moves. It sounds like the instances of overvaluing players and asking for the ridiculous was ubiquitous at the sound of the trade horn. Vancouver may have over reached but Detroit left itself in a good position for this year and next.

As soon as Datsyuk gets healthy and the blue line plays better they can compete for home ice. It would have been a mistake for Ken Holland to overreact to the recent good fortune, trading away valuable role players and prospects for a big name. But let’s face it, that wasn’t going to happen anyway.

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