If you listened to the hockeybuzz podcast https://youtu.be/A7YJm5TQ2hU
today (8/13) you may have heard something bizarre at around the 45 minute mark. Ek did me the world’s biggest solid and actually read part of my blog! I was shocked and delighted. My poor wife of almost 20 years (this Thursday the 15th) must have thought I’d received an award for my latest iTunes upload. Unlike the tens of fans (12 to be precise) who’ve “enjoyed” my independent stylings, i found myself as part of a podcast with TENS of tens of fans. Pretty exciting! Thanks Ek.
I realize that the mood of my assessment of Detroit’s free agent attraction sounds a bit dark. We seem to fall solidly into the category of having “good veteran presence” to help guide the young guys. In truth, Mike Green is very valuable for this. When he can play, he can move the puck. I want Cholowski and McIsaac (and Seider if he’s around) to watch the nuances of Green’s game. We’re a better team when he’s playing. But, this is not a championship destination.
Where I think Yzerman will attract free agents will be in the unsigned collegiate and unqualified RFA’s. Possibly overseas additions. Taro Hirose came on board and made an impact last spring. Ryan Kuffner struggled a bit but is going to get opportunities. Oliwer Kaski could be an interesting addition. There are jobs to be had, and that is who we’re going to attract. People who can’t crack a roster with their drafted teams or who want to come over from Europe and get some ice time.
On Thursday (August 15th) unsigned college free agents can make their choices. I believe Detroit will be in discussion for a few players. The Defensive situation is particularly wide open. Ericsson, Daly, and Green have all struggled with injury. Half of the blue line is wide open. Someone has to “take” a job, and it is more possible now than in any time in recent memory.
In the meantime, Ek and the gang brought up a very pertinent point. Regardless of situation, the Red Wings need to make fans happy. I believe it will be a 3 part plan. Giveaways will be noticeable again. We’re not going back to when Mike Illitch bought the team and had to give away cars to get people to show up, but we need better than rally towels. Bobble heads have become big. Lanyards and mini plaques that celebrate retired players or championship anniversaries. If (probably when) Larkin is named Captain, expect either a statue, hat or T-shirt. Make it fun for people to show up, or at least load them up with eBay fodder.
Secondly, cheap tickets. I referred to this a couple blogs ago. Last year you could get a ticket with $10 in concession credits for 25 bucks. That’s pretty great. Get your deep dish slice and a coke and enjoy the chaos when Toronto comes to town!
Lastly, availability. Dylan Larkin has done at least 3 autograph signings this summer. Alumni games, signings, players serving you coffee at Tim Hortons, etc. Getting fans excited about the players is critical. There is still something special about NHL players (more than most other sports in my opinion) that makes them very approachable but still incredible athletes. I’ll never figure out why the meanest guy on the ice seems like the nicest guy in the world when you’re shaking his hand.
A final side note, i’d Really like to see Dylan Larkin back at the all star game this year. Yes, i’d Like to see he and Connor McDavid both in the fastest skater contest. It’s fun. But, over the past 2 years we’ve sent Jimmy Howard and Mike Green. They’re good guys and i was happy for them, but they’re not our star player. Athanasiou would also be fun to watch down there, but we need to see our star player getting treated like just that. As bad as the seasons have been, the all star game is a solid “pass” when we send someone down that’s not exciting to watch. Dylan is our present and future star. I’m not sure there’s even a close second...