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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Out With The Old, In With The New

The Old:  Ex-Red Wing Aaron Ward is now an ex-hockey player, as he decided today to retire after 15 years in the NHL with Detroit, Carolina, Boston, and Anaheim.  He was a member of 3 Stanley Cup winning teams (2 in Detroit, 1 in Carolina).

While never in the hunt for a Norris Trophy because of his lack of offense, he was a wrecking ball in his own end, often leveling 2 players at a time while clearing the front of the net or battling for the puck in the corners.  He was always a favorite of mine during the late 90's, early '00s in Detroit, but never seemed to be able to get out of Bowman's doghouse, who gave him only limited play time.

Once he moved to Carolina, he seemed to develop a steadier game, and became a big part of their defensive core for the next 4 seasons, especially during the '05-'06 run to the Stanley Cup, where he posted some of the best offensive numbers of his career.

While overall Scotty Bowman is clearly a hockey genius, its a shame that he wasn't able to get over his personal differences with Ward and allow him to flourish under his system.  He was always fun to watch, and even though they don't receive much accolades in the media, reliable stay-at-home defensemen (reliable being the key word) don't grow on trees.

The New:  Detroit finally came to terms with Justin Abdelkader today, signing a 2 year deal reportedly worth $1.575mil over the life of the contract.  Unless he has a terrible pre-season, this looks to be Abdelkader's first full year as a Red Wing.  He's slated to be on the fourth line, but I could see him easily moving up, as this kid does nothing but train hard and play hard.  He seems to have maintained a great attitude during the courting of Mike Modano, which pushed his contract talks to late this summer, and pushed him and fellow youngster Darren Helm down the depth chart.  He is also looking to help out in the enforcer department after taking boxing lessons over the summer.

I can't help but be excited about this kid.  Ever since watching him score the game winning goal for MSU against Boston College with 19 seconds to go in the 2007 NCAA Championship game, which is still the most exciting, and most nerve wrecking, game I have ever watched, I have been anxious to see what Abbie could do at the NHL level.  With his limited exposure so far, he hasn't disappointed.  Everytime he's played on a scoring line, he's helped to create offense with his punishing style of forechecking and constant buzz around the net.  Abdelkader's not going to be a 50 goaler by any means, but he may just turn out to be one of those rare NHL lifers with average skills, but the heart and soul that allows him to will a puck in the net when its most needed.  I might be crazy, but no matter what happens, he loves the Wings, and he's not afraid to throw the big hits, and thats good enough for me.


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And on a side note, baring any revelations of epic proportions, I won't be commenting much on the World Hockey Summit.  As demonstrated in the first few days by the "Hot Stove" panels, this is nothing but a penis measuring contest, but the participants can't even agree on the unit of measurement.  The only thing for certain is that everyone involved (NHL, IIHC, KHL) wants to be the biggest prick at the table.

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