Marian Hossa has about six months left in Detroit. Maybe. It’s borrowed time that he’s spending in the Motor City, and no one knows just how finite it is. He could be gone in June, a Stanley Cup champion. Or not.
It’s typical when the short-timer and the media get together. The short-timer wants to talk about now. The media wants to talk about later. The result is that nothing gets accomplished.
So we don’t know if Hossa, the Red Wings’ prized free agent signing of the summer, will play in Detroit beyond this season, having signed just a one-year deal last July. We don’t know if this Stanley Cup-or-bust move of his will pay off. And of course, we’re not about to listen to him as he tries to convince us that it’s all about the present.
“I’m not too worried about money now,” Hossa said as he engaged us skeptics via phone the other day.
Well, no – of course he’s not. He shouldn’t, since he’s being paid millions to be yet another superstar player just trying to fit in on the best hockey team on the planet.
But those millions are only through this season. Hossa spurned a chance to rake in millions more, for many more years, when he instructed his agent to phone the Red Wings and talk about a one-year commitment. The logic was simple, really: I want to win a Cup – and Detroit’s about as good a place as any to give that a whirl. So goodbye, guaranteed long-term contract elsewhere – like in Pittsburgh, from where he came, or someplace else. Edmonton was a player in the Hossa Sweepstakes. It was reported that the Oilers had scraped up enough Canadian dough to make Hossa one of the richest players in the NHL, or any HL in the world.
“I have no regrets,” Hossa says. “I came to Detroit for one reason.”
Don’t they all?
If you want to gamble and see a show, you go to Vegas. If you want to grab a cheese steak hoagie, you go to Philly. And if you want to win a Stanley Cup, you go to Detroit. The Red Wings have won four of them in the past 11 years – or often enough to fend off the dogs who call in to sports talk radio and pound away sans spell check on the Internet message boards.
“Expectations are really high here,” Hossa said as he spoke of how the superstar player like himself gets his juices flowing when the ante is raised. “So far it’s been great. I try to play my best. We have lots of great players. Right now, we’re just having fun winning games.”
There it is again – “right now.” If you want to talk to Hossa about what may happen past the 82-game regular season and the playoffs, you’re out of luck. I know. I tried.
Playing Devil’s Advocate, I asked Hossa, who leads the Red Wings in scoring by the way, about the unthinkable – namely, if there’s a team hoisting the Cup next spring that doesn’t have a Winged Wheel on the front of its jersey. Does he stay on and try it again in Detroit?
“That’s hard to say,” he says, and by then you already know that he’s fending you off, like he does every night with the puck against opposing players who futilely try to take it from him. “(The Red Wings) have quite a few other players they have to sign. It also depends on the salary cap – whether it goes up or not. There are a few things to figure out. I’m not thinking about next year right now.”
Well, that makes one of us.
It’s hard not to fast forward to next summer and wonder where Hossa fits in, if he does at all, with the Red Wings. His parry of my question was astute: the Red Wings do, indeed, have a number of high-profile people to sign. That group includes Henrik Zetterberg, who’s the best player on the ice on the nights when Hossa or Pavel Datsyuk is not, and Johan Franzen, the Red Wings’ Scoring Mule. It’s a long shot that GM Ken Holland can keep everyone in the fold, as he now operates under a budget that isn’t infinite, like the good old days, pre-labor lockout.
So forget about getting any introspective comments from Hossa about the future. For now, he’s a very happy camper in Detroit.
He speaks highly of coach Mike Babcock (“He likes details. He can play different systems, which makes him one of the best coaches in hockey”). All he said about captain Nick Lidstrom was that Lidstrom “is the best Swede to ever play.” And he recognizes and relishes the passion for hockey in his current hometown (“People talk about hockey and the Red Wings here. It gets you going”).
In other words, let me enjoy this while I can, OK?
Hossa doesn’t want to repeat this end-of-Finals disappointment in Detroit
On Wednesday night against the Calgary Flames, Hossa was a terror – and he didn’t even score a point. It wasn’t for anything he didn’t do. It was just one of those nights when the other team got lucky that no. 81 didn’t get on the scoresheet. Because it was another game in which Hossa had the puck a lot, and when he didn’t have it, he just went and got it again.
This fetish for controlling the puck was at its most ridiculous during a 15-to-20 second sequence that started with Hossa barreling down the left wing on a pseudo breakaway, continued with him being checked at the last moment just before he was about to deke the goaltender, and ended with Hossa skating three-quarters of the length of the ice to take the puck back, as he is its rightful owner, you know. That play didn’t have any bearing on the game, per se, but it wasn’t any less fascinating.
The Red Wings’ most talented players are also the hardest working. The team has, at the same time, three of the best offensive forwards in the game in Hossa, Zetterberg, and Datsyuk. They also happen to be three of the best defensive forwards in the game, too. So the question begs: will that trio become a duo next off-season?
In Hossa’s words, “That’s hard to say.”
But easy to imagine. And curse the thought.