Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Tue Mar 17, 2020 10:48 am

This is the story of Harrison Ockey, the most controversial GM in contemporary hockey.

Background

Summer 2019. Red Wings are in turmoil. Their 2018–19 record of 32–40–10 with a 14th finish in the Eastern conference has owners sweating. Something has to be done and it has to be done right now. There isnt't much to lose anymore and that is in fact the biggest issue. The ridicule is building up. The fans are beginning to get indifferent. The rebuild isn't going to the plan. There are big issues literally all around the organization.

In the summer of 2019 the board of directors make a very curious signing. They hire mr. Harrison Ockey of Ontario, Canada to be their new GM and sign him to a five year deal. This has everyone in the hockey world perplexed. Who is this guy? Most people have never even heard of him and many of those who have, rather wish that they hadn't...

H.Ockey

The 34-year old budding manager wasn't your average professional. To say that he was 'unorthodox' in his thinking was quite an understatement. Truth be told nobody really knew how his mind worked and it was rumored he himself didn't either. In any case signing this guy to fix the Red Wings was an act of desperation.

Many people who'd been around mr. Ockey during his youth quickly learned not to make fun of his name. He had a temper and he openly admitted he didn't much care for containing it. As a player he was always an agitator and a bigmouth, and always seen as having no talent whatsoever. But somehow he managed to repeatedly put up a great performance when it really mattered.

Prior career

His playing career was as weird as was his personality. As a kid he was in the net. In juniors he'd play wing with very little success and never being drafted to the NHL, he ended up playing in ECHL before moving to Europe for his actual professional career (if you can call it that). He was often disliked because everything he did was 'out of the box'. Strangely he was relegated to a D-man position when he started in Denmark, and that stuck. He'd play pretty much all over Europe until he was finally forced to retire because literally not one single team at any level would sign him. He was 27 years old.

H.Ockey persisted. He would bug all the organizations he knew until he finally scored himself a coaching job in Slovakia. This was when the very controversial legend began. His first year as a junior coach had his team win the U20 championship. This led him to being offered a head coach job in the Finnish Mestis where he somehow managed to make the playoffs with a team widely considered as being the worst in the league.

Eventually he even landed a job in KHL where he would fail miserably. But he had a lot of unexpected success as a coach in many European countries. He made many friends during his tenure but many more enemies... In most eyes his greatest accomplishment was simply to be able to have a continuing career in hockey despite all the controversy, his bad temper and very unorthodox methods. It has been said that he had one remarkable talent (well, maybe three people though that in the early years). He was extremely persuasive. As it turned out, this was to be a deciding factor if he was ever to make it as a GM.

......

Disclaimer. This is a fictional story and any similarities to real life events, persons or entities are purely coincidental.

A link explaining my 'story rules' https://www.ehmtheblueline.com/forums/v ... 49#p242349
Last edited by TurboJ on Mon Mar 23, 2020 12:35 am, edited 13 times in total.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Tue Mar 17, 2020 11:23 am

2019-2020 - First Season

Summer 2019. Mr. Ockey was now officially the GM of the Detroit Red Wings. Nobody knew what strings he'd pulled, but the board of directors seemed to put up with his plan. And a plan he had. Naturally it would be in vain to try to explain his plan as he himself could hardly do that. But the controversy grew to previously unknown heights right away.

He'd done his analysis and he picked up the phone.

Nobody knew how (let alone why) but his first signing was none other than Pavel Datsyuk. And while that raised more than a couple eyebrows, the next move he made was the weirdest. He signed Jaromír Jágr. He actually signed a 47-year old forward. And most amazingly - he did not get fired on the spot. Rumor has it his contract had some very interesting clauses.

He only made one trade in the pre-season; he gave away their highly touted first round pick from just a few weeks ago, Moritz Seider. From Ottawa he got Erik Brännström in return. Nobody understood why he'd give up such a young prospect for someone older but still unproven. But he didn't get fired.

Season Results

Once again the Wings were at the bottom of the pile for a long while. But in the second half something strange happened. The old guys had shrugged off the rust and the cobwebs and they started to score - and score they did! Wings' second half was truly phenomenal - it was only due to goal tending issues that they failed to make the playoffs - it was really that close! Suddenly they had depth. They were able to spread out their young talent to four lines; Athanasiou, Larkin, Mantha, Bertuzzi all playing on a different line. And it worked.

They finished 19th overall with .555 (40-31-11)

To everyone's surprise, their scoring was suddenly very strong indeed:

Top 6 scoring

1. Pavel Datsuyk with 77 games: 24 + 55 for 79 points
2. Dylan Larkin with 82 games: 45 + 34 for 79 points
3. Anthony Mantha with 82 games: 50 + 27 for 77 points (awarded the Rocket Richard Trophy)
4. Jaromír Jágr with 78 games: 17 + 38 for 55 points
5. Valtteri Filppula with 77 games: 12 + 41 for 53 points
6. Filip Hronek with 82 games: 7 + 46 for 53 points
Last edited by TurboJ on Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:28 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Tue Mar 17, 2020 12:00 pm

2020-2021 - Second Season

It was all too apparent that goal tending was the biggest issue the Wings had. And while Jimmy Howard had put up an admirable effort last season, he shocked everyone by announcing his immediate retirement in August despite having signed a two-year extension just six months prior.

The goalie pool they had did not look good at all. The backup guys had posted truly brutal results last season, and now they were all the Wings had. Everyone knew things were bad but despite all his effort, Ockey was not able to sign a starter from free agency. And the fact that he was the 'new guy' with a bad reputation probably didn't help any when he tried to negotiate a trade for a starter.

But he did draft Jaroslav Askarov 3rd overall.

Askarov had played remarkably well for SKA St.Petersburg despite his very young age. Trouble was, Askarov's contract in KHL was in effect until May 2021.

What this meant was the Red Wings basically had no starting goaltender this season - and boy would it show.

Meanwhile, mr. Ockey continued to 'think out of the box' and make some moves that would again have everyone questioning why he wasn't fired already. Because he did sign Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Zdeno Chára that summer. The youngest of the bunch was 41 years old. After this nobody even wondered that much why Datsyuk and Jágr were both signed to an extension!

However, to everyone's great surprise the Red Wings looked reborn. They won 12 of their first 15 games on regulation, and the top line Larkin-Datsuyk-Jágr was completely dominating. Marleau was playing like he was 31 again and Thornton was, well, Thornton. Even the 43-year old Chára on the blueline did a remarkable job on powerplay. Could this actually work, everyone was starting to wonder.

Well, no. No it couldn't.

Even with very shaky goaltending (they even played the ECHL guy for 10 games) they seemed to be fine - until the injuries began. Rarely has NHL seen such a barrage of injuries hit a single team. You couldn't even count the times when they had to play with 11 forwards despite calling up all their relevant AHL guys. And sweet as the start of the season was, the rest of it was all bitter and sour. Yet everyone had seen what this team was capable of when healthy...


Season Results

Their top goalie not reaching a .890 save pct and 80% of the season seeing at least two key players being on IR at the same time, the result was inevitable. But it was not the veterans that failed the team despite a never-ending queue of critics. Not a single player embarrassed themselves, and whenever Datsyuk was on the lineup, there was never doubt whether he should wear the 'C' or not. 48 points in 57 games at his age was nothing short of amazing given the fact he was never healthy and always playing on 1st PK.

They finished 25th overall with .512 (38-36-8)

And even if some players were still putting up a great performance all things considered, the injuries did affect everyone:

Top 6 scoring

1. Dylan Larkin with 72 games: 31 + 38 for 69 points
2. Anthony Mantha with 69 games: 39 + 27 for 66 points
3. Jaromír Jágr with 75 games: 31 + 25 for 56 points
4. Patrick Marleau with 82 games: 20 + 34 for 54 points
5. Erik Brännström with 82 games: 8 + 43 for 51 points
6. Andreas Athanasiou with 75 games: 33 + 17 for 50 points
Last edited by TurboJ on Sat Mar 28, 2020 9:22 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Wed Mar 18, 2020 5:57 pm

'20-'21 Aftermath

Following the fiasco of the 2020-2021 season it wasn't so much the team's poor results that had the fan base in outrage. It was the sheer neglect and contempt shown by Harrison Ockey. He had tarnished a legendary hockey franchise in an unforgivable way.

At least that's what the media were saying. In fact, if someone did dare state any sort of counterarguments let alone defense of mr. Ockey - he was eaten alive. The fans couldn't agree more with the headlines. Headlines such as 'Red Wings dead wings' or 'Hockey is Rocky yet Ockey is Cocky'. More than once mr. Ockey had his living room window replaced due to 'fan feedback'.

Ockey was no stranger to pressure of course: in honesty he fed on it. But that he would never admit. The image he portrayed to people was that of one arrogant son of a gun who didn't respect anyone or care about anyone. And the fact he almost never made any statements or comments on anything was not helping.

