Thursday, 5 June 2008

EuroWings: The Cream of the Crop

Don Cherry must be crying into his loud polyester pajamas this morning. Not only did his beloved Gary Roberts not skate off into the sunset with a Stanley Cup, but the Detroit Red Wings are, by far, the most Euro-laden team to ever win the big prize.

It is true that in the past, you'd want Canadian grit and heart on your roster, given how most Stanley Cup winners were very much filled with a majority of Canucks (and a few Americans). The Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, and Anaheim Ducks had very few Europeans on their roster, and gave fuel to the fire about European players sucking trash when it counts most.

Then came this year's Red Wings... just look at the European influence on their roster.

Henrik Zetterberg
Pavel Datsyuk
Johan Franzen
Niklas Kronwall
Jiri Hudler (look at how many points he scored with so little ice time)
Mikael Samuelsson
Nicklas Lidstrom
Tomas Holmstrom
Valtteri Filppula
Andreas Lilja
Dominik Hasek

Yes, almost half of their playoff roster was European.

The best players on the team? They are European. You have Conn Smythe winner Zetterberg, captain Lidstrom, and slick Datsyuk.

Role players? You have the hard-working Franzen with Holmstrom, plus defensive-minded guys like Filppula and Samuelsson.

Yeah, the evil Swedes can certainly bring it when it counts.

It's not where the players are from, but which players you get. Yes, Zetterberg and Datsyuk were once playoff non-factors, but they obviously matured and learned how to score when the spaces get tighter and the battles get fiercer.

Despite the fact that I still maintain the Wings got lucky not to play a physical opponent other than overmatched Nashville in the playoffs(Anaheim and San Jose would have given the Wings fits), we can't deny that from start to finish, the Wings were just the best team in the league this year.

Record: 54-21-7 (1st)
Goals For: 257 (3rd)
Goals Against: 184 (1st)
Power Play: 20.7% (3rd)
Penalty Kill: 84.0% (8th)

As for the Penguins, this was a great year for them, and, despite the lack of a cup, no Pens fan should look back on this season with much derision.

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