Thursday, April 4, 2013

Red Wings Fans Will Have to Wait Until Summer (Again)

I'm not going to beat a dead horse regarding our "deadline acquisitions" getting healthy.  It is what it is.

I will say this though: if Ken Holland and the Detroit Red Wings are truly "rebuilding" or "reloading" then I think it starts with letting Filppula walk in the summer (which is why I wanted to trade him but whatever).  His skill set (passer) is redundant on this team.  Especially for the money he's asking for ($5MM per year).  No thanks.  Not for what this team needs to spend that money on (goal-scorer, top-4 defenseman).  I'll be happy to have Nyquist or a FA/buyout casualty take his spot.  Thanks for the service but it's a business and it's time to move on.  There comes a time in all sports when a player has ran his course with a team.  That time is now for Filppula.  I'm not saying he's a bad player but he's just not a fit for the Detroit Red Wings moving forward.

After that it's time to waive bye-bye to Colaiacovo (buyout), Samuelsson (buyout), White (UFA), Cleary (UFA) and maybe even Miller (UFA).  It's time to trim the fat and these players are hampering the development of the young players and wasting roster spots, money and in a couple cases, the strength and conditioning staff's time.

Make these subtractions and infuse a mix of the kids full-time (Nyquist and Tatar at the very least) and UFA/buyout casualties/trade(s) to replace them and Kenny can truly revive a stale roster.  It's obvious there is just too much dead weight that needs to be let go.  It's time to make "tough" decisions.

However, if Holland brings back any or, God help us, all of the above players (especially if he backs up the Brink's truck for Filppula) then all his talk of a "youth movement," "rebuilding," "reloading" and "transition" is nothing more than the organization blowing smoke. 

The Wings are at a fork in the road and they need to choose a definitive path.  Floundering in the middle isn't going to cut it anymore.  We'll find out a lot about the true mindset of Holland this summer (again).


Monday, April 1, 2013

Don't Expect Big Deadline Deal for Red Wings

Remember the good ol' days?  The days where the Red Wings, Avalanche and Rangers would have an arms race during the NHL trade deadline to load up for the playoffs?  Those were the days...and they are over, especially for Ken Holland and the Detroit Red Wings, at least in recent years. 

Since acquiring Brad Stuart before the 2008 Cup run, Holland has not made any moves of significance (please don't retort with Kyle Quincey) via trade at the deadline (or at any point of the season for that matter).  For fellow Wings fans, don't hold your breath thinking that this year will be any different.  I'm serious, you may pass out.

The biggest reason, which is of no control of Ken Holland, is that the market is incredibly thin.  Gary Bettman's coveted parity in the NHL is at an all-time high.  As of today, four points separate the eight and final playoff spot and the 14th team and only seven points for the last-placed team in the Eastern Conference.  In the West that gap is seven and nine points respectively.  With virtually every team having at least a slim chance of sneaking into the playoffs, it's hard to imagine that there will be many teams willing to part with high profile players as long as they think they have a shot.  Welcome to the "New NHL."  One in which the NHL trade deadline is no longer like Christmas for hockey fans, but more like the soup kitchen for the homeless.  There are scraps available and not enough to go around.  Thanks, Gary.

One big clue that Holland is not going to make a splash prior to Wednesday's deadline is he's already publicly given his "getting Helm, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson (laughable, I know) and Colaiacovo (just as funny) will be like deadline acquisitions" state of the team address.  Yep, that rhetoric has already been circulating in the media for weeks now. 

This has become somewhat of an annual speech as the Wings get ravaged by injuries each and every season it seems.  Is it because of the insistence of signing and re-signing aging/injury-prone players?  Maybe.  Regardless of the reason it's becoming a trend and not just dumb luck.  That trend has led to Holland's reluctance to make any significant trades in the hopes that the cavalry of injured players will return and magically fill the team's glaring needs.  The payout on this annual gamble has been minimal to say the least.  If I were a betting man, my money says it will be more of the same this year because Helm, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson and Colaiacovo do not fill the desperate needs of a top-pairing defenseman or a top-six goal-scorer.  Not by a long shot.

Holland has also said he will not spend a 1st round draft pick for an acquisition.  I can't say I blame him.  It appears he realizes that last year's "splash" of burning such a pick on Kyle Quincey was a bonehead move.  However, if there is a deal to be made that could fill one of the voids aforementioned then I would assume he would take moving that pick into serious consideration.  Maybe I should not assume such things anymore...