As for the board of directors, they were feeling the pressure too. And they were absolutely furious about what H.Ockey had been doing. Well, most of them were. There was one powerful figure on that board, one who was showing a kind of silent agreemeent to what Ockey was doing. And much later, by the time everything was said and done, it became common knowledge it was this person who single-handedly enabled Ockey to have his way. In summer of 2021 though, not a soul knew about that.

Back then nobody could make sense of anything that was going on. Well, almost nobody could.

...

Off-Season 2021, Part 1.

The exceedingly strange phenomenon where the board of directors did not sack H.Ockey contined through that summer. It was not for their lack of trying, but somehow there was always an unexpected barrier they stumbled upon when they were ready to march in and send Ockey on a one-way flight.

Meanwhile, Ockey sure as heck wasn't finished with his plan. As a matter of fact he was only getting started.

Already having traded away most of the prospects that everyone else saw as the future of the franchise, in June 2021 he was ready to give up the most promising one - Filip Zadina.

In that trade the Red Wings gave up Zadina plus another good forward prospect along with Mike Green and a bunch of draft picks for New Jersey's Sami Vatanen. There was logic to be seen in dumping Green's contract since he had been slowing down. But Zadina with all his talent was seen as way too valuable to trade away, period.

For Ockey of course it all made perfect sense. He knew that Zadina despite his very real talent couldn't fill the role he needed to be filled. And on the blueline he needed someone who could keep up with Brännström. But even though Vatanen was seen as a competent defenseman his cap hit of 7 million per did not sit well with the critics. On all accounts the price of aquiring him was simply too high.
Last edited by TurboJ on Sat Mar 28, 2020 9:27 am, edited 6 times in total.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Wed Mar 18, 2020 5:59 pm

Off-Season 2021, Part 2.

June 2021. To fix the long standing goal tending issue Ockey aquired Marcus Högberg from Ottawa as a potential backup goalie. But the key thing he did was the hiring of Arturs Irbe who would act as a dedicated personal coach for Yaroslav Askarov.

However, despite James Reimer being available on the UFA market, Ockey did not take the bait. He had known from the start that young Askarov - and nobody else - would be his starter. His 'philosophy' of age only being a number had become all too apparent yet it still surprised many to see this did work both ways. In this case it meant having a 19-year-old starting goaltender in the NHL.

....

In July 2021 Ockey bought out Justin Abdelkader's contract and abruptly ended what had been a fruitful relationship. When asked who would replace Abdelkader's physical presence, grit and effort, Ockey gave no reply.

....

Early August Frans Nielsen and Jonathan Ericsson both decided to hang up their skates. But what then followed is such a story that many still refuse to believe it really happened.

It did really happen though. The board, not surprisingly, was getting ever more furious at Ockey as the preseason went on. In their eyes he had also botched up the 2021 entry draft. He could have had the #1 ranked prospect at three but instead he drafted a 'nobody' named Erik Larsson from rural Sweden; a winger who had no playing history to speak of - and for that he wasted the 3rd overall pick! And the Red Wings of course weren't any closer to making the playoffs. In many ways the board had every right to be angry.

Building on that anger and disappointment the board decided to take action. And when they once again faced the legal brick wall trying to sack Ockey, they knew they had to come up with something else. And so it occurred that out of spite towards Ockey they retired Jonathan Ericsson's number. In a glamorous ceremony on short notice they honored Ericsson's illustrious career of 775 games and 153 points and up to the rafters went his jersey.

Just imagine: Red Kelly, Alex Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, Nicklas Lidström, Steve Yzerman, Sid Abel, Terry Sawchuck. And behold, now joining them was Jonathan Ericsson.

Ericsson himself was so ashamed at this display that he didn't attend the ceremony. It's not that he wasn't a decent player - in fact Ockey's staff had given him much respect and a lot of ice time. But everyone could see what this ceremony was all about. Later the board wished they hadn't done it - after that stunt the media attention focused on them despite their claims that it was H.Ockey who orchestrated the show.

Ockey's reaction was very fitting to his admittedly strange personality. When the board did summon him to a disciplinary hearing in mid August, he arrived there wearing a Red Wing jersey with a number 9 on the back and the name 'mr.Ockey' stitched on. Surprisingly he was smart enough to not let any outsiders see this jersey.
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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Wed Mar 18, 2020 5:59 pm

Off-Season 2021, Part 3: The Disciplinary Hearing

The expression 'Spanish Inquisition' wasn't very far off when describing the nature of that meeting. Harrison Ockey was indeed on trial and there were several prosecutors. The board even had the nerve to set the hearing take place on Friday the 13th.

Much could be said about what went on. There was yelling. Objects were thrown. Furniture was damaged. But eventually the essence of it culminated in a single dialogue.

Ockey survived this trial for twenty straight minutes by keeping completely silent. His stoic demeanor seemed to have have the board spend most of their energy on various hostilities and finally a short pause followed. That is when Ockey broke the silence.

"Listen. I'm only saying this once. My job here is to win. And nothing - not even you - will stand in my way."

...to which the president angrily replied: "No, you listen! We are way past your bad jokes young man! We are way past you!"

"On the contrary", said Ockey calmly. "I am way past you. YOU are the obstacle seeking to prevent absolute success, greatness and glory."

That rattled the cage too much and again all hell broke loose. In the end the only way the board could be somehow contained was by Ockey promising them he would issue an official statement commenting on all the accusations - on the condition that the statement would remain private.

At that point it was already late so Ockey decided to leave. That naturally aggravated the board even more. Who did this man think he was? Leaving like that before the hearing was over!

What they didn't know was that Ockey had to leave so he could catch a flight. What they didn't know was that Ockey needed to rush to a meeting in another city. What they didn't know was that in that meeting in another city late on Friday the 13th of August he would sign a particular veteran free agent to a four-year, 41 million dollar contract. With a no trade clause.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Wed Mar 18, 2020 9:10 pm

A while later somewhere in Canada

Mr.Ockey looked so different. Seemingly he had lost much of the 'edge' that had always defined him. The grey on his temples spoke of experience but the wrinkles on his cheeks spoke the language of pressure and stress. You might not had seen him in years but he'd put on some miles in that time. And his eyes; could you actually sense a hint of sadness, even kindness there?

......

"Welcome back to Hockey Today folks! Thanks for joining - we're sitting here with one Harrison Ockey. The Red Wings years you might remember. Harrison, how long has it been again?"

-Look. I don't..I don't even keep track. I just try to live my life you know. One day at a time.

"Time flies, doesn't it. Now, could you maybe tell us a little more about what went on that time. It was a strange time in hockey - seems like you were almost at war with the directors back then? 2021 was it?"

-Nah, nothing like that. I mean yes, we had our issues and sometimes things got a bit hot. But deep down we all knew the name of the game. I was willing to take the risks that others weren't. Maybe sometimes they told me they didn't understand, but really they did. And you know, I wasn't one to lecture. I was always about my work. Didn't need, didn't want the extra attention.

"Would you tells us a little about those risks Harrison?"

-Well I guess the big thing when I started on the Wings is how I brought in all the veterans, you know, properly old players. Really those who knew what was going on didn't much flak me for it, but it was easy for anyone to jump on the critic bandwagon. I'll put this very simply. I wasn't signing players when I brought in Datsyuk, Marleau and the rest. I was signing coaches. Get it? What most people don't get...is how a rebuild actually works. They think it's about drafting and trading and finding new talent to fill your ranks. That's not it. It's about building up what you have. If there's no core then no amount of talent will get you to a cup. I was signing coaches who just so happened to still be able to play at a high level too.

"Coaches? I don't quite follow, maybe you can give us a layman explanation of what you're saying?"

-OK. You have twenty guys on a playing roster. In our case we had a great head coach in Jeff Blashill, and we had also technical coaches for forwards, defensemen and so on. I did my share too in coaching those boys. But when you're building a winning team...the big thing is this. There is no winning formula. It's with coaches just as it's with players - even with all the talent in the world and with all the big big plans - you might not win squat. What you really need is a culture of winning.

"Culture of winning?"

-You need to coach winning. To teach winning. How do you do that? I'll tell you how. You lead by example. You lead by a winning example. When people talk about veteran presence, experience, all that jazz - they don't really know what they're talking about. We had that figured. I knew the key things we needed to teach to our young core if we wanted to win. But as a coach you always need to sell your ideas - and the players may not be buying. And you're only one coach to twenty players. It's a real challenge. But when a young player has a line mate who's won it all and has all the experience of actually doing it - they darn well start listening. They start learning. That's leading by example. Get it? That's why we had some success with those old geezers still playing. And youth is overrated anyway.

"Overrated?"

-Very much. Remember, a GM's job is to build a winning team. And that means turning your potential into success. The very key things: Work ethic. Handling pressure. Taking responsibility. Making sacrifices. All that. And we utilized the best way to teach that. By example. By some of the best, by those who knew how.

"Fascinating!"

