Marian Hossa of the Red Wings skates away as Evgeni Malkin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Maxime Talbot of the Penguins celebrates during Game 7. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
My goodness, you just gotta feel sorry for Marian Hossa.
Unless you’re a Pens fan, that is.
And if you are, you have every right to be. After all, it was July 2 of last summer the Slovakian sniper snubbed your team for the recently crowned champion Red Wings because, as he said, he felt his chances of winning a Cup were greater in Motown than Steeltown.
That was only a couple of weeks after Detroit nipped Pittsburgh’s Cup aspirations in the bud and only a handful of months after Penguins GM Ray Shero dealt a chunk of his prospect pipeline to bring Hossa within two wins of lifting Lord Stanley’s mug.
So go ahead Pens fans and rub it in Hossa’s face. He left you high and dry, but now that you are soaking in the glory of winning it all it’s your right to let him know all about it. No fan base would be pleased if a star left them for pastures he publicly says are much, much greener.
But for the rest of us, we have a soft spot for Big Hoss.
In the modern world of sports, it’s commonplace for athletes to chase the cash and sign a deal with a team that leaves the rest of us wondering “uh, why?”
But Hossa wanted to win a Cup, so how can you knock a guy for picking the Detroit Red Wings, hockey’s modern dynasty?
The biggest free agent on the 2008 market, Hossa turned down a few long-term, monster-money offers that would have put him on Easy Street for the rest of his career. The Wings offered him a more-than-modest sum to be sure, but the one-year deal agreed upon was certainly the least secure of all the bids.
What if he got injured? What if he struggled mightily to put up points? Hossa would have suffered the consequences this summer if anything went wrong.
When Hossa and the Wings agreed to the surprise deal last July, Detroit immediately became the favorites to win again – and by just making it back to the final you can’t say Hossa made a bad choice.
But to fall one game short – and on a last-second chance, again – Hossa has to be feeling the pain. And while Pens fans will be sticking it to him from now until the end of time, I know I feel bad for a guy who chased a championship in an era where most players would have instead jumped at a big money offer.
I feel bad for him. That is, until he signs a multi-million dollar extension in Detroit or a juicy deal on the free agent market in July.
After the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens bucked the recent trend of hiring coaches who graduated from the American League, the Minnesota Wild went right back to it in hiring its second coach in franchise history Monday.
Who is Todd Richards? Well, he is a Crystal, Minn., native, so his origins will inspire a fan base aching for more American blood on the roster, plus he played for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers back in the ‘80s.
But most importantly for the team, Richards is another new mind brought in to change the culture of a club that has been dedicated to defense-first hockey since its inception in 2000.
While he has little experience as a head coach, Richards did take the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to the Calder Cup final in one of his two years at the helm there, before making the jump to the NHL as an assistant to rookie leader Todd McClellan in San Jose this year.
Wild fans should hope McClellan’s puck-possession style (learned while he was an assistant in Detroit) rubs off on Richards, because if it does, things will get a heckuva lot more exciting in 2009-10.
They should also hope the other Marian (Gaborik) doesn’t hose them and stays around for the new movement.
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