Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Shame On Red Wings If The Future Blinded Them

I'm loathe to agree with Free Press columnist and sometimes radio blowhard Drew Sharp, but I fear that I fall on his side of the fence when it comes to the Red Wings and the much-ballyhooed NHL trading deadline, which came and went yesterday like the month of March: in like a lion and out like a lamb. Sharp argued, rather competently, in this morning's Freep that GM Kenny Holland -- assuming we know all the facts, which we never do, so bear that in mind -- played things a might too conservatively, completing only one deal: acquiring D Brad Stuart from Los Angeles for a couple of draft picks.

As the clock ticked closer and closer to 3 p.m. yesterday, and as I refreshed the trades page once every 2-3 minutes, failing to see the Red Wings logo, I kept muttering to myself, over and over: "I can't believe the Wings aren't going to make a move. I can't believe they're going to stand pat." It was almost 3:30 when even the late deals were being posted and announced, and I was beside myself. No deals? For a team depleted by injuries and 1-7-1 in their last nine games?

Well, then the Stuart deal came down the pike, and that soothed my nerves a little bit. Stuart's name had been mentioned a while back -- actually, when the Kings were in town on February 7. Incidentally, that game, a 5-3 come-from-ahead loss, started the Red Wings' current slide. Oh, and the man who scored the game-winning goal that night? None other than Brad Stuart.

But after the relief from the Stuart deal wore off -- which was about ten minutes, tops -- I went back to gnashing my teeth. I merely changed my whine to "ONE deal? For a team depleted by injuries and 1-7-1 in their last nine games?"

Now, as I eluded to in the first paragraph, we don't know what went on behind the scenes at Red Wings HQ. No doubt Holland and his crew were racking up the cell phone minutes, and no doubt that the club could have gotten into the Marian Hossa bidding, but the asking price was likely a bit steep. Certainly Holland was TRYING to look for something that made sense, without giving up too many draft picks and/or young players.

But here's my thing: when you have 90 points and lead the league, but things are dicey because of the injuries and the improvement of your main competitors, you kind of have to forget about the future a little bit. Let's face it: pro sports is about NOW. My feeling is that the fans who worry so much about giving up prospects are being a little disingenuous. Those same people want it both ways; they want to win now, AND have something under the mattress for a rainy day. That's not always possible, folks.

The Red Wings have been Cup contenders for 16 years straight. They're likely to be Cup contenders for several more years to come. How badly could they truly deplete their stockpile of youth? And isn't it worth a shot at some more championships?

I'm not saying the mythical "window" is closing on the Red Wings. Far from it. But whenever you're coming off a conference finals loss and following it up with a big year that has the general hockey community buzzing about your chances, then I say err on the side of recklessness.

I guess what it boils down to is this: I just hope the Red Wings didn't keep their guns in their holsters because they were afraid of dipping too much into future assets. I think pro sports teams' futures are bad bets anyway, if you want to know. The percentage of "prospects" who actually make a splash isn't as high as you think. And even if they do, and you're adding to your trophy case, who cares?

The fascination over "can't miss" guys who are "untouchable" as trade bait amuses me. If the Red Wings fretted too much over the future to the extent that they missed out on some deadline-available talent, then I'm in disagreement with that philosophy. Because, all things considered, the average fan doesn't give a hoot about the future. Everyone wants to win NOW.

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