January 6, 2012
Who needs fighters? Not these Wings
By Lance Hornby, Toronto Sun
As teams such as Toronto fret about their unemployed enforcers, the Red Wings deserve a nod for being ahead of the curve.
The team that used to carry Bash Brothers Bob Probert and Joey Kocur in the days of the (Chuck) Norris Division — and had some wild west nights against the Colorado Avalanche — long ago opted for equal parts talent and tenacity. Since the lockout, the Wings have ranked sixth or better in the league in lowest penalty minutes per game and first or second four times, including 8.7 so far in 2011-12.
Four years ago, they added their fourth Stanley Cup since 1997, part of a consecutive 20-year playoff ride.
“I don’t know if we’re trail-blazers,” general manager Ken Holland said Friday as he watched his team work out at the MasterCard Centre. “It’s just the evolution of our team. I just think of the late 1990s, when we had Martin Lapointe, Darren McCarty and Brendan Shanahan — built-in toughness to our top nine forwards.
“When we came out of the work stoppage in 2005, we were just trying to find a way to stay afloat and get as much skill as we could. Our guys don’t necessarily fight, but they compete for the puck. There probably still is a place in the game for fighting, but my feeling is that (its reduction this year) is the evolution of the game.”
Holland needed no further evidence than scouting the world junior tournament.
“These are the best 18- and 19-year-old players in the world, this year and next year and they showed you have to be able to skate and have some hockey sense. The game is going up and down the ice so fast.”
Trying to goad the Wings into penalties rarely works as the statistics show. And once the playoffs arrive, everyone sticks to hockey, anyway.
“I think the games are too important,” Holland said. “You go into overtime and you need a long bench. You have to be able to play everybody, not just keep someone for a role or be afraid of taking penalties.”
Joffrey Lupul of the Leafs knows exactly what to expect from Detroit in Saturday’s game.
“The same as the past 15 years — get the puck, control the puck, be hard on the puck,” Lupul said. “For us, it’s something to learn from, but you don’t want to be in that state of mind where you’re caught out there watching what they do. We have to get out there and compete.”