-Well, it didn't seem to fascinate many at the time. Or at least that's not how things were portrayed. If I'm honest we had more agreement than disagreement in the board room. Looking back, it's good that we had our little clashes. It kept things honest. And it kept us focused.

"I have to say it's been great talking to you, Harrison. Thank you so much for taking the time. But you know, I just have to ask. Did you actually send that paper to the board?"

-You mean like the story goes? No, not quite. I did my best to explain the system we perfected in Europe. And I told them I wasn't about to change, I was always going to be a hot-headed know-it-all. In the end they understood my point. And maybe I threw a little apology in there. Or maybe I didn't. Soon we were much friendlier too, as I'm sure you can understand.

"After they realized you had signed Ovechkin?

-Yeah, it would have been right about then.
Last edited by TurboJ on Sun Mar 22, 2020 7:59 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Wed Mar 18, 2020 10:40 pm

2021-2022 - Third Season

In terms of game performance not much was expected of the Red Wings on the '21-'22 season. The media attention, in fact, was focused on their imminent demise. In the preseason articles they were consistently ranked as #31 in the league. But the strange antics of H.Ockey had lost some of their luster and people were getting used to the fact that 40-year-olds would frequent in the Red Wings lineup.

It didn't much matter either, since nobody had any expectations they would have success. At least not before a completely new rebuild.

...

Meanwhile, the speculation surrounding the Washington Capitals had been on-going since January. Nothing had been leaked regarding why Alex Ovechkin hadn't signed an extension. Everyone knew Ovie would always be a Cap. Or so they thought. Even after his story took a turn towards the Hockey Town it would be a very long time before the public found out about the problems that had appeared in the Capitals organization. There were also persistent rumors that Ovie was to retire due to a previously undisclosed injury.

Nevertheless, this was another one of Ockey's all-or-nothing plans. He had cleared up cap space and moved players way beforehand so that everything would work out if he was lucky with signing Ovie. In the end signing him wasn't as difficult as one might think. Exactly matching his salary wishes, the term of four years and a guarantee of top line minutes for the duration of the contract were apparently intriguing to him. And as it turned out, having Datsyuk as his line mate for the centerman's last hurrah didn't exactly scare him off. SIgning the 36-year-old Ovechkin for four years at 41 million total was risky of course. But Ockey's plans included a firm take on the Stanley Cup before he'd lose his chance, so a chance he took.

...

In other news was another Russian, albeit one with far less credentials. The young goalie from Omsk, Yaroslav Askarov, had a lot of pressure laid upon his shoulders when he arrived to the training camp that year. He was quickly told by the coaches that he would be their number one goalie. And he'd only just turned 19. Soon enough the finger-pointing began; not towards Askarov but towards the management.

The old guard (grandpa core as they were mockingly called) were in steep decline. This came as no surprise to anyone as the years had really passed them at that point. But slowly the Red Wings organization began to understand the role of these veterans was not to be top scorers but mentors to the young core. And mentors they were.

...

The season itself ended up being quite the thriller. The start should have been easy because the expectations were low. But instead, the first twenty games were absolutely horrific. Worst tof all it was because of defense, or rather lack thereof. This was unfortunate because great sacrifices had been made to improve the defense. Sami Vatanen ended up having back-to-back injuries at the very beginning and even after recovery it took him a long while to get acquainted with the Red Wing system.

Ovechkin was on fire, but that alone couldn't lift the team up from the pit it had fallen into.

But fans (those few still around) were in for a treat towards the end of the season. The team began to click and find their identity - and despite being dead last after 20 games they would find themselves as high as 6th overall at the All-Star break. No miracles took place in the end, but it was a tremendous effort that finally clinched them the last playoff spot - it was decided in the very last game of the season where their victory just edged them past the Penquins by a one point margin.

...

The playoffs held much promise. The final run of the Wings had been very strong and new key performers were rising up the ranks. Datsyuk and Ovie had found some unreal chemistry given the time. This was also the year when Dylan Larkin finally solidified his standing as a top center. Perhaps the rebuild wasn't going so bad after all?

But even though they were able to win the first playoff game against the Islanders (who were considered favorites to win the cup) Larkin got injured right then and there. The series was a sweep after that and indeed the Islanders would continue their path all the way onto the Stanley Cup.

On a positive note absolutely nobody expected them to even make the playoffs. On a negative note there were lots of tears when they did lose in the first round. Because Jágr, Chára, Thrornton, Marleau and Datsuyk would never have another chance - all had previously announced their retirement. They would be missed.

'21-'22 Season Results

It was a roller coaster ride for sure, but the end result was still better than expected. And maybe, just maybe, the future was beginning to look a little brighter.

They finished 15th overall with .579 (43-30-9)

Playoffs: Out in first round (1-4) against Islanders

It was noted that Anthony Mantha had emerged as a bona fide scoring virtuoso even as far as having 26 goals in his first 27 games. He would finish with another 50-goal season despite missing 14 games. Ovechkin was right at home and there was also an interesting young prospect in Philip Tomasino (traded from Nashville through Vegas). His rookie season didn't look half bad with more than a point per game scored. On the defensive side of things it was really showing that most of the effort had been put in scoring. Overall scoring was indeed up but penalty kill in particular needed fixing real bad. And young Askarov? While in a little bit over his head in the playoffs, he did play a better season overall than any of the other goalies had in the last three seasons. Not bad for a 19-year-old.

Top 6 scoring

1. Alex Ovechkin with 48 goals 53 assists for 101 points in 82 games (was awarded the Art Ross, King Clancy and Masterton trophies)
2. Dylan Larkin with 39 goals 54 assists for 93 points in 82 games
3. Anthony Mantha with 53 goals 31 assists for 84 points in 68 games (was awarded the Rocket Richard trophy)
4. Pavel Datsyuk with 16 goals 54 assists for 70 points in 78 games
5. Andreas Athanasiou with 28 goals 38 assists for 66 points in 82 games
6. Philip Tomasino with 35 goals 26 assists for 61 points in 52 games

Top defenseman Erik Brännström with 8 goals 45 assists for 53 points in 82 games

Team leader in +/- Alex Ovechkin with +52

#1.Goalie Yaroslav Askarov: 55 starts with 3.01 GAA, .895 save pct. and 31 wins (31-17-5)

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Fri Mar 20, 2020 12:54 pm

Off-Season 2022 Part 1 - the end of an era

The winds of change were blowing. Red Wings had met more success in the '21-'22 season than was expected and even H.Ockey admitted that. In his mind they were 'ahead of schedule' but declined to elaborate on that. In any case, what had been seen as the Wings' biggest problem ever since Ockey had arrived now became his problem too. The widely criticized 'grandpas' were all retiring at the same time. Critics were happy of course, but for the young GM this was a problem.

There had been talks with Marleau and at one point he was close to signing for one last year. There was a genuine belief a playoff run was possible next season. But when it became clear that all the other veterans were dead set on ending their careers, Marleau felt it was the right thing for him to follow suit.

But the surprise news that centerman Valtteri Filppula was retiring as well disappointed mr. Ockey. He was now looking at losing six players, three of them centers. He immediately knew the next season was going to be difficult. He didn't have a solid plan for how or where he would dig up the required amount of center depth in just a few weeks. And the mentoring of 'the winning culture' was at risk too. Ockey was in fact far from certain that his younger core was ready to take on the leading role. He kept the news regarding Filppula to himself as long as he could. But eventually everyone in hockey would know the Wings were in trouble again.

However, the atmosphere surrounding the organization had become more relaxed than it had been at any previous point in Ockey's tenure. There was a possibility he might be given a chance to do his job that summer without too much fighting with the fans or with the board.

There was even a hint of hope that Ockey wouldn't be on his way out at the very first opportunity. When Pavel Datsyuk announced he would start as the new Assistant General Manager with immediate effect, some people began to see a possibility of a future with some level of stability.
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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Fri Mar 20, 2020 1:57 pm

Off-Season 2022 Part 2 - Hall of Fame

The 'Ockey Years' of the Red Wings included a time when some very prominent veteran players ended their NHL careers playing for Detroit. Looking back it did always feel surreal that all these future Hall-of-Famers indeed did play together for a time in Hockey Town. But they did, so here's how they were later remembered.



Pavel Datsyuk
The shenanigans with retiring Jonathan Ericsson's jersey number a year earlier did cast a shadow on the celebration for Datsyuk's career. Nevertheless, only a week after the last playoff game, Datsyuk's number #13 was raised to the rafters of Little Caesars Arena where it belonged. He won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings dedicating his entire NHL career to the team he held dear. A decorated and highly respected player and leader, he always remained a humble gentleman. Everyone knew there would never be another captain quite like him.

He played 1165 games in his 17 NHL seasons scoring 368 goals and having 747 assists for 1115 points. His career total of +302 plus/minus in the NHL illustrated perfectly his unique two-way ability on his way to winning three Selke trophies. A Triple Gold Club member, a Hockey Town legend and a first ballot Hall or Famer (2025).

......

