Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Helping or Hurting Turk? Helping or Hurting?"

I’ve gotten into several hockey arguments lately around my floor and most end the same way. Someone will say the Red Wings are the best team in the league and they will win it all. I simply say they won’t win. I’m usually then put on the spot with the simple question of “who will win?” My answer; I don’t know who will win the cup this year; I just say I would put a lot of money that the team holding the cup in June will not be the Red Wings. The real answer is I have no idea who will win; I just know the two teams that won’t win the Red Wings and the Rangers. The Rangers simply because they are my team and god forbid my team would ever win a championship. However the question I’m usually asked when I say the Red Wings won’t win is “well why not?” In truth I never really had an answer other then, well they won last year and teams rarely repeat. Until one day after one of these arguments I decided to continue to stall from doing my work by watching Scrubs when this quote which has made several appearances in the series came up, “Helping or hurting Turk? Helping or hurting?”

My roommate is a big Red Wings fan, and likes to end every argument before it even starts by just saying the Red Wings are the best, they got Marion Hossa and didn’t give up anything. In fact if even if were talking about how great the GM of a team of a completely different sports, such as the job Jerry Reese has done with the Giants, he’ll pipe in and with a “you want to talk about a great GM, the Detroit Red Wings, we won the cup and then got Marion Hossa without giving up anything.” (We just won’t mention that Detroit is heading for some serious salary cap issues next summer.) This is why after watching scrubs and seeing this great quote it all made sense to me. Is adding Marion Hossa helping or hurting the Wings? There is nothing more important to a team then chemistry, and no team with bad chemistry will ever win a championship. The Red Wings clearly had great chemistry being able to win the Stanley Cup last season, they will have salary cap issues, so instead of saving the extra cap space and using it to reward the players that won them the cup, they go out and bring in a high profile goal scorer. What kind of message does this send to the rest of the team? The Red Wings are not old; yes they do have Chris Chelios who is somewhere around my fathers age. But with his workout he could still keep up with the young stars of the NHL. Not to mention the core of this team is not old by any means. So when management brings in a noted goal scorer it’s almost as if their saying we don’t think you guys are the best even if you just won.

Ice time in Hockey is not even, and it’s not that you just throw out your best players on your first line and then your next best guys and so on. A hockey team is made up of two scoring lines an energy/defensive line, and a big grit mostly defensive 4th line that doesn’t see much of the ice. Detroit prided themselves on having guys on their second and third line that could start on other teams. Those third line guys are not going to score you goals, their job is to stop the other team from scoring, a job that wins championships. Championships are not won by superstars, their won by the role players. Now yes you do need a superstar to get you there, but it usually comes down to which team has the better role players. Role players need to accept their job and love it in order to do it well. Now if you’re on Detroit’s first line, and along comes Mr. Hossa and you’re the one getting bumped off after you just helped this team win a Cup are you going to be happy? Now if you’re the guy on the second line who now gets dropped down to accommodate the guy who was dropped from the first line. Now you’re dropped from a scoring line to a line used for defense. And what if defense isn’t exactly your strength, then you get dropped all the way to the 4th line, where you will only see the ice for about 6 minutes a game, if you see the ice at all. Dropping players that were integral in winning you a championship is not the way to have a happy locker room.

Now you need to make room for Marion Hossa but hockey is a game built on chemistry. Hossa might clearly be better then the player he replaces on the top line, but does Hossa have the chemistry to play with the other two guys. Individually Hossa might be better then the other guy, but as a unit, that line might be better off without him. Often times when a superstar is placed onto a new line, there is pressure to feed him the puck and make him happy, this could throw off the chemistry of a line altogether since the other two guys on the line might now feel added pressure to feed the puck to Hossa, whether the situation calls for it or not. Last season the Rangers went out and signed the two top free agent centers on the market, Scot Gomez and Chris Drury. Leading up to the season all the talk was about the combination of one of those two guys with superstar Jaromir Jagr. But in the end neither one of those guys panned out. Neither was able to play the style that Jagr liked playing, his style best fit the center that the team let go Michael Nylander, and Jagr’s production dropped without him. In fact it was third line rookie Brandon Dubinsky who was bumped all the way up to the top line to play with Jagr.

There is a whole other side to this story as well, the personal side of Marion Hossa. Yes Hossa took a pay cut to play for the Wings but what makes it worse was the team he left. Hossa left the Penguins to join the Wings, the same Penguins who he had just helped reach the finals, the second best team in the NHL! But Hossa not even 30 years of age yet wasn’t willing to wait for Penguins to mature enough to oust the Wings in the finals, he wanted to win now. More importantly he wanted to be “the guy” on the team without actually being “the guy.” He’s going to a big name player, but he won’t be the franchise player. Haven’t we seen this plenty of times before? After the Yankees won the 2000 World Series, the ace of the Baltimore Orioles Mike Mussina signed with the Yankees so he could be “the guy” without having to be their #1, therefore the pressure of being “the guy” wouldn’t be put on him. He figured he could just ride it out and win. The Next man on the list was Jason Giambi, he also singed with the Yanks to be “the guy” without the pressure of being “the guy,” because after all this was the Yankees and their Derek Jeter’s team. Then came Arod who signed a mega deal with the Rangers to be “the guy” on their team, only they had no money for anyone else and Arod couldn’t take that so he cried his way into a trade with the Yankees where he could also be “the guy” without having to be “the guy.” The same story happened with Randy Moss who cried his way out of Oakland into the superstar Patriots. The most similar story however was that of Karl Malone. The man who came so close so many times to leading the Utah Jazz to a title but could never get it done, so he took his act to Los Angeles. The only problem was LA had just won three strait titles without him, they clearly didn’t need him and he was now taking away playing time from the role players that helped the Lakers win. The underlying theme between all these athletes is that at this moment NONE OF THEM HAVE CHAMPIONSHIP RINGS! Malone’s Lakers lost to the Pistons in the finals, was it because Malone took time from other role players? We can’t answer that question for sure, but we could defiantly say that Malone tampered with the chemistry of the Lakers locker room.

So what kind of message does it send when a team go’s out and wins the Stanley Cup, doesn’t lose any players, and then management brings in a big time goal scorer, pretty much saying you guys aren’t the best. That player is making more money then everyone else on the team with the exception of Captain Nick Listrom, he needs to play, and therefore he needs to take someone’s spot. People now need to be shifted around; the three line combo’s that the team had got messed up. Therefore that’s the answer to the why won’t the Wings repeat question, you can’t mess with chemistry. The situation makes that whole question about adding Marion Hossa all the more relevant. Helping or Hurting, Helping or Hurting?