We pretend to hate everyone who isn’t us, but we’re actually sorta chummy with hockey fans across this great land (not including Canada). Through Puck Buddys, we hooked up with The Production Line, a charming operation out of Detroit that runs an entertaining podcast I cannot recommend enough. We’re trying to get to know each other better, so we’re doing something called 5-on-5— a rapid-fire Q&A designed to reveal dark secrets and rankle egos. Our answers are already up over on their site, so go feast your eyes on that action.
Below, check out how Robert Discher of The Production Line handles questions about the nature of winning, Steve Yzerman’s legacy, Pavel Datsyuk’s reliability, and cavemen.
Our questions are in bold, so don’t blame us for the rest.
1. Straight-up: what does Detroit think of Washington? Bonus points if you can avoid the words “fragile”, “groin”, and “golf.”
People forget that before we were this mangorgeous collection of Swedes and rugged Canadian Castoffs, the Wings spent a hell of a long time toiling in mediocrity. I remember in the mid-90’s, everyone was bitching about how Stevie Yzerman wasn’t capable of winning the Cup… how those teams had everything they should need to make a big run but they couldn’t pull it off. The truth is that it just takes time to get to the top of the hill… unless your’e Chicago, in which case you mortgage your entire decade’s worth of building on one season and then crash back to earth the next year. In most cases though, you have to get close… you have to get knocked down a few times… before you can be a true threat to go the distance. I see… and I sense a lot of Detroit fans do too… that Washington is immensely talented. The Shakedown on Saturday that we just witnessed is testament to that. IN SPADES. My sense is that the Caps will eventually break through, especially now that you have Vokoun in net. That guy is a legitimate monster. He’s one of those “missing piece” guys you bring in to put you over the top.
Do we really get concerned about you the way we do… say… the Pens? Not yet. But you’ll get there. A Wings-Caps finals isn’t out of the question. Crawl before you can walk. It’s less an issue of fragility than one of longevity (that’s what she said).
2. Pavel Datsyuk is well into his massive contract (about $46.9M over 7 years). Is he still worth his paycheck, and what are you expecting from him this year?
I expect the world out of Pavel. I think that’s fair. He’s a unique talent, a hard worker and, sidenote, a pretty damn funny guy if you appreciate subtle humor (story for another time). He showed up large in last year’s playoffs and I expect him to get back into the league elite, points-wise, during this regular season. Part of this is just pragmatism speaking. We can’t have Phil Kessel leading the league, can we? That absolutely won’t stand, no matter how much hot air from the Toronto press pumps up his tires.
Part of what you have to appreciate with Pavel is how rounded his game is. The man is an absolute panty-dropping thief on the backcheck. It’s what separates him from a guy like Rick Nash, who toils in a b-level market (I’m being generous because my girlfriend is from Ohio) and won’t ever amount to more than being a huge guy with great hands that notches a lot of points. Pavel was out last year for a good chunk of the season. If he stays healthy, despite a slow start, he’ll be a top-25 points getter.
3. Do Red Wing fans kinda-sorta support Tampa Bay just cause of the Stevie Y connection? Please say no, because they’re like our biggest rival now.
Do you want me to lie to you? Sometimes that makes these conversations easier. No? Well… uh…. yea… Detroit fans have a small love affair with the Bolts. Hard not to. Yzerman meant everything to our town. He was an offensive phenom who developed into a true leader with a two-way game. He was the Captain of the Wings for pretty much my entire life until he retired. The Bolts in and of themselves have little to do with this love directed their way. It’s purely based on their association with The Captain. If he were in the car insurance business right now, we’d all be switching over from DC-based Geico. If he were in the shoe business we’d all be wearing Yzerman loafers… WITH the tassel. It’s just part of the game when it comes to Stevie. Man can do no wrong… including going to the Southeast Division.
4. With realignment looming next year, what is the ideal outcome for the Red Wings? Is it a jump the Eastern Conference? Do you need 6 games with Chicago every year? Would it be absurd for Detroit to be in the Southeast Division? What do you want to see as fans?
We talked about this at length on our radio show two weeks back. Great question. We tinkered with everything from a straight-up swap with Winnipeg to a six-team super conference that started with the original six teams and then kicked one team out every year. Actually, the second idea was pretty solid if you’re a Detroit fan. The summary: The Wings land next year in a six-team conference comprised of the original teams. The rest of the league is lumped into one gigantic “other” conference. The original six teams automatically get into the playoffs each year, but every year, the best team from the “other conference” gets pulled into the O6 Conference and we kick out the worst team in the O6 (the safe money is on Toronto for year one). It’s kinda like the Premier League, but with better teeth.
In all seriousness, I am fine with the Wings going to the Eastern Conference as long as we still get to play Chicago and St. Louis and we do a roadie through the better teams in the West. (sit down, Calgary, we’re not talking about you here). While I hate the idea of getting lumped in with the Sex Panthers, I actually like some of the other teams in the SE Division. You guys… Tampa Bay… it’s not a bad setup. Ideally, we’d switch to the Eastern and just do away with the divisional setup. It’s a forced system that’s based on trying to jam rivalries on people. Unnecessary. Bring Detroit to the East. Abolish divisional play. Give us 3-4 games/year against Little Brother down there in Chicago. Done and done.
5. I hear Detroit has lost nearly half of its population since the economy turned to slush. Meanwhile, D.C. has the worst traffic in the country. Who’s got it worse? Side question: It’s totally like I Am Legend in Detroit right now, isn’t it?
As a massive Bad Boys fan, I’m rather content with the image of Detroit being populated with a band of Will Smiths driving American super-cars around abandoned streets, wielding excessive firepower. You really know your audience here, Peter. Having lived in DC, and as someone who still can’t quite figure out which way the “inner beltway” rotates, I have to say that Northern Virginia traffic is about as close to the missing ring of hell as I hope to get on this planet. Short story: I once took a redeye back from Vegas… into Dulles… on the back of a bachelor party weekend… on a Monday morning. The hangover’s brutality was somehow outpaced by the sheer discomfort of having to sit on 66 into The District. I lived on formerly-edgy U Street, so I rarely had to deal with this monstrosity, but in the rare moments where I got to experience the Key or GW bridges in the morning, I may or may not have contemplated driving the car off the side of the bridge… or a at least jumping out of it while it was moving, kinda like in the movie Navy Seals.
OT: Five cavemen fight five astronauts in an abandoned quarry. No weapons, no preparation. Who wins and how does it go down?
Cavemen in a landslide. Astronauts are creatures of technology and gadgets. The quarry is prime turf for the caveman and his rugged pragmatism.
SO: What does winning feel like? Please use descriptive language, because we have no idea.
You know that feeling you get when you have that first beer on a Saturday afternoon? Winning the Cup feels like that. …except imagine that beer was delivered to you by eleven topless, lonely Brazilian supermodels riding ponies. No. Actually, they’re all on the same pony. Yea… that’s about right.
Thanks to Robert of The Production Line. Read our answers to their questions.