Jaromír Jágr
Regularly overcoming seemingly impossible odds, Jágr never ceased to amaze the hockey world. It can easily be said he did every reasonable thing a human being can to stay at the top. With an almost obsessive work ethic and with cast iron determination he was the last player ever to play a full NHL season three decades after his draft. Continually re-inventing himself to remain competitive he was an inspiration for three generations of young players - while his active career was still on-going. Never reaching Gordie Howe's record of playing in the NHL at 52, he did manage five games of NHL playoffs at 50. Rumor has it that he never actually retired and if you visited his home town of Kladno today, odds are you'd still find him fighting for the puck in a corner of some obscure hockey rink.

He played 1964 games in his 26 NHL seasons scoring 822 goals and having 1234 assists for 2056 points. He was a key figure in opening the doors to the NHL for European players and a mentor to a dozen Stanley Cup champions. Inducted into the Hall of Fame without the usual 3-year waiting period in 2024 despite the fact his pro career still continued in Europe.

......

Joe Thornton
Thornton's career stands as proof that top talent doesn't always result in amazing rookie performance. A model of tenacity, Thornton would always be remembered as someone who could improve any roster you threw at him. He was one of the very best playmakers in NHL history and a highly respected presence at both ends of the ice. His career reached a legendary status despite - or perhaps because - he never won the Stanley Cup.

He played 1761 games in his 23 NHL seasons scoring 430 goals and having 1127 assists for 1557 points. He had two seasons with over 100 points and a career high of 92 assist in a single season, making him fourth on the all time single season assist list at the time he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2028.

......

Zdeno Chára
A unique blend of physical superiority and top end skill, Chára worked extremely hard all through his career to establish himself as a leading defensive player in the NHL. A Stanley Cup captain, a winner of the coveted Norris trophy and a seven-time All-Star, he was always most remembered for his sheer reliability on ice. He was great defensively, very good offensively and one of the very few athletes in any sport to maintain such a high level of ability into his mid 40's.

He played 1726 games in his 23 NHL seasons scoring 209 goals and having 507 assists for 716 points. While winning several awards over his long career it was his dedication to everything he did in hockey that best defined him. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2027.

......

Patrick Marleau
Marleau was one of the most consistent offensive forwards the game of hockey has known. His ability to produce high-end results for his entire career despite that career reaching nearly 1900 NHL games might never be reproduced. His gentlemanly conduct and leadership were invaluable to his team and perhaps his rare level of loyalty ultimately failed him from reaching the Stanley Cup. Often underrated, Marleau was an ideal teammate to anyone and a mentor for many star players to come.

He played 1899 games in his 24 NHL seasons scoring 599 goals and having 675 assists for 1274 points. Won two Olympic gold medals, one World Championship gold and one World Cup gold for team Canada. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2035.
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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Fri Mar 20, 2020 4:08 pm

Off-Season 2022 Part 3 - the desperation

As soon as the news got out that the Wings were short about six or seven roster players for the coming season, mr. Ockey's enemies were delighted. Indeed when he began his work on finding replacements to fill those spots, some of the rival GMs were even more reluctant than before to discuss trade deals with him. One, who shall remain unanimous, even just laughed at him and hung up on him when he was inquiring about a certain young forward.

There were many issues that persisted and some new issues to boot. Ockey was disliked as ever, but after their run to the playoffs last season, there were some who began to see him as genuine competition. Then there were the cap issues. Signing Ovechkin certainly didn't help, and Ockey knew his game plan required a solid defensive core as well - which didn't come cheap. And regarding the centerman issue there were more dark clouds looming: Dylan Larkin had not agreed to sign an extension so at the end of next season, Ockey might end up with a grand total of zero centermen.

On top of that his own rebuild plan was taking way too long. The prospect pool he had been given when he started in 2019 wasn't even remotely to his liking. And 4 out of 5 of those players had already proven they'd never make the NHL. Ockey had been hard at work scouting, trading, drafting - but he was beginning to seriously doubt if he'd ever see the results of his own prospects' development. Clock was ticking.

......

Entry Draft 2022

Ockey has been forced to trade away many of his draft picks in renewing his prospect pool so there wasn't much to be done at the '22 draft. And since the Wings had made it to the playoffs he now had the 17th overall pick instead of the top threes he had had before.

His #17 pick would be controversial once again.

He chose Noah Deprés, a Canadian two-way defenseman from Portland Winterhawks. This kid had promise, sure, but once again was completely unproven having only played one season in the WHL - and with mediocre results.

......

At this point Ockey wouldn't have guessed just how hard it was going to be to find a number two center somewhere, or even a number three. Fast forward all the way to the trade deadline 2023 - and he still hadn't had any success! The entire time he'd been working day and night to get someone to trade with him. As one might guess at this point, he had not been able to persuade any credible center on the UFA market to sign. On the trading front he tried really hard for William Karlsson, Boone Jenner and Chris Tierney. But neither Vegas, Columbus nor Ottawa were having any of it. No matter what Ockey was offering. And honestly speaking he was beginning to run low on assets to offer.

......

Back to September 2022.

Ockey finally did succeed in something. He knew he needed six solid defensemen to be able to run his system. And he was one short. So he found it difficult to hide the joy when he finally closed a deal with Calgary right before the 2022 training camp.

TRADE:
-From Calgary: Defenseman T.J.Brodie
-To Calgary: LW Jan Mysak, Goalie Keith Petruzzelli, Center Jean-Luc Foydy and a 2nd and a 3rd round pick.

Two of those three prospects were blue chip stuff. After this he really didn't have much left to work with. And the deal, of course, was widely criticized. Ockey knew he couldn't possibly have the team play with five defensemen for the season, let alone have some fringe rookie fill the spot. He really had no choice - it's not like competing teams were giving away top 4 defensemen. And all along he knew that if the next season failed his GM career in the NHL would very likely be over.

......

But at no point did he find a serviceable centerman to fill the gaps.
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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Fri Mar 20, 2020 4:40 pm

Off-Season 2022 Part 4 - can someone sign please?

Ockey had a couple of mid-tier prospects still waiting on the AHL affiliate, Grand Rapids Griffins. With some luck, he might see maybe two or three make the NHL in a few years. But definitely not this year.

This meant that the Red Wings had multiple other depth spots unfulfilled too, not only center spots.

When the season start was closing in, Ockey finally had a bit of luck on the UFA market. Some defensive presence among the forwards as well as some experience was direly needed. So it was a big relief that LW Nino Niederreiter and RW Andrew Shaw agreed to sign. Niederreiter had been having a series of bad seasons and so there wasn't anyone offering him a top six role. Fearing he'd soon be out of the league altogether he chose to join the Red Wings despite his doubts. The 32-year-old Shaw on the other hand didn't want the one-year contracts he'd been offered all summer. So when Ockey offered him two years for twice what his agent was asking, a deal was made.

And he did find a number 4 center. Or that center rather found him. Jacob de la Rose had been on Ockey's lineup since he'd started, but had refused to sign an extension. He sought a bigger role in Winnipeg and spent a year there - without ever getting a real chance. So when the pre-season exhibition games were on-going (Red Wings playing with ten forwards), Ockey received a call from de la Rose. He would agree to play the fourth line if he had double the salary.

Frankly de la Rose was a number 13 forward at best, but he could eat some minutes so that the top six didn't have to play 22 minutes every night. So Ockey was kind of glad. But the salary cap situation was beginning to get out of control. This is when Ockey learned what's really behind many of the famous bad contracts in the NHL. He had started to sign bad contracts himself. Reason being he had no choice.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Fri Mar 20, 2020 5:33 pm

2022-2023 - Fourth Season, Part 1.

Mr. Ockey was more nervous about this season than he would ever admit. Much of the early season he kept to himself and some games he didn't even attend. He was trying desperately to come up with a plan to make this 'half team' succeed. Media claimed he'd been in contact with European clubs for a job as a scout. Where they got that idea Ockey never knew as he hadn't spoken one word to any member of the media.

Meanwhile, Todd McLellan had been out of job for a long while and once Team Canada refused to consider him for a World Cup role, he was willing to negotiate. From October on, McLellan would take charge of the "technical offensive training" of the Red Wings (so it was called). Together the coaching team reviewed the situation and they adjusted the on-season training regime that might have had previously contributed to the multitude of injuries they had been dealing with.

The coaching staff was beginning to take shape but in Ockey's eyes the staff had too much experience and thus they were difficult to manage. As always, Ockey wanted everything done his way.

......

Fan forums and media headlines kept reminding everyone about how the Wings had no goaltending. On one article it was suggested that they make Arturs Irbe their starter since he wasn't even 60 yet. The reality of the situation wasn't all that great admittedly:

-Askarov was still only 20 years of age and he wasn't developing like Ockey had expected.
-Calvin Pickard who had been the backup goalie last season had made it clear he didn't like Ockey's system very much.
-Their backup for this season, Taylor Gauthier, had only played a few games in AHL and was also no older than 21.
-What of Jonathan Bernier? Well, Ockey had him play in the ECHL. Technically he was their best goalie at the moment, but not once had he played at his level. Not since Ockey took charge. So Ockey 'made an example' of him.