Though the deadline hasn't been as exciting in recent years, there always seems to be a team or two that manages to make some bold moves that betters their team.  The GM of the Penguins, Ray Shero, seems to make said moves each year.  This year, after already trading for Douglas Murray and Brendan Morrow, he goes out and gets Jerome Iginlia.  I can't help but to applaud that aggressiveness.  Do these moves guarantee the Pens win the Cup?  No.  But they are certainly a better squad now and I'd rather be aggressive and fail than be passive and fail.  That's just me.

Look, I'd love to see the Wings explore moving Filppula instead of possibly losing him to free agency.  I sure hope they don't pay him the $5MM per year he wants.  I'd love to see them at least see what they could get in return for Datsyuk instead of seeing him return home to Russia after next season.  I'd be thrilled if they decided to be bold and go out and deal for Yandle, Bouwmeester or Gaborik.  Maybe they will.  They probably won't.  If Holland does indeed swing a deal to acquire one or, Heaven forbid, TWO of those players I will gladly enjoy the taste of my foot in my mouth.  However, logic tells me I'll be sticking to the four major food groups.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Wings Should Trade a Dman When Healthy

Keep your fingers crossed, but it appears the Red Wings are finally starting to get healthy for the first time this season; especially on the blue line after welcoming back Smith and Quincey and the savior (extreme sarcasm) Colaiacovo set to return this week. 

During this recent California trip the Wings have trotted out Kronwall, Ericsson, Lashoff, Smith, Quincey and Kindl to defend Jimmy Howard and according to Mike Babcock; it's the best the unit has played all year.  Anyone applying the eyeball test to this declaration can't help but to agree.  Since Huskins and White have been healthy scratches the last two games, the Red Wings defense has been more crisp with their breakouts, moving the puck more efficiently, generating more offense and simply playing better overall.  White wasn't happy about being benched but tough rocks.  As long as this current group appears to be the best possible players to be on the ice he's just going to have to deal with it.  Or will he?

When Colaiacovo returns from IR the Red Wings will have nine healthy defensemen on the roster.  That is at the very least one too many, probably two.  So who's the odd man/men out and what do they do with the extra bodies?  Send people down?  Waive players?  Trade?  I am of the opinion they should explore the latter.  Let me explain.

Some have suggested that the Wings should send down Lashoff as he is the only player eligible to be sent to Grand Rapids without having to clear waivers.  Well, that would be easy if he wasn't one of the few pleasant surprises this season and becoming one of the Wings' most reliable defenders.  Babcock has been trusting this guy to play big minutes and play in key situations including the PK and 5-on-3 duty which has earned him a 3-year contract extension.  He's a young (22), smart and steady defenseman who has good size (6'3", 207 lbs).  Players like that don't grow on trees. 

The last time I checked it's about winning in the NHL, and to do so a coach needs to put his best players available on the ice.  To send a budding young player who happens to be one of your best defensemen to the minors just because they can would completely go against a winning philosophy.  Therefore, in my humble opinion, taking him out of the lineup is not an option.  Period.  Getting healthy is supposed to upgrade your roster, not downgrade it...He stays.

Kindl has looked better as of late. In the last two games he is a +1 and has six SOG.  Above all he has passed the eyeball test by being responsible in his own zone and making crisp and precise passes on breakouts.  He's looked like the solid puck-moving defenseman the team hoped he would be.  Maybe the fact that Babcock kept sitting him in the press box finally got the message through.  Maybe he finally realizes it's now or never for him with this team.  Yes, it's a small sample size but if the trend continues then why sit him or get rid of him?  He's young and if he's at the point where he's becoming a legit NHL defenseman then the Wings would be better suited to ride out the season and decide in the summer if they want to bring him back.

So with all of that said, if Holland is not going to send Lashoff down or waive Kindl, he should explore the option of trading one or even two of the extra defensemen.  More than likely a team would be interested in a veteran which leaves the possibilities of Huskins, Colaiacovo and White.

I'm just going to be short and sweet here: since nobody wanted Huskins as a free agent until we were desperate I'm guessing he won't fetch much in the trade market unless he's a throw-in for a package.  Moving along.

