Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Red Wings Without A Face -- For Now

So this is how it's going to end, is it? This is how the empire known as Hockeytown is going to crumble -- with its chieftains withdrawing, voluntarily removing themselves from the picture.

Sometimes it isn't this graceful. In fact, often it isn't. Chieftains and warriors alike have been known to be forced out -- swept away by the broom of change and the bottom-line heart of management.

Steve Yzerman, chieftain -- gone. Retired, willing and content to leave the battlefield for good. The battlefield that was at times his and his alone. The leader of all leaders, except now he will help the cause from afar. No more will he be in the trenches.

Brendan Shanahan, warrior -- gone. Lured away by riches of another fighting community. Tempted, then capitulating to feelings of a time gone and another battle to be fought, someplace else. The unrestricted free agent. Meaning, nothing there to stop him, if fleeing is what he'd like to do. He leaves behind nine seasons of thrills, chills, and spills. Three Stanley Cups. Clutch goals, once upon a time.

Delusionists will say that a portion enough of the Red Wings' empire still remains to be considered not crumbling. There's still Chris Chelios. Nick Lidstrom. Kris Draper.


Sergei Fedorov is long gone. Scotty Bowman, too. Darren McCarty is elsewhere. And on, and on.

Now we would lose Yzerman and Shanahan, in less than a week no less, and some would have us believe that these are just a couple of holes to fill?

It's fitting that, when Jiri Fischer had his frightening moment at JLA last November, it was Yzerman and Shanahan who stood before the lights and cameras and microphones and spoke for their teammates -- indeed an entire franchise. Maybe an entire hockey nation. The two of them told, with concerned faces and tight mouths, of what had transpired, from their perspectives, and what the mood on the bench was. They provided some emotional security for the folks watching from home, mainly because they were, as a tandem, the faces of the franchise.

The Red Wings now are without a face.

Do not tell me Nick Lidstrom. He's a great player, a great guy. But he's not a Detroiter, really. He's the part-time Red Wing, flitting off to Sweden at the earliest opportunity. And that's OK. He'll go down as one of the very best defensemen of all time, but he's not a franchise face.

Again, it's all good.

Hockeytown needs to be retooled, but not rebuilt. A player here and there, some more youth joining the ranks. An expected dip in won/loss record. It's not in ruins.

Faceless, but not in ruins.

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