......

Since Ockey hadn't had any luck with finding the players he actually wanted for the starting roster, he had no choice but to work with what he had. And what he had was some added grit and defensive prowess. Coaching team was instructed to maintain a decent level of scoring but most importantly to fix the truly embarrassing penalty kill. Truthfully Ockey would be very much 'hands on' with everything as the season went on, but at least the rest of the staff were getting used to this and adapting the best they could.


Starting depth chart for '22-'23 Season:

Ovechkin - Larkin - Athanasiou
Bertuzzi - Veleno - Tomasino
Niederreiter - Ehn - Mantha
Gutik - de La Rose - Shaw

Brännström - Vatanen
Brodie - Nemeth
DeKeyser - Hronek

1.Askarov 2.Gauthier


Pre-Season notes on called-up prospects

*Joseph Veleno: Only a few NHL games. Did not impress when he was called up last season. Rather have him in AHL. Good at faceoffs though.

*Philip Tomasino: Could have won the Calder last year had he played the full schedule. One of our only prospects who might actually be ready.

*Christoffer Ehn: Has done a decent job in the AHL but honestly he's only here as a #13 or #14. Too bad we didn't get those UFA centers signed.

*Daniil Gutik: A 2020 draftee. Can add an aggressive flavor. Unpredictable though. Should spend another year in AHL but what can I do.

*Taylor Gauthier: Technically ahead of his age. Highly inconsistent sadly. At his best he'd already be a starter; yet could hardly handle AHL last year.
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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Fri Mar 20, 2020 9:28 pm

2022-2023 - Fourth Season, Part 2.

Unsurprisingly the press had written off any chances of success for the Red Wings that season. Once again every ranking you'd see had them rated at rock bottom. However, there was an interesting twist on one particular article. Admittedly they didn't have any higher an opinion on the Red Wings' team as a whole but they did rank Erik Brännström as number one defenseman in the league and even had made some positive remarks about Ockey's drafting.

This was the first time any outsider seemed to understand why Brännström was given the most ice time on the entire roster despite his varying levels of performance. The quote that struck Ockey upon seeing the article was "He's not a Lidström but he sure looks like a Karlsson". They were wrong of course - on both accounts. But Ockey still found it intriguing that someone had seen potential in his young protege. And since the article was published before the season had started the author wouldn't have known that Brännström's performance in the first 19 games yielded 19 points.

Sadly the first weeks of the '22-'23 season only consisted of such individual performances. November 19th Alex Ovechkin was celebrated for reaching the 800 career goal mark. Anthony Mantha had a record number of breakaways within 15 games. The team, whether inspired by these performances or not, wasn't doing great.

And something was wrong with Yaroslav Askarov. Worst of all he kept it to himself.

December 2022.

It was clear the lack of center depth was hurting the team on every front. Special teams were even worse than last year. Penalty kill had an average of 76% success. The coaches didn't understand why, their tactics and line matching were perfect, they said.

Ockey had his doubts whether these issues could be fixable in any way without a proper shutdown center. Many players were benched. Ehn was sent back down. At times the Wings resorted to playing with ten forwards again even though they knew the risks.

But slowly the tide was turning. Perhaps, after all, the biggest issue had been the large turnover of players. Perhaps it would just take time for all the players to get their act together.

Late December. Worry served on success.

Approaching the end of the year, the Wings suddenly experienced an unexpected winning streak. Penalty killing had been improving. Zone control had been better and there'd been a new level of team effort rather than the key players just trying to do it all by themselves.

There had been one key player who seemed to have taken to heart the idea of 'leading by example'. Dylan Larkin really put himself on the line down the stretch and while averaging over 20 minutes TOI, he'd been the team leader both offensively and defensively. Having posted 37 points in his last 25 games, he made it known that he was finally ready to talk about an extension. Mr. Ockey had had his doubts whether Larkin had what it took in the long run - whether he could be someone to build a franchise upon. And he had some other ideas about who his future corner stone might be.

Larkin's agent had it all figured out. His client was a local boy and a budding star - valuable things for Detroit. The numbers had proven he was the real deal. For Ockey the negotiations had a double-edged flavor. He desperately needed a number one center. But he knew he had to overpay to get the deal done. In the end he still didn't haggle. He signed the 26-year-old centerman to an eight-year extension worth an average of 8.64 million. He knew that his game system was contributing greatly to Larkin's point production but he also knew that Larkin was often the key piece for deciding the outcome of a tough game.

Very soon someone would have to be moved. At this rate the salary cap was going to force that no matter what. But that thought wouldn't have long to dwell in mr.Ockey's mind. Because one game after the big extension was signed, Larkin was injured and out for a month. And so was Askarov.
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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Fri Mar 20, 2020 9:52 pm

2022-2023 - Fourth Season, Part 3.

The results

The adjusted training regime had not had the desired effect on injuries. Frustratingly the injuries somehow seemed to favor the Wings' key players - and at key moments. But even then, there was something good building up. The locker room and the board room both had a new sense of enthusiasm towards the future. Despite every effort by Lady Luck to thwart their success, the team was thriving.

When they had to resort to backup, even third string goal tending, the skaters would rise up to the challenge and play hard defense. When they had multiple injuries among the skaters and had to log big minutes they did so with no complaint. And players took upon the roles that needed to be filled - you saw Ovechkin taking faceoffs on the penalty kill and you saw Brännström play on the wing. And they did all this without any input from the coaches. For a short while you could see a smile on mr.Ockey's face. Although the very last part is probably exaggerated.

The team continued to put on a strong performance nearly every night despite the centermen being way out of their depth. And when there were still seven games left on the schedule, the Red Wings had qualified for the playoffs.


They finish 6th overall with .659 (50-24-8)

As the story would reveal, it might have been that their last stretch was a tad too strong. But at the time everyone was just focused and ready to go - enthusiastic about a chance of a playoff run. Could there actually be some success for them this time?


Top 6 forwards:

1.Dylan Larkin with 37 goals 65 assists for 102 points in 74 games (was awarded the Art Ross trophy)
2.Alex Ovechkin with 47 goals 47 assists for 94 points in 82 games (was awarded the Lady Byng and King Clancy throphies)
3.Anthony Mantha with 53 goals 36 assists for 89 points in 82 games (was awarded the Rocket Richard trophy - his third)
4.Philip Tomasino with 36 goals 38 assists for 74 points in 82 games
5.Tyler Bertuzzi with 21 goals 46 assists for 67 points in 82 games
6.Joseph Veleno with 19 goals 38 assists for 57 points in 82 games


Top 2 defensemen

1. Erik Brännström with 12 goals 46 assists for 58 points in 82 games (was awarded the Norris trophy and named as first team All Star)
2. Sami Vatanen with 5 goals 38 assists for 43 points in 78 games

Team leader in +/- Alex Ovechkin with +51
Most penalty minutes: Daniil Gutik with 69 PIM
Highest avg. time on ice for a defenseman: Erik Brännström with 23.11
Highest avg. time on ice for a forward: Dylan Larkin with 18.58

#1 Goal tender Y.Askarov with 47 starts: 2.92GAA, 0.894 save pct. and 31 wins (31-11-3)


It seemed at this point that Ockey's gamble in paying Larkin big time was money well spent. Indeed the young forward was back from IR just a day before the All-Star games and had rehabilitated himself well enough to win the fastest skater competition. His performance after the injury did not show any signs of decline and it looked like he could indeed be the future of the Red Wings' offense.

For Mantha this was a third season of 50+ goals which just goes to show how underrated he always was - especially considering many of his goals were scored off breakaways. At the same time he had also developed into a hard-nosed two-way force who didn't show fear of facing even the toughest opponents in the corners. Excellent checking, aggressive but clean hitting and an explosive thrust off the line were key elements of his dominance.

Ovechkin had started taking ever more responsibility defensively but his offense was still feared. Maybe he had lost his step a little, but he was as determined to win as ever. And perhaps at this time he was even more professional about it than before. Despite having exactly as hard a slap shot as before, he would tend towards making plays and passing the puck more. And all the advanced statistics showed that this greatly increased the overall scoring prowess of his line.

Young Brännström showed some playmaking talent, but it was the way he handled defense utilizing his skating and puck control that impressed the Red Wings leadership more. Perhaps Ockey was right after all in giving up Seider for this kid. He himself thought the young defenseman still had a long way to go, but he thought that in the most positive possible way. However, there was much debate on his winning the voting for the Norris trophy that year. The majority of the hockey elite did not agree on him being awarded. Many commented that he hadn't had nearly enough success as a player and some added that his defensive contribution was 'mediocre'.

Centerman Veleno had handled his responsibilities on the power play better than expected. His defense and penalty kill left a lot to be desired though. He wasn't your fresh 18-year-old prospect at this point either so the coaching team had mixed views on whether he should be a future building block or not. Still a good performance overall.

