After a road trip this week, I headed up to a family wedding/gathering in the ancestral homelands of Michigan. It was a nice occasion, talking to people I hadn’t seen in many years, catching up, and talking a little hockey. And many members of my clan firmly believe that the days of Red Wing supremacy are over. The vast majority of those I talked to think that the Blackhawks are now the team to beat and that Columbus and Detroit are on equal footing. The last statement surprised me, so I asked why.
First off, many Red Wing fans feel that their team is not as strong as the one that just went seven games with Pittsburgh. Now the wedding was outdoors and it was very hot and humid, so I made every attempt to see if these people were suffering from the heat. They meant it and although they do not feel that Detroit is weak, Columbus and Chicago (and St. Louis) will be much stronger in October. I asked why they felt the Jackets got so much better, when all the team did (so far) is add a back-up goalie and defensive center? I was told that the Jackets not only did not get weaker and even though the defense is the same (at this time) it was good enough to make the play-offs and challenge the Red Wings during the regular season. And with Brassard, Filatov, Voracek, and Russell, the team will only get better as these young guys gain more experience. And Steve Mason will get rested when he needs it. And Detroit’s goalies are not inspiring confidence at this time, and if Jiri Hudler goes to the KHL, things will be different.
And most of my family members were not looking forward to facing the powerful Blackhawks, whose only weakness appears to be the salary cap. (And Huet in goal.) The guard is changing in the NHL West Central and the Wings are going to have to fight hard for home ice in April. The Hawks will not only be better, they will seek retribution.