Some Wings fans need a “chill pill”

Valtteri Filppula often receives criticism despite his unique skills and solid production for the Red Wings.

Forward Valtteri Filppula often receives criticism despite his unique skills and solid production for the Red Wings.

Stanley Cup or bust. Most seasons, that’s a reasonable demand in Hockeytown, but for 2012-13, it’s delusional.

Truth be told, Mike Babcock deserves coach of the year recognition for achieving the franchise’s 22nd straight postseason appearance. Hark back to that 6-0 embarrassment on opening night in St. Louis, then look at Game 7 in Chicago, when one shot could have eliminated the Presidents’ Trophy winners. That’s substantial growth in a hurry.

The lockout-shortened season was a gigantic success for a Detroit team that won four straight in the final week and rallied from a 3-2 deficit to upset the second-seeded Ducks. Thank Henrik Zetterberg, who provided a herculean effort and proudly represented the captaincy.

Yet, some fans ignore the positivity. Quite frankly, too many people mistakenly believed the Wings won the second-round Chicago series when they jumped ahead 3-1. Alas, the fourth win is the ALWAYS the toughest because it elicits the all-out-intense effort of the desperate opponent.

Sorry, but the Wings’ “kids” have to fail before they win a title. Heck, look at the struggles of Steve Yzerman in the late 1980s, early 90s. Eventually, the kids will be mature, unfazed, and poised to deliver a “knockout blow” when there’s a 2-1 lead entering the third period of Game 6. But for now, the fact of the matter is this: The Wings lost three straight because Chicago is better and more experienced.

That said, there are still some fans who believe the Wings “choked” and blame scapegoats such as Johan Franzen (“buy him out!”) and Valtteri Filppula (“let him go!”).

Look: There’s nobody available to replace Franzen and Filppula. NOBODY. Go look at the free-agent crop. The best guy on the market is Mike Ribeiro. He’s 33 and wants a long-term deal.

The Wings cannot replace a top-line player here, a top-line player there, every time the postseason ends short of a Stanley Cup parade. It’s unrealistic, delusional, and, quite frankly, not possible in today’s salary cap world, which hinders money-spending owners such as Mike Ilitch.

Plus, Franzen and Filppula are better than most credit.

Let’s start with Franzen, who had three goals in the Anaheim series, then another three points against Chicago to help Detroit build a 3-1 series advantage. At that point, you weren’t complaining. If you were, you’re dreaming of perfection, which will never happen. Hey, it’s unrealistic to expect him to duplicate his 9-goal mutilation of Colorado in the 2008 second-round series. That broke GORDIE HOWE’S RECORD for crying out loud. It’s not gonna happen again.

People need to lighten the load of The Mule, who catches too much flack. Even when he produces, it’s not good enough. Why do fans argue with a skater who averages 29 goals a season?

“Yeah, it’s crazy (speculation) for me,” Ken Holland told “I don’t know where you find 30-goal scorers. There is no hockey store. He played 41 games, he had 14 goals. If you times it by two, that’s 28 goals. How many players in the league score more than 25 goals?”

Fans need to realize Franzen’s annual cap hit of $3.9 million is a great bargain. He is streaky, yes. But that’s why he doesn’t earn $6-plus million annually like Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

Let’s move on to Filppula.

Wings fans are forgetful of his November MCL injury suffered overseas. In our mind, he never regained full strength, which affected his ability to produce.

But forget about production for a minute. Filppula is immensely valuable in a number of areas. He’s good on face-offs (55%), great in his defensive zone (exception: Game 6 vs. Anaheim), and, he has the rare ability to lug the puck from his own end, deep into the attacking zone. Don’t overlook that skill. If a skater can shepherd the puck into the far-end and get a face-off, that’s huge. It’s critical for a puck-possession game, and, it can create fatigue for an opposing team who cannot get off the ice. All of that is better than being pinned in your own zone for a lengthy stretch.

There’s much more to Filppula’s game than goals and assists. The guy is a world-class skater.

Filppula, who is 29 and unrestricted, has another 6-7 quality years ahead. He’s needed until the prospects in Grand Rapids (Tomas Jurco, Landon Ferraro, Teemu Pulkkinen) and in Europe (Calle Jarnkrok, Martin Frk) are ready to compete in Detroit as regulars.

Quite frankly, the criticism of Filppula and Mule is unfair, but it’s not unprecedented. Sergei Fedorov was a sensational player, yet Wings fans expected him to produce like Wayne Gretzky. To this day, people don’t appreciate his stellar production – he’s one of three players in NHL history to produce four straight 20-plus point postseasons (N.Y. Islanders stars Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier were the others).

Yes, Fedorov coasted some shifts, but not every skater has the “play-every-shift-like-it’s-your-last relentlessness” of Steve Yzerman. Franzen may disappear, Filppula may irritate, but overall, they’re highly valuable to the Wings’ success.

Wings fans are a spirited bunch, the best in the business. But sometimes they expect too much.

9 replies on “Some Wings fans need a “chill pill”

  • Jim MCCarty

    All I can say that in a full season, the young players would have done much better. The pressure began to show because of their lack of playoff experience.

  • Tom Neveau

    A big congratulations should go to the coach for taking this team as far as he did. Great Job! Now, the management needs to be looking towards next season. If you haven’t noticed the size of the players in the East, wake-up you are in for a big surprise. It will probably take a couple of seasons for the Red Wings to compete in their new division. We have been spoiled for so many years……..

  • Kathy LaPointe

    I, like most Red Wings fans, are soooooooooo proud of how much this team has accomplished this season and look forward to great things from them in the future. This WAS a young team this year, but look how far they came and the experience they gained from this year will carry them even further next year. Hats off to a great season boys. Love you!!!!!

  • robert kelsey

    Franzen and Filpula are like the guys working on the highway, give them a break ,they are great players , but then again wings fans are great but sometimes they expect to much . keep up the great work Franzen and Filpula, GO WINGS

  • KScowden

    They were up 2 games, Howard was kicking ass! They needed one game and had 2 chances to get it! One was at home! They choked! Period! They had the skills to get 2 games ahead and they had the skills to win the series. Stop making excuses for them They CHOKED!

  • msparkman

    Anyone with even an iota of common sense had to look at this as a rebuilding year. We lost 4 top-of -the-heap defensemen in two years for heaven’s sake. How do you replace a Lidstrom, a Stewart or a Rafalski with rookies from GR? Our rookies did a fabulous job! And look at the injuries up front! Bertuzzi-out, Helms-out, Samuelsson, too. Come on all rights we should have been near to last in the league!!!. Personally, I am just dying for next season…wee should be AWESOME!!!

  • Mark

    You missed the point of the fans frustration with Franzen. Yes he is a 30 goal scorer, streaky, but the streaky I’m talking about is when he seems uninterested and floats around. We constantly hear, “he’s a big body” yet many times he fails to go to the front of the net , or to hit anyone. When he wants to be he looks like an all star, but many times he looks like he would rather be driving the Zamboni. As for Filppula being a great skater you are correct. Right up until he enters the offensive zone and gets knocked off the puck. Reports have him looking for 5 million a year. Too much for 3rd line center.

  • Gary Steinke

    This was a rebuilding year and the Wings still made the playoffs, not many rebuilding teams could do that. And to the jerks who talked about getting rid of Mike Babcock, why don’t you go move somewhere else. Of all the coaches or managers who run the Detroit pro sports teams, Babcock by far is the best.

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