Askarov, to put it simply, wasn't who he was expected to be. Sure he was young, but his performance should have improved given that the defensive core was much stronger this year. Or that's what the common opinion was at the time. The public didn't even know Askarov had suffered four different injuries this season. H.Ockey didn't even tell the head coach about the doctors recommending surgical treatment. But if anyone did criticize Askarov's performance during the '22-'23 season - and Ockey heard it - they had better be prepared for some action.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Sun Mar 22, 2020 2:00 pm

2022-2023 - Fourth Season, Part 4: Playoffs


Struck by a Lightning

The Red Wings were celebrating their success which had once again surpassed all expectations. They had been able to punch way above their weight on their run and they had had some truly impressive results both as a team and as individuals. The players were celebrating more than was the coaching team, however. This joy was soon swept aside when they took a good look at the playoff setting. They would be facing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.

Tampa had for all intents and purposes an all-star team. They had Kucherov. Stamkos. Hedman. Point. McDonagh. Marchessault. Van Riemsdyk. Sergachev. But most importantly, the coaches had been able to build such a high level of team effort among all the star players that the Red Wings soon felt they didn't even belong in the series - such had been the dominance of the Lightning that season. In the net they had Andrei Vasilevsky who was then the best goalie known to man.

And the Red Wings had Patrik Nemeth and Danny DeKeyser both on IR - their top two defensive players no less.

In the first game Tampa would immediately show who the boss was. The Wings didn't have any part of it. But in the second game things were different. Nemeth was back and the whole team had realized they had to fight with everything they had if there was any chance to be had. And they managed to win the second game 2 to 1.

Ockey had never before witnessed anything like what happened in that series. By means of some inhuman effort the Red Wings fought the juggernaut that was the Lightning. The discipline, the defensive drive, the way every single player put themselves on the line together - it was a unique experience. They didn't try to outscore the Lighting, but instead they played defense only, much to the amazement of Ockey and his staff. And so it was that the series went to game six - and that's when it was announced that Vasilevsky had been injured.

This was the first time the Wings actually believed they might stand a chance. Naturally the Lightning had excellent goaltending depth too. But they didn't have another Vasilevsky. By means of playing an extremely physical game the Red Wings were able to reach game seven. And it had taken three overtime games to get there. Everyone was very tired. But for some unforeseen reason the Lightning had lost their heart. And while it seemed unbelievable even to those watching it, the Lightning were beaten 5 to 1 in the last game.

The Red Wings had actually won the series.

--------------

Unexpected favorites

For Ockey this was as nervous a time as can be. He knew his coaching staff was highly professional but his players had never accomplished a feat like that before. The focus should have been on the fact that this might actually allow them a realistic run ahead. But Ockey was very much worried that the players would get too comfortable after beating the odds.

His worry seemed unnecessary though. The second round against the Ottawa Senators began very favorably with the Wings easily winning the first three games. As for the Senators, this was a very different team compared to the one that had faced all the ridicule some years before. This was the year when they went all in - the year when Eugene Melnyk spent 281 million dollars on UFAs alone preparing for the Senators' first serious playoff run in years. And boy had they changed. Their young core players had reached a genuine star status and Moritz Seider, whom Ockey had traded away at the start had become a very good top 4 defenseman. And Pierre Dorion had added players like Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie to play in a depth role. They had actually won the President's Trophy that year with 115 points. And carrying the leader's mantle on the ice was a 36-year-old Evgeni Malkin.

Once the Senators realized the Red Wings' first round wasn't a fluke they adjusted their game. Rather than assume they could win through a pure scoring race they started to play real playoff hockey. And it would be the Senators who easily won the next two games. For the Wings that was more than a little worrying. The Sens had more skill and now they were using it to the full. For game six Danny DeKeyser decided to dress up despite the doctors' orders. With some pain killers and ice bags he was able to play that night. And he made sure the star Senators didn't get any breakaways for free.

Game six was 4 - 4 with a little over three minutes left on the clock. It was young Philip Tomasino who stole the puck on the blueline and skated through two Ottawa defensemen - and then buried the puck into the top corner of the net with a beautiful backhand move. The Red Wings had reached the conference final! That had not happened in 14 years.

------------

The Machine

In the third round the Red Wings knew very well what they were up against. All through the season every team had struggled to score against the New York Rangers. And when the Rangers swept through their first two rounds with eight straight victories there was little doubt who the favorite was going to be.

The Rangers had nearly as much skill and depth as did the Lightning and they had been playing with essentially the same core for the last four seasons perfecting their game. And what they had built in those four years was an absolute machine. The Red Wings didn't have a solid game plan against the Rangers because there literally weren't any weaknesses to exploit.

And indeed the New York machine was on when the first game was played. The Wings were completely out of their depth. It wasn't that they were playing particularly badly. It was simply an effort of futility. The barrage of offense just kept on coming, four lines deep. The Wings defense was shot but they had also lost all of their scoring. And it wasn't the Wings who were to blame. It was always the Rangers.

Through sheer willpower Ovechkin, the Red Wing captain, single-handedly won game two for the Wings scoring two goals on his way. But he knew as did the coaches and mr.Ockey - that there would be no victory in that series. Five games were all it took and the Rangers didn't even seem to break a sweat. Vancouver Canucks in the cup finals weren't any more than a punching bag for the Rangers either. They went on to win the Stanley Cup with a playoff record of 16-1-1 and the game effort they put up during that run made some people think they didn't even deserve those two losses.

Depressed by the way they had been completely disarmed in the conference final the Red Wing players couldn't find much joy in what good they had accomplished that season. Everyone's mind was very much on the defeat they'd just experienced - and how there hadn't been anything they could do about it.
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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Sun Mar 22, 2020 2:51 pm

2022-2023 Season Aftermath, Part 1

Harrison Ockey was smart enough to leave the players alone despite his frustration. He knew they had done more than could ever be expected of them. His main problem was that time was not on his side.

Coaching staff led by Jeff Blashill held a debriefing the next day. Their sole message to the players was just to put it all behind and take a long vacation. The board had even arranged to sponsor any flights and hotels should a player wish to travel to some holiday resort.

Ockey's vacation didn't start in any typical way. After the debriefing was over (which he didn't attend), he went straight on and sat on a seat of the eerily quiet Little Caesars arena. He'd sit there for hours just staring at the rink, absorbed by his thoughts of defeat.

You might think he should have been happy. The performance of his team had been excellent considering what might have reasonably been expected. But mr.Ockey had dark thoughts on his mind. He knew he had succeeded in building something valuable. But at the same time he knew most people still wanted his head. The board had made it clear that Ockey's antics would not be tolerated unless there was spectacular success. Ockey's thoughts took him a little too deep and for a moment he lost his grasp on time and space.

After the greatest controversies of his early NHL career he had been forced to tone it done a bit. He knew he could have had better results by now if he hadn't been constantly on the line. The pressure was always to have success right there and then. Although still young, Ockey did have vision. He did have a good idea how to build long term success. But nobody had ever given him a chance to prove that. Five years were far too short - let alone four years. The pressure on Ockey was on like never before and it was greatly affecting what had normally been an iron will.

How was he supposed to succeed against a machine like the Rangers? How was he supposed to ever overcome such odds, especially with his hands tied?
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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Sun Mar 22, 2020 3:13 pm

2022-2023 Season Aftermath, Part 2

Despite all the mixed feelings the Red Wings had succeeded. It was never reasonable to say they should have been a contender for the cup that year let alone win it. Even having lost much of their veteran experience and with glaring issues on almost every front, the Wings had accomplished a better season overall than they had since 2009. Additionally, many players had taken yet another step in their development helping the team defeat not just one but two really good teams in the playoffs.

Key performers in the 2023 Playoffs:

*Tyler Bertuzzi (LW) with 21 points in 18 playoff games
*Alex Ovechkin (LW) with 10 goals and 86 shots on goal in 18 playoff games
*Filip Hronek (D) with 13 points in 18 playoff games


But while many players had had a really strong season, mr.Ockey suddenly realized his 'young core' of players was not so young anymore. He realized the team had already peaked. His job was at constant peril and he knew that even if he were allowed to continue as the GM, long term success would require long term planning. And Ockey had no expectation of the board ever letting him do any long term planning.

However, at the end of the 2022-2023 season there were notions of promising young prospects beginning to develop on the Grand Rapids Griffins' roster. Prospects that mr.Ockey had drafted. In fact the Griffins very nearly reached their own respective conference finals that year despite almost every veteran player having departed the AHL team by then. Ockey looked at some of these young prospects and suddenly remembered why he'd drafted them in the first place. If he hadn't been expecting that 'one final call' from the board of directors, he might have actually brightened up a little.
Last edited by TurboJ on Sun Mar 22, 2020 11:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Sun Mar 22, 2020 6:55 pm

Offseason 2023, Part 1: The Vacation.


Ockey had taken a two-week leave of absence to clear his head. He needed to prepare for what was to come.