Colaiacovo is a mediocre player who can't stay healthy.  I mean, the guy has never played more than 67 games in a season and has been in the league for nine years.  I loathed this signing from the beginning and hate it more with each passing day. If Kenny could fleece some team into taking him and his waste of a contract it would be wonderful. It would be nice to see Kenny admit he wasted money, a roster spot, a signing and ink to bring this guy aboard. The emergence of Lashoff makes him irrelevant to this team especially since Illitch is paying him to sit on the training table so far this season anyway.  Unfortunately, I would be willing to bet most of the other GMs in the league probably have a similar opinion of Colaiacovo's worth and won't be willing to part with much for him.  At least not for him alone.  If he were packaged with another defenseman and/or a forward, prospect, pick etc. then we could be cooking with gas.  Heck, I'd be happy to get a pick for him...any pick.

White looks as if he could be the odd man out when it's all said and done if Kindl continues to improve. White simply hasn't played well at all now that he's not paired with Lidstrom.  Yes, he has the coveted right-handed shot but let's be real, it's not exactly a cannon.  Not to mention he's not the biggest guy (5'10", 190 lbs) and therefore he loses many battles in the corners.  He's being exposed by not playing alongside the best defenseman ever to play.  Sad but true.  He is a veteran with an expiring contract and in the right package similar to what was mentioned regarding Colaiacovo (maybe even including Colaiacovo...God-willing), maybe he could bring a decent return.  Who knows maybe Kenny decides to actually get creative and really put together an enticing package that brings the team a much-needed sniper or a true top defenseman.  One can only dream.

The bottom line is they should look to move Colaiacovo or White or both.  With the emergence of some of the younger players they just may not be a fit for this team anymore.  We'll see if Holland agrees soon enough.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Babcock Bashers Need to Chill

There's no denying the fact that the 2013 edition of the Detroit Red Wings are not what we've grown accustomed to in the last 20-plus years.  Actually, I find myself often asking who the heck these guys are who are posing as the Red Wings. 

They're not particularly explosive on offense, they turn the puck over in their own zone way too often, they are average (at least I keep telling myself they are) defensively, their powerplay is more of an advantage for the opposition (lead the league in SH goals allowed), are not mentally tough, cannot protect leads, go in spells where they make fans yawn with their play and due to the never ending rash of injuries: they look more like the Grand Rapids Griffins. 

Mike Babcock's bunch has been about as pleasurable to watch as a colonoscopy most of the season and it has prompted many fans to think he's worn out his welcome in Detroit and should be fired....I am not one of those fans.

Before we even look at this season, the injuries, etc.; let's just remember he is not the man whom provided the groceries.  I would argue he wasn't given all the ingredients to truly bake a good cake (At least not one that many would ask for a second slice of).

The best defenseman of all time (not arguably, he is) retired and that void was not adequately replaced.  It's that simple.  The damage wasn't even adequately mitigated.  If you were jumping for joy when Carlo Colaiacovo was signed you might just be an extreme homer.  I puked in my mouth a little.  Sorry for that visual but I felt saying I was underwhelmed by that signing just doesn't do my disdain for it the proper justice. 

Couple that with the departure and subsequent lack of replacement of Brad Stuart and you have a black hole for a blue line.  Huskins has been decent when called upon but he is a definite downgrade from Stuart. 

We won't even talk about the human tree stump known as Kyle Quincey.  That can be a separate blog in itself.

Also, as I have stated before, the team has lacked a true goal scorer since 2009.  That hole has not been plugged either and Samuelsson isn't the answer.  No matter how much you or the team wants to believe he is, he just isn't.  Thus, we will continue to see the inconsistent (that would be actually welcomed this season) powerplay and offensive production we have seen the past few seasons.  Franzen has proven he can't shoulder the load and needs help (and also some milk so he can actually stay in the lineup).

I'm not bagging on Holland (I have done that enough) I am just stating the ugly truth.  The roster that was constructed has major weaknesses.

The roster that was put together was going to be spotty and inconsistent as is with not much depth to overcome many injuries.  Well, they have been the antithesis of healthy.  Helm, Franzen, Bertuzzi, Mursak, Gustavsson, Smith, Samuelsson, Colaiacovo and Datsyuk have all missed time already.  Many have and will miss significant time.  This has prompted constant roster and line shuffling, zero continuity, lack of chemistry and insertion of young players in key roles.  Basically, an already middle-of-the-pack squad has been reduced to a team that has to scratch and claw to beat even the weakest teams in the league.

