Somehow this didn’t post on Saturday. Let’s try it again:
Marian Hossa played 32 games as a Pittsburgh Penguin. He was paid $1.316 million for his services, which included 10 regular season and 26 post season points. He was officially on the Penguins roster for a total of 41 days.
Hossa was the very definition of a rental player, and when July 1 came he was no longer a Penguin. The difference this time is that Pittsburgh had money to spend on free agents, and so they pursued Hossa along with a half dozen other teams. Max contracts came and went, but Hossa wanted to win.
One year, $7 million to the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Even today it’s a move that’s pretty shocking; Hossa could have made a few extra million per season and with a much longer contract term, but he wanted to win.
Penguins fans cried foul and called him a traitor, but how much loyalty is he really supposed to have? How many max contracts did he turn down for the best team in hockey? We’re supposed to be mad at Hossa for doing something like that? For fans hoping players take “hometown discounts” to stay in Buffalo or San Jose or Vancouver, we should see Hossa’s decision as the next best thing.
But why did he pick Detroit? Honestly, why wouldn’t he pick the Red Wings? James Mirtle had a fantastic post this past week on just how dominant the Wings have been over the last decade and beyond. The numbers there are downright incredible. In a league where making the playoffs two consecutive years means a huge accomplishment to some, the Red Wings simply set the bar higher.
If you’re looking for a team to spend a year with, wouldn’t you want to pick that one? Not only that, but the roster that won a Stanley Cup was coming back almost completely intact. It was the perfect storm for Hossa, but in reality it’s a storm that has sustained for almost 20 years.
As fans I think a part of us is trained to root against dynasties and success, especially when we’ve never had anything remotely close to it. Last year I despised the Red Wings and wanted very badly to see the Penguins win, if only because they reminded me so much of what the Sabres had done just a few years before.
Now I see what Detroit is and has been and no longer feel hatred. If anything, it’s jealousy. Detroit is the hockey franchise we have always dreamed Buffalo can be: Consistent front office creating an atmosphere of trust in a viable hockey hotbed. A place where players want to go to win championships and drafted players want to stay, even at a discount.
Detroit is the pipe dream; the perfect, relentless storm that we used to think Buffalo could become. If anything, I want to see them win just to prove that somewhere out there, it can work.
Red Wings in Six.