He was sitting in a Bratislava restaurant when his phone finally rang. It was the chairman of the board. The tall guy sitting next to Ockey gave him a nod - he should probably take the call.

The chairman had only one thing to say: "Mr.Ockey, we expect you to win the Cup for us this season". That was literally it and the end of it was just a 'goodbye now'. No criticism, no congratulations, no nothing.

Between the lines Ockey could easily read what was going to happen after the season. He could have been discouraged by that but instead he regained his confidence. He would return to his original plan and stick to it. This season he would be mr.Ockey. This season he wouldn't give a flying saucer about what anyone else thought. If he was going out then he might as well go out in style.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Sun Mar 22, 2020 7:06 pm

Offseason 2023, Part 2: Return to work


June 2023

Upon his return to Detroit, Ockey's first move was trading Christoffer Ehn and two 4th round picks to Calgary for Barrett Hayton (C).

Hayton at that point was seen as a bust by most. He had only played one half season in the NHL and last three seasons he'd spent in AHL. Teams didn't even see him as a keeper in AHL. Already he'd been traded three times in three years. And at the time of the trade he was in the middle of an 8-month injury rehab due to a torn ACL.

To literally add insult to injury, at the time of the trade Hayton also only had 14 days left on his contract. Mr.Ockey was back - with style.

In the end Hayton did sign a two-year deal only four days before free agency. Perhaps he was smart in signing just about any contract he was offered since he still had 5 months of his rehab to go through. Failing to sign would very likely have ended his NHL dream for good.



The Entry Draft 2023

Red Wings only had four picks. Ockey had traded the rest away in hopes of improving his prospect pool - he was always on a countdown with his own contract so he sought to trade for older prospects that had more immediate potential.

Despite the fact that his top pick was only a #26 overall, the controversy continued. Ockey knew this draft wasn't going to fix his problems anyway so he didn't need to play it safe.

26th overall Ockey chose RW Scott Shellman from the Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL).

Shellman, an American offensive winger, was an odd choice indeed since every scout in the league knew he had below average technical skills and worst of all, was widely seen as not having much hockey sense or dedication to the game. Decent skating ability seemed to be his only strength and indeed his results in the QMJHL had been average at best.

However, this was the year mr.Ockey was determined to do things his way no matter what. He'd made his peace with the idea that his career as a GM was drawing to an end.



The award ceremony for the '22'23 season.

Ockey left the NHL Awards right away once all the players had been awarded their trophies. He wasn't happy Erik Brännström received the Norris Trophy. Naturally he never spoke of it to outsiders. At one staff meeting however, he would express his view. Kris Letang of the Penguins should have won he said - and the worst thing about the whole thing was if Brännström himself was to believe he had earned the honor.

In the following days Ockey started his preparation for the next season not knowing that he himself had been third in voting for the GM of the year.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Sun Mar 22, 2020 7:25 pm

Offseason 2023, Part 3: News from an old friend


July the 1st 2023.

Assistant GM Pavel Datsyuk was visiting Ockey's office after a well deserved vacation in Russia. "So how was Yekaterinburg?" asked Ockey shooting another puck out through the open window. For unknown reasons he had chosen the top of the office table as his shooting platform.

Paying no attention to the fact that Ockey was still standing on the tabletop wearing his hockey helmet, Datsyuk replied: "It still feels like home to me."

"I have something to discuss" Datsyuk continued while Ockey took another slapshot off the tabletop. "I met this agent in Sweden on my way back. An old friend.", said Datsyuk.

"Can't resist a little work even on your vacation, can you" Ockey commented as he climbed off the table.

"This agent told me about his client. The client is apparently very interested in joining our team" Datsyuk explained.

"And?" Ockey was inpatient as always.

According to Datsyuk the agent had great expectations for this player. He had gone as far as to say he was one of the most talented young players he'd seen in his entire agent career. Ockey began to suspect something funny was going on.

"Why do I get the feeling there's a reason you came here in person rather than just calling me?" Asked Ockey.

Datsyuk replied cautiously: "Well, this agent's career - it actually started the day he met me in Stockholm yesterday". Ockey gave him 'the look'. After a short pause Datsyuk continued: "But the kid does have talent. I've seen him play."

Ockey was still quiet and still staring at him.

"I've seen him play school hockey" explained Datsyuk. "As in college hockey...?" asked Ockey. "No. Elementary school." was Datsyuk's reply.

Ockey had no words. He was one big question mark at this point. Datsyuk decided it was better to just cut to the chase. "So this kid is very talented - but he's not played hockey in five years and he's now sixteen. But I trust his agent's word and I trust my own eyes".

Ockey spoke very slowly. "Let me guess, you have no stat sheets about him because he's not actually a hockey player at all. Am I right? Why exactly should I be interested?"

Datsyuk quickly replied:"The name of this young man is Pontus Zetterberg. And I think you would trust his agent as much as I do."



A few weeks later it became known that the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL had drafted this young forward from Njurunda, Sweden.
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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Sun Mar 22, 2020 10:29 pm

2023-2024 - Fifth Season, Part 1: Hockey team or a hospital?


The suspiciously persistent injury problem never seemed to end. Every season mr.Ockey had been a part of the Red Wings organization various health issues had plagued the team. Old players, young players, even players who weren't on the playing roster had suffered long term injuries every year.

The staff tried to take every precaution that the problems would not repeat themselves in the '23-'24 season.

Goalie Askarov's health problems were kept as secret as possible in order to protect the young prospect's outside image. Nobody on Ockey's staff wanted Askarov to become a target of the Paparazzi. The team of physicians were still agreeing on the need for surgery. But they maintained also that a surgery could easily end the career of the young goalie before it had really even started. So instead of putting him under the knife they once again designed a special workout regime for him for the purpose of rehabilitation and prevention of a larger trauma.

The centerman Hayton whom Ockey had just brought in with a serious ACL problem had no such luck however. The physician with the Stockton Heat had apparently not done a very good job in assessing his injury. The Red Wings head physician saw the sad truth already - Hayton was indeed in need of surgery right away. So it came to pass that Ockey had traded for Hayton with an estimated recovery in four months. But as he was sent to the hospital for surgery, it was clear he'd be out for at least six more months. Ockey wasn't very happy, but neither was anyone else.

The rest of the team was looking more promising despite the ever-present lack of center depth. Surprisingly the coaches' reports indicated that everything seemed to be in order for the team to begin the preparation for training camp.


Free Agency 2023

Goalies Calvin Pickard and Jonathan Bernier both said their goodbyes and declared themselves as free agents. In reality they never literally said goodbye to mr.Ockey as they had been more than a little disappointment in his dealings with them.

Ockey on the other hand never stopped looking for that elusive number two center. And in keeping with his previous experience, it seemed to be as difficult as ever.

Nicklas Bäckström had become UFA that summer, but despite the idea of him playing with Ovechkin once again tempting Ockey, he knew there was no way to make that actually happen. Cap space was non-existent and it was certain that Bäckström would be getting better offers from multiple directions.

The UFA market seemed to hold some permanent grudge against mr.Ockey for yet again he had an incredibly hard time with trying to persuade anyone to sign.

In the end he did find one candidate. Nazem Kadri had not received much attention from other GMs that summer so he was willing to negotiate. Mr. Ockey knew his last two seasons had been very weak and he knew that Kadri had had health issues. Still he felt that Kadri might be the guy he was looking for. He couldn't really be much of a downgrade compared to the last year's crew, could he?

At any rate Kadri's cap hit of 2.2 million per seemed reasonable given that he had at this point become a wildcard choice.
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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Sun Mar 22, 2020 10:32 pm

2023-2024 - Fifth Season, Part 2: OK to be cocky like Ockey?


Training Camp

Unexpected problems with the attitude and physical fitness of several players. Coaching team were forced to hold panic meetings around the clock. Pressure was building up but the bottom cause could not be pin pointed. Drastic measures would be necessary.

Mr.Ockey always believed in strict discipline - which often was in stark contrast with his love for the artistic, emotionally loaded skill-based style of hockey he had learned in the Eastern Europe. His players with the Wings had always particularly enjoyed the preseason exhibition games because they felt they could more freely express themselves as players without the pressures of the regular season.

So mr.Ockey felt it would make sense to cancel the exhibition tour altogether that year. Instead he arranged a series of extremely harsh and demanding physical excercises for another five days right after the training camp. Players slowly stopped complaining as they ran out of energy. Ockey was satisfied - he'd shown who the boss was - but the other NHL teams that were supposed to participate in the canceled preseason tour were not equally satisfied.


October Closing In

Cap issues were still present as Ockey had not found a way to organize his puzzle the right way after having signed Kadri. When October was already behind the corner he finally found a solution, and by juggling a few players between the Griffins and the Wings he'd ended up with a nice even balance of zero point zero dollars of cap room - a job well done for sure.