The eroding roster and injuries aside, the schedule has been grueling.  They've been playing games to the tune of four in six nights, multiple back-to-back games and the like.  For a veteran team that is no easy task.

All of the above is a recipe for a disaster.  Many teams would be touting a losing record and floundering.  Although Mike Babcock doesn't have them setting the world on fire right now, he still has maneuvered them to a 7-6-2 record and tied for the last playoff spot.  Prior to this recent three game skid they were in the middle of the conference (7-3-2) at the fifth spot. 

He has them battling each and every night.  They simply do not have the firepower to compete with the better teams or handle the bottom feeders comfortably right now.  If Datsyuk, Zetterberg, or Brunner don't carry the team on a given night the odds that they will lose are pretty high.  It is going to be this way until some of the troops return to the lineup.  Until then, the best Mike Babcock can do is have them scrap for ugly wins and hope to stay in the thick of a playoff race.  In that regard, he has been just fine.

The bottom line is I am not sure even the great Scotty Bowman could do much more with the current Red Wings than Mike Babcock already is.  Babs is regarded as one of the best in the biz and is maybe doing some of his best coaching of his career.  Those who can't see that either have never really been a Babcock fan to begin with or are just looking for a scapegoat.  I think with the underwhelming offseason(s), the injuries, the condensed schedule, lack of training camp and the rest of the craziness that is the 2013 NHL season; Babcock has done his job admirably.  And he still has the best hair in all of hockey.

Be careful what you wish for Red Wings fans.  We saw what a poor coaching hire can do with a STACKED team (Dave Lewis).  We have a good one in place with Mike Babcock and it would be a shame to see him leave due to circumstances that are beyond his control and run the risk of bringing in a mediocre coach.  To be blunt, THOSE WHO WANT HIM FIRED NEED TO CHILL!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Wings Powerless Powerplay No Shock

I have held back drawing any real conclusions and/or blogging about the Red Wings until after a few games.  Well, it's been five games, the Wings sit 2-2-1, and I have seen enough to come to the conclusion that they have a God-awful powerplay.  However, unlike some, I am far from surprised let alone shocked.

The Red Wings are an abysmal 2-26 (7.7%) on the powerplay which is good enough (or bad enough) for the 28th spot in the NHL.  It feels so long ago when their play with a man advantage was considered the ultimate enforcer to those teams that tried to goon it up with the Wings and take liberties with their star players.  Now it appears every player is afraid to shoot, they do nothing but pass and wait for the perfect shot, give up a bevy of shorthanded chances, and they more times than not are one-and-done in the offensive zone.  They look downright spooked.  They look as scared as a teenage boy who is about to make out with a girl for the first time.

Many think this is a direct result of the retirements of Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom.  Well, yes and no.  While it's true they miss Lidstrom's laser-like accuracy from the point and the unmatched goalie screening ability of Holmstrom, the powerplay ills were on display last season and at times in previous seasons post-2009. 

While it's true the Red Wings still have an abundance of offensively skilled forwards, they do not possess the true goal-scorer with the shooter's mentality AND the accurate shot (meaning Samuelsson does not fit the bill) needed to be a consistent scoring source.  Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Filppula, Bertuzzi are gifted players but they are creative passers (playmakers) first and goal-scorers second.  They always have been .  They had the likes of Hull, Shanahan, and Hossa in the past to dish the puck to and bury it in the net...CONSISTENTLY.  They miss that sniper dearly and have been since after Game 7 of the 2009 Finals when they essentially let Hossa walk in favor of Johan Franzen.

Speaking of the "Mule," he was supposed to be that next elite power forward.  That constant scoring threat.  He was supposed to be THE GUY.  With his size, skill, and wicked shot he is dominant when he uses all three elements...especially his size.  It seems that since he got his contract he has used his size less and less and has become a little bit of a floater.  His willingness to go to the net and get the dirty goals has become spotty.  To be nice, he's been very inconsistent.  It seems more and more evident that the decision to keep Franzen over Hossa was a mistake.  The Wings sorely miss Hossa's size, speed, shot, and compete level night in and night out.  This move was the beginning of the steady erosion of the Red Wings' roster.

