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Up-to-the minute updates and insights from the Red Wings locker room at home and on the road. By Chuck Pleiness of The Macomb Daily.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Not much room for Zetterberg and Hossa

The press conference was in mid-flight. Henrik Zetterberg was at the podium being praised by Ken Holland as being like Steve Yzerman. In these parts, there aren't many higher compliments for a hockey player. Mike Ilitch was smiling at the thought of committing $73 million to Zetterberg.

The press conference came an hour after the Red Wings' practice ended Wednesday. Most always, the Olympia Room -- where the conference took place -- is vacant during the daytime, making it the perfect short-cut for players as they turn right from the locker room, cut through the vacant party room and out into the Joe Louis Arena parking lot.

So as Zetterberg talked at the podium, as Yzerman spoke and Holland explained and questions were posed and photos were taken, some of the Red Wings made their way through the Olympia Room not realizing that this was one day their short-cut would be populated.

The players' path was 10 to 20 feet away from the press conference area, over by the tables set up with hors d'oeuvres for the media.

Most Red Wings made their way through, not stopping, not wanting to interrupt in any way. Some like Chris Osgood and Kirk Maltby stood for a bit in the background, taking in the question-and-answer session. Andreas Lilja stopped and smiled, trying to make Zetterberg crack up. (By the way, players universally adore to catch a teammate doing a television interview, walk up behind the camera and try to make them laugh in any way possible. If you watch a Red Wing on television start to smile for no apparent reason, odds are that Lilja or Kris Draper or Jiri Hudler or some other teammate has just pushed the right button off camera.)

As Zetterberg talked about his new contract, Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky made their way through the shortcut. Neither of the tall Slovaks who have known each other since their school days (Kopecky was a classmate of Hossa's younger brother Marcel) stopped, which was the most common reaction by the players.

But the duality of the situation was remarkable.

Zetterberg's seven-month negotiations were over. He was being hailed as a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come.

Hossa's negotiations were just starting in earnest, now that the club knows how much money is left after Zetterberg's signing. Hossa is still looked at as an outsider, a rare rental player in the Red Wings organization.

This isn't to say that the scene wasn't a good one or wasn't valid or natural. It was just a fetching snapshot of two brilliant players in vastly different positions off the ice.

Hossa and Zetterberg are two of the best forwards in hockey. Any club would be thrilled to have either one.

Yet Detroit has the enviable problem of having both of them plus Pavel Datsyuk and the Gordian Knot of how to fit all of them under the salary cap for years to come.

Off the ice, Hossa and Zetterberg are two of the best people you'll meet in hockey. Zetterberg deserves every cent that he makes in this contract. In my opinion, he's either underpaid or a bargain - depending on which side of the management-worker fence you sit - and has been for years.

Hossa, however, is a remarkable fellow as well. Wearing a grey ski cap and a plain coat and he made his way towards the arena exit, Hossa is as good of a teammate and employee as Zetterberg.
But Zetterberg is a legacy in Detroit. Drafted here, he blossomed here and it's difficult for fan or front-office employee to even think of parting with any player that they've discovered.

Hossa came into the league in Ottawa and had the misfortune of being good enough to counterbalance a trade for Dany Heatley after Heatley need to leave Atlanta to distance himself from the tragedy of a teammate dying in a car that he was driving.

Since then, Hossa has been transient. He starred in Atlanta, but that was Ilya Kovalchuk's team. He was traded to Pittsburgh for a few months, but roots didn't grow there.

Marian Hossa fits perfectly in Detroit. He fits in a locker room full of Mr. Congeniality candidates. His style of play -- a big goal-scoring winger who focuses on defense -- is exactly what this team was lacking.

Marian Hossa's next contract will be a long-term one. He wants to settle in one place. He wants exactly what Henrik Zetterberg got earlier this week. And he'd love to settle in Detroit.
But there's a good chance that won't happen. Not here, at least.

Hossa is at the wrong time -- in the salary-cap era -- and the wrong place -- a team loaded with high-end signings that leave little cap space.

There's a good chance that the snapshot at Wednesday's press conference will become an avatar for what will be the future … Zetterberg sitting with Holland and Ilitch and Yzerman, Hossa heading to the exit.


Blogger Alex said...

The Red Wings know how to score.. always have. They just need goal tending and defense back. Maybe losing more offensive weapons will force the team to go back to defense again.

January 31, 2009 at 2:48 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many other stories to be written still, before we must begin to say goodbye to anyone.

January 31, 2009 at 3:10 AM 
Anonymous Justin said...

Drafted here, he blossomed here and it's difficult for fan or front-office employee to even think of parting with any player that they've discovered.

This is why it'll be tough for fans to choose between wanting Franzen or Hossa to stay. Hossa is the bigger name and better player, but Franzen is the home grown fan favourite.

February 1, 2009 at 2:06 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets hope your wrong! Hossa is a vital part of this team.

February 1, 2009 at 12:39 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hossa is more durable and better than Zetterberg. The Wings will pay for this miscalculation for years to come. Best of luck Marion in your future!

February 9, 2009 at 11:43 AM 

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