Season Preview

Some would even call it a turning point, at least some of the crowd who were into what the media were saying. But Ockey didn't mind the fact that Detroit had been given an average rank of #14 in the NHL. Perhaps this could persuade the board to see his plan was actually working?

In other news, Alex Ovechkin was ranked as the #1 left winger in the league despite having reached the age of 38. Apparently the media had also noticed how Ovie had evolved his game in order to adapt to the growing demands as his skating was slowing down. The controversial Norris-winner Brännström was again #1 ranked on the list of NHL defensemen. Additionally, three prospects drafted by mr.Ockey himself were featured in the top ten prospects in the league: Goalie Taylor Gauthier, winger Erik Larsson and center Anton Lundell. For once Ockey seemed to agree with the media - he did see potential in these young players.



STARTING DEPTH CHART


Ovechkin - Larkin - Tomasino
Bertuzzi - Lundell - Mantha
Athanasiou - Kadri - Niederreiter
Gutik - Veleno - Shaw

Brännström - Vatanen
Brodie - Nemeth
DeKeyser - Hronek

1.Askarov 2.Gauthier



Prospect note:

The only prospect who had been called up based on his last season performance was the 21-year old Finn,Anton Lundell. A well-rounded two-way forward he was perhaps not seen as a top end talent but he seemed to play a reliable game and had scored more than his skill set indicated.
Last edited by TurboJ on Tue Mar 24, 2020 8:06 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Sun Mar 22, 2020 10:43 pm

2023-2024 - Fifth Season, Part 3: Someone can play center, right?


Notes on the 2023-2024 Season.


November

*Despite the problems with the training camp, the start was strong seeing the Red Wings lead the Eastern Conference after 16 games played. Special teams were slowly improving. But even though the overall results were good, the team had a tendency to completely lose their game every now and again. One example being the beating of 8-1 administered by the Oilers.

*Ironically Goalie Askarov had stayed healthy despite a heavy work load - but the backup guy Gauthier was injured for 4 months.


December

*Askarov posted his first NHL shutout helped by a great performance by the defensemen. Brännström and Vatanen had a total of six points between them in that game.

*A curious signing was made to fill in for Gauthier. Calvin Pickard was still a free agent and his willingness to play in the NHL ended up outweighing his dislike towards Ockey. Jonathan Bernier on the other hand would go onto finish his career in the second tier German league.

*At one point five roster players were on the IR at the same time and AHL team had multiple injuries as well; for a while the Red Wings had no choice but to play with ten forwards and five D-men.

*Doug Weight joined the Detroit coaching team 19th of December. Interestingly he and a fellow Michigan man Blashill ended up forming a perfect combination in terms of coaching style and ideology. Red Wings now had three coaches strictly for offensive training. How was Ockey able to get all these big name coaches to sign with him? It was often wondered and speculated upon, but in reality Ockey had taken a very traditional businessman's approach to it. He simply threw exuberant amounts of money at them and made lots of empty promises. But few would ever know about the latter part.

*Also on 19th December Dylan Larkin was noted to be living up to the expectations having scored 51 points in his first 36 games. However, others were scoring a ton as well; Connor McDavid of the Oilers had put up 54 points in the same time and his teammate Leon Draisaitl was almost on the same pace.


January

*The Griffins had been steadily improving and a couple of fringe prospects had become much more promising. Ockey's 2021 top pick Erik Larsson had finally found his confidence on his third AHL season.

*On the negative side, T.J. Brodie had remained reluctant to negotiate an extension since July. Ockey was getting more than a little worried that his very expensive aquisition would be gone after just two seasons. Were that to happen, replacing him would be extremely difficult. Every effort was put into continuing the negotiations. Somehow Ockey had managed to ignore the fact that his own future was very uncertain. But looking back it was probably good for the team that he'd started to think long term despite his doubts regarding his own career.

*Also on the list of bad news had been Nazem Kadri's performance. Kadri had not been able to do his job. Zero goals in 39 games. Small role, big role, offense, defense, they had tried everything. But all Kadri could accomplish was a big pile of penalty minutes.

Ockey never did like to make mid-season trades. But this time he felt he had to. It was difficult to find a way to get rid of the Kadri contract but finally Arizona agreed to give him a go. They were struggling in their push for playoffs and they felt adding a little sandpaper couldn't hurt. Ockey only managed a '25 3rd rounder in return and once again found himself one centerman short.

...meanwhile, Barrett Hayton had been cleared by the doctors to play with the Griffins. But he was a distant shadow of his former self and would soon turn 24 - maybe hopes that he would ever reach the level once expected of him were unrealistic. Regarding Hayton's case Ockey was once heard admitting he wasn't a 100% sure whether he'd made the right call with him. Which was a very rare thing for Ockey to say.



Trade Deadline

When other GMs typically had their busiest day of the year, Harrison Ockey was different. He didn't do the whole deadline thing unless he had no choice. That day in 2024 mr.Ockey was ice fishing in Alberta and he'd left his phone at the hotel.


Towards the end of the season...

Despite many injuries the Wings had been almost dominant and were persistently able to maintain an overall standing in the top 5. Surprisingly, after 60 games had been played their scoring suddenly died and a clear explanation was never found. With the scoring they lost their strength and only weaknesses would remain. There was a moment when their spot in the playoffs seemed to be slipping away.

Luckily the final run ended up being very strong. The team had worked hard to find their composure again. With highly professional defensive stance, newly found depth scoring and individual sacrifice they would prevail. Finally the regular season was over with the Red Wings achieving a 2nd overall position.

There was something that was universally seen as a sign of positive progress. The goals for vs. goals against ratio had begun to improve. Scoring had been the first thing Ockey had fixed when he took the GM job - later it was known that was one of the few things you could count on with Ockey. But the defensive aspect had been badly absent despite icing a very capable crew of defensemen. In the earlier seasons the Wings would typically be within top 5 in scoring and within bottom 5 in goals allowed. In the season 2023-2024 the defensive side had started to reach an acceptable level. Naturally most people were saying this was mere luck - it was mr.Ockey's team they were talking about. Of course the defense would soon crumple again.

Looking at the playoffs though, everything was an open book once again. Although strong during the regular season, the Wings had also shown inconsistency and a loss of identity. Results were still too heavily dependent on a few individual players' performance and the team still lacked playoff experience big time.



They finished 2nd overall with .701 (55-22-5)



Top 6 forwards:

1.Dylan Larkin (C) with 48 goals 63 assists for 111 points in 82 games
2.Anthony Mantha (RW) with 49 goals 44 assists for 93 points in 82 games
3.Philip Tomasino (RW) with 46 goals 46 assists for 92 points in 82 games
4.Alex Ovechkin (LW) with 42 goals 48 assists for 90 points in 82 games
5.Anton Lundell (C) with 20 goals 43 assists for 63 points in 77 games
6.Andreas Athanasiou (LW) with 21 goals 26 assists for 47 points in 78 games


Top 3 defensemen

1. Erik Brännström with 13 goals 48 assists for 61 points in 77 games
2. Sami Vatanen with 3 goals 46 assists for 49 points in 78 games
3. Patrik Nemeth with 2 goals 29 assists for 31 points in 82 games


Team leader in +/- Philip Tomasino with +59
Most penalty minutes: Tyler Bertuzzi with 71 PIM
Highest avg. time on ice for a defenseman: Erik Brännström with 22.30
Highest avg. time on ice for a forward: Dylan Larkin with 19.41

#1 Goal tender Yaroslav Askarov with 57 starts: 2.39GAA, 0.911 save pct. and 41 wins (41-11-3)
Last edited by TurboJ on Tue Mar 24, 2020 2:59 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Wings have fallen. Harrison Ockey to the rescue!

Post by TurboJ » Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:07 am

Playoffs 2024, Part 1


Going into the playoffs Ockey again felt that the team didn't show the required amount of preparation mentally. He couldn't quite tell whether it was lack of experience on the players' part - or lack of ambition. He knew the latter would not be in his power to fix.

Soon shrugging off such thoughts of honest reflection, Ockey himself still held hopes of personal success. He had learned that everywhere he went he'd continue to make new enemies. But after the strong regular season in 2023-2024 he could also see some people in the hockey world starting to show a level of respect. There were those who looked past his personality and could see some of his accomplishments. The majority however would always see any success of his as a result of someone else's work. Or perhaps a simple coincidence. Ockey, as usual, had no trouble ignoring the critics. But he felt an unfamiliar sense of insecurity about himself if he allowed his thoughts to wander upon what was going to happen after the playoffs.



The Great Eight

After the '23-'24 regular season Alexander Ovechkin had reached a total of 873 career goals in the NHL. Having scored more than 40 goals once again the buzz was very much on. Could he really make it? Could he become number one? At this point most would have said it was only a matter of time. Ovechkin had one more season left on his contract after all. The insiders however were not equally certain. Time was the question - but for them it was a different question. Their question was whether the #8 would even play hockey next season.
Last edited by TurboJ on Wed Mar 25, 2020 12:10 am, edited 3 times in total.

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