You add the lack of sniper aspect with the fact that they have lost Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Stuart at the back end without adequately filling those voids and you get what you are seeing through five games which is a slow, stale and ineffective roster that struggles to score and looks inept on the powerplay.  None of the big departures have been significantly replaced.  Forgive me if I don't see Samuelsson, Tootoo, Colaiacovo, and Huskins (Hudler, Bertuzzi, and White in previous years) as adequate replacements for the aforementioned players.  Damien Brunner may end up being a consistent scorer but that still remains to be seen.  However, in the here and now, whether it is due to the inability or the refusal to spend the money and pay elite players market value, the fact is that putting band aids on bullet wounds finally has caught up to Ken Holland and the Wings.

Barring a significant move or moves to bring in a top six goal-scorer and/or a top four defenseman capable of quarterbacking a powerplay, do not expect the returns of Samuelsson, Colaiacovo, or Helm to suddenly turn the Wings' powerplay around.  They need some new blood and not an aging star who used to be good.  Not reclamation projects.  They need a difference-maker or maybe two.  The time is now for Ken Holland to be aggressive.  If not, this is going to be a long and agonizing season.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

10 Post NHL Lockout Thoughts


Well, after 113 days of easily the silliest display of childish bickering, posturing, and finger-pointing, the NHL Lockout Part III is indeed over.  Hockey is back, we will see a season (presumably 48 games), and the ultimate idiocy (canceling yet another season) has been avoided.  With that said, here are ten random thoughts of mine now that the smoke has cleared:

  1. It's about damn time!  It took you 113 days to come up with the parameters just about everyone knew you would ultimately settle on?  Really?  And next time, please start negotiations six months to a year in advance to avoid this lunacy.  Please and thank you.
  2. The powers that be on both sides (Bettman and Fehr) are simply the stupidest smart people in the history of professional sports.  The damage that has been done to the league and its fans and its sponsors by this lockout is irreparable.  They either didn't realize it or they didn't care.  Either way it's bad business.  Which leads me to my next thought...
  3. By the time this new CBA expires, both Bettman and Fehr need to be replaced.  Gary is responsible for three lockouts in his tenure and that is unacceptable.  Period.  Donald has a history of being as hard-headed as they come and already almost killed baseball.  Enough.  Both are egomaniacs who are clueless about hockey's fan base.  They need to be served their walking papers in the relatively near future.
  4. In the beginning of the season the hockey is going to be, in the words of the lunch lady in Billy Madison: "exxxxtraa schhlllaaaawwwpppy!"  Those who played overseas will have to get used to the smaller ice again as well as better competition and those who didn't play...well...without preseason games and with a shortened camp it's going to take some time for players and teams to get into form.
  5. With the sloppiness we will see a lot of injuries.  My guess is that a month into the season the injury list on will be filled with groin injuries.  Good times.
  6. The 48-game season, once teams round into form, will produce some thrilling hockey.  Every game will be important.  Teams will not be able to afford extended losing streaks.  Last year's Red Wings team that was ravaged by injuries and thrown into a tailspin would maybe miss the playoffs this year.  This will be interesting.
  7. With the new CBA reportedly having buyout clauses and a lower cap, we are about to see some player movement.  And soon.  It could be an interesting few weeks leading up until opening night.
  8. The Leafs will still stink and miss the playoffs.
  9. Sidney Crosby will still whine constantly when another player breathes on him, Patrick Kane still won't play a lick of defense, and Pavel Datsyuk will still be the best player in the world and under appreciated.  I have accepted all three as staples of the modern NHL.
  10. The Red Wings will have a tough year barring a true impact trade.  They may still get into the playoffs since they still have the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and on some nights, Johan Franzen.  That talent alone in what looks to be a mediocre Central Division should get them in.  However, us as fans have to face the reality that the team lost arguably the best defenseman in history in Nick Lidstrom and another good one in Brad Stuart without replacing them.  Mike Babcock is going to have his work cut out for him.
These are my thoughts so take them how you will.  Call me an idiot, a Crosby hater, whatever.   If you're a fellow hockey fan then we can agree on one thing:  DROP THE PUCK ALREADY!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

NHL & NHLPA: What the Puck?!

As you may have guessed, this picture to the left is the face of the NHL's fearless leader, Gary Bettman, superimposed on the body of the Grinch since myself and fellow hockey fans view him as the NHL's Grinch.  I would go as far as to call him hockey's Grim Reaper but whatever.  You get the point. 

