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Editorial: What Red Wings Fans Should Be Thankful For

November 21st, 2012 at 5:47 PM
By Frank Vajcner

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States. It's a time where families gather to feast on good food, watch football, enjoy each other's company (knock on wood), and most of all, a time to reflect on what they are thankful for.

The latter inspired me to do this editorial on what Detroit Red Wings fans should be thankful for. I know that the NHL lockout makes that tough to think about giving thanks. However, this time of year is not a time to think about what we don't have, but to be thankful for what we do have.

This is not going to be like when we were all in grade school and the teacher asked to write down what we were thankful for (usual answers: God, family, pets, friends, troops, etc.). This will be about what Red Wings fans should be thankful for.

Red Wings fans should give thanks for the following:

  • A great owner. Mike and Marian Illitch has owned the team since 1982, and has been committed to having them succeed.
  • One of, if not the, best general manager in the business. Ken Holland is considered by many to be not just the best GM in the NHL, but in all of sports. Holland has been the man who decides which players to draft, sign, or trade for. He has also developed the knack for finding hidden gems in the late rounds of the draft (see Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg). Holland has also never had to get a draftee to play in the same year which he was drafted. This is due largely to the success the Red Wings have had over the last 21 seasons, and the fact they like to develop their prospects in the AHL and overseas. The last Red Wing to play in the same year which he was drafted was some guy named Steve Yzerman.
  • Great coaching. In a sport where there is a lot of pressure to win and make the playoffs every year, coaches never have it easy. Mike Babcock has been able to keep control of the locker room since he was hired in 2005, and keep very composed behind the bench. I have never seen Babcock get extremely animated (a la Marc Crawford or John Tortorella), or get into a heated argument with another coach. Former coach Scotty Bowman always kept calm, even when Crawford was screaming four letter expletives at him during a playoff game against the Colorado Avalanche in 1997.
  • Classy leadership from players. Yzerman was always one of the most respected players on and off the ice during his time as team captain. When he retired in 2006, it was an easy choice to pass the torch to Nick Lidstrom. Better known as the "perfect human," Lidstrom always held himself to a high standard on and off the ice. In addition to winning seven Norris Trophies, he is also known for only receiving one roughing penalty in his entire career. Whoever the next captain is will have big shoes to fill from a leadership standpoint.
  • Consistency. The team has made the playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons. Just when fans begin to think they could miss out, the team still gets in. The Red Wings have been able to adjust to changes made by the NHL, and have kept on winning.

I'm also thankful for the great fans the team has. When you go to a Red Wings game, it's like everyone donning the winged wheel is your friend. This is even true when watching a game at your favorite bar.

From Red Wings 101, Happy Thanksgiving to all readers.

Tags: Detroit, Detroit Red Wings, Hockey, NHL

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