Red Wings ignore the naysayers
Mention Chris Osgood's sub-par 2008-09 regular-season or the Wings' troublesome penalty kill and you're opening the door for the players to bring up the League-best 289 goals they scored and, oh yeah, the small fact that they got to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, missing back-to-back championships by a single goal.
"We still made it almost all the way," superstar center Henrik Zetterberg told NHL.com.
Go ahead and mention the departures of Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson, Tomas Kopecky, Ty Conklin and Chris Chelios. But be prepared to hear all about future stars like Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Ville Leino, not to mention returning veterans Todd Bertuzzi and Jason Williams.
"We didn't have spots for them before, and now they're ready to go," Zetterberg said.
You might be thinking that no team since the Edmonton Oilers of the mid-1980s has played in three straight Stanley Cup Finals. While you contemplate that, the Red Wings will continue their preparations for another very short summer.
"This is the way the summer is supposed to be," Zetterberg said. "It's supposed to be two months because you want to go as far as possible. Spending six weeks in the gym is good enough. You don't have to be there for 12 weeks."
You might not find a team more comfortable in its own skin than the one that calls Joe Louis Arena home. That kind of self-confidence will be essential this season because, well, the nitpickers aren't going away.
Fine by us, the Red Wings say.
How, though, do the Wings plan on replacing, among other things, Hossa's 40 goals, Samuelsson on the point on the power play, Hudler's 57 points and Chelios' experience?
It's a fair question, and it gets asked a lot. But the answer is quite simple.
"The core guys are still here," Zetterberg said. "Nothing has really changed other than switching out a few guys and bringing some new guys in (Bertuzzi, Williams, Patrick Eaves)."
Are you worried that all those games played eventually will take a toll? Between regular season and playoffs, The Wings has played 209 over the past two seasons and has at least another 82 staring them in the face.
"We get that question a lot; people saying the summer is too short and blah, blah," Zetterberg said. "We're used to this. It would feel real strange if we had a longer summer."
OK, but seriously, let's discuss that porous penalty kill from a season ago. It was just 78.3 percent, 25th in the NHL, and it got worse in the playoffs by roughly five percentage points.
That, at least, has to be a concern, right?
"It's a focal point," Zetterberg said, then added, "Last year we had a setback with that, especially in the beginning. Teams scored way too much on us and that's one thing we need to adjust. That was the first thing we talked about in training camp."
Kronwall, though, turned into a nitpicker when he was asked about the PK.
"Sure, we almost went the whole way anyway, but we feel if we would have had a better PK we could have won it all," he said. "It's the small details like that that will decide it at the end. It's something we want to focus on at the start of the year."
But if the PK gets better, well, the nitpickers just will find something else to latch on to.
"We don't pay that much attention to what people say about us," Zetterberg said. "One thing that makes us better is we're never happy. We never think we're good enough. There are always things we can improve on and the coaching staff is really good finding those things."