Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the two most coveted free agents in this year's NHL merry-go-round, are both heading to play for the Minnesota Wild. Close friends for several years, it had been rumored that they had made an agreement between them to eventually sign with the same team.
Detroit Red Wings' management and their hockey fans are no doubt disappointed, and maybe even surprised they got passed over. After all, Detroit calls itself "Hockeytown", is a mecca of the sport steeped in tradition, and everybody that gets a chance will jump at the opportunity to wear the "winged wheel", right? Maybe not. Here's a few reasons and why they don't hold up under scrutiny.
Detroiters can boast of being an "original 6" franchise. Actually, that doesn't matter at all. Does anybody really think a modern day NHL player gives a rat's behind about what happened over a half century ago? I think not.
The Red Wings have an owner who's not afraid to spend a bunch of money for good players in his commitment to winning. Maybe so, but the Wings have the same salary cap as every other team. The Wings went out and spent a few million to sign a few prospects and yet another back-up goalie, of all things. Don't think this was lost on Parise and Suter, much less their agents.
The Wings have a winning tradition. Guess what? Tradition doesn't matter either. That was then, and this is now. There's a difference. Besides, Detroit hockey fans might want to consider something else. Despite such talents as Datsyuk and Zetterberg, their team hasn't been remotely close to being Stanley Cup worthy since Stevie Y retired. All the rest is just hype. They're not that good.
The Wings have a rabid fan base. Indeed they do, but that's relative as well. There are many other venues around the league where fans are every bit as supportive of their team -- if not moreso.
Speaking of venues, even many of the Detroit faithful have begrudgingly admitted the Red Wings' Joe Louis Arena is quickly reaching the point of becoming more of a liability than an asset. Like many other venues in professional sports over the last few decades -- what was once regarded as a jewel -- is now considered to be obsolete and in need of replacement. With the exception of such hallowed places such as the Cubs' Wrigley Field, the Bosox' Fenway Park, and of course Madison Square Garden, time and expectations from players march on. For anyone who would doubt that -- I would offer that even the old Yankee Stadium, which probably had more history and tradition than any other venue in the world -- was recently demolished for a new updated version.
Last, but certainly not least, is the city of Detroit itself. To my knowledge, not a single pro athlete playing for any Detroit team actually lives within the city limits. And why would they want to? There's a reason so many businesses have closed up shop and moved elsewhere, along with the thousands of citizens that could afford to escape to the suburbs.
Get outside the Fox district and a small stretch along the Detroit river, and what do you really have? A vast crime-ridden wasteland. Abandoned buildings. Once nice houses now in shambles, being inhabited by homeless people, crack heads, or worse. Political corruption and a school system that might well be the worst in the nation. Throw in daily murders, rapes, robberies, muggings, assaults, home invasions, and carjackings. Add a liberal portion of ignorance, poverty, guns, gangs, drugs, stir well, bring to a boil, and let simmer for a few decades. This is what Detroit has become.
So somebody please tell me -- unless the money was just obscene -- why would any highly prized free agent want to come to Detroit?
I have no idea how much the Red Wings offered Parise and Suter, or what their contracts with the Minnesota Wild will be worth. But I do know one thing.
While the city of St. Paul might not rank up there with Detroit as far as name recognition in the NHL goes -- it's a helluva lot better city to be in.