My opinion has not wavered in that he is the biggest reason for this lockout mess.  Three lockouts in 18 years (two in eight years) and the possibility of canceling yet another entire season tells me that he is more than the owner's errand boy.  But he and Bill Daly (his version of the Simpsons Smithers, Mr. Burns' lemming) are not completely to blame.  No sir.  Don Fehr and the NHLPA are just as stubborn, greedy, and disconnected from what is really important...the fans.  I'm not going to get into all the dollars and cents, big issues, how far apart they are, and certainly I am not going to touch the latest legal proceedings from each side or the "disinterest" fiasco.  Why?  Because it's all rhetoric and nonsense.  A urination contest if you will.  All at the expense of the fans.

For a league that was so "savvy" to walk away from ESPN to be on the Home Shopping Network, they sure don't have the ability to look beyond their pointless labor war to see the erosion of the level of give-a-crapness the league is suffering in the eyes of the media, the fans, or their sponsors.  Or, they simply don't care.  Either way, for a league struggling for recognition and growth of any significance in the U.S. markets, they sure are going about it in a rather unorthodox way.  Dare I say in a stupid way?  I'm sure cities like Raleigh, Columbus, Nashville, and Miami really miss their hockey right about now (insert fart noise).

I have always been one to defend the NHL to those who bash it.  Heck, my father is the man who introduced me to the sport and made me the fan I am today and even he has lost interest in recent years.  Now, he could care less.  This is the same man that would allow me to stay up late with him to watch the late West Coast Red Wings playoff games and endure OT thrillers into the wee hours of the morning.  I used to give him reasons to care and try to convince him why he should remain a fan.  I no longer will do such a thing nor will I defend this Mickey Mouse league to anyone who either is no longer a fan or never was.  What has transpired in the last 20 years, and more so in the last decade, is indefensible.  Will I stay a fan?  Yep.  That's just the way I am wired.  Will I question anyone who bags on the NHL or no longer supports it?  Can't do it.  They have every reason to spend their free time and especially their entertainment dollars elsewhere.

I read an alarming stat the other day.  In a poll taken in Canada, 58% of the fans don't even care if the lockout is settled.  Apathy and disgust has now found its way to the country that claims hockey as their game.  It's one thing to see that in the U.S. but CANADA?  Wow.  That's the equivalent of the majority of sports fans in America losing interest in the NFL.  Nice job fellas.  Nice job indeed. 

Maybe Mike Babcock was spot on when he said the NHL and hockey is in danger of becoming as popular as pro bowling.  Some would argue it's already there.  If growth is what you seek, Mr. Bettman, you're going in the wrong direction. 

ESPN, which is the largest sports network in the universe, doesn't even give more than a line on the bottom ticker towards covering this childish lockout.  Bettman's lovechild, NBC Sports Network, is showing MAC college basketball and rodeos in the time slots that were supposed to be hockey.  I'm sure they're real thrilled.  Unfortunately, they may be the only people that actually care.

So, NHL and NHLPA, when you have the Canadian Prime Minister and the President of the United States of America publicly calling you out for this meaningless cat fight and telling you to do the right thing for the fans (remember us?) while you continue to do nothing but spew rhetoric and show no urgency to return to the bargaining table, I have to ask you a simple question:  What the PUCK are you thinking?!  If the growth of the league, fan support, media coverage, sponsorships, and MONEY (something that may actually make sense to you) are what matters to you then I would ask you to make your case that you are thinking rationally at all.  I'm waiting...

Personally, I get the suspicion that it is no longer about any of those things mentioned.  Not even money.  It's simply about who "wins."  Who can stick their chest out when this is all over.  If that is the case then shame on you.  If that is the case, I do hope that if and when you return, half-empty arenas are the norm, sponsors pull out, and fans do to you what you have done to us.  Give you the ever-famous one-fingered salute.  I ain't talking about the pinkie.

Yes, myself and a majority of the die-hard fans will return.  But, I will be very surprised if any of the new casual fans that were gained since the last lockout do the same.  I think it will be very eye-opening.  If this is indeed the case, Mr. Bettman and Mr. Fehr, you have nobody to blame but yourselves and your petty egos.  I hope this is all worth it.