On July 2nd, 2008, my wife picked up my buzzing cell phone as I had just received a text message. It was from my brother and he was cursing out unrestricted free agent Marian Hossa. I figured, "Oh well, I guess he left the Pens. I kind of figured that might happen." Maria continued to read the message saying that Hossa was on the Red Wings. My eyes were wide open with shock, "What?!". Hossa had turned his back on the Penguins for a team that almost everyone in the city hated. Hossa leaving was one thing, but going to the Red Wings was another. The city was outraged, while I was excited to have a top notch talent added to my team.
It made perfect sense. Even before Hossa was traded to the Penguins, he expressed a desire to play in Detroit. The Wings system and his style of play were a perfect fit and his good friend Tomas Kopecky was on the Wings as well. They signed him to a one year deal worth $7.45 mil. With Zetterberg and Franzen set to become free agents in the next off season, I kind of figured that Hossa was on the team for just this year and I was fine with that.
As the season started the addition of Marian Hossa proved to be big for the Wings as they were dealing with a Stanley Cup hangover and the usual dominant Detroit defense was sloppy, creating a lot of high scoring games. Hossa was up to the challenge as he bailed out the team on several occasions. He finished as the teams leading goal scorer with 40 goals (8 game winning) and was becoming a fan favorite. He did everything. He scored, he back checked, he even got into a fight with the Predators Ryan Suter at the Joe Louis Arena to chorus of cheers. The players, coaches and fans were embracing this player that passed up big money elsewhere to come to Detroit and try to win a Stanley Cup.
Despite his actions, Wings GM Ken Holland opened up the franchise checkbook and locked up, future captain, Henrik Zetterberg for life with a 12 year extension and power forward Johan Franzen with an 11 year extension. Fans were a little worried that with the salary cap, this would squeeze Hossa off the team, but Hossa said time and time again that he would be willing to take less to stay with this team and Holland said he would reach out to Marian with the best offer the team could make.
As the playoffs got underway, Hossa looked nothing like his regular season self and looked more like the poor playoff performer he was labeled before going to Pittsburgh. His defense was good, but his offense was non-existent. He scored just 2 goals in each of the first three rounds of the playoffs. Despite his absence on the score sheet, Detroit was able to make it to the Finals for the second straight season and play his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. In this championship round, Hossa went from being a playoff choker to a playoff joke. No one had more pressure on him in that series, but still he failed to score a single goal in the seven game series as his team lost by one goal in the final game. A crushing loss for the Wings, an even more crushing loss for him as he got to watch his old team hoist the Cup.
I felt bad for the guy. He passes up more money because he wants to win a championship so badly, comes to Detroit and falls just one game short and now his former team and fans gets to rub it in his face. There was always next year though. The team will be more focused, better defensively and will have their hunger back. Ken Holland offered Hossa a deal that would keep him a Red Wing for life. It was somewhere around $4 mil per year cap hit, which means he'd still make around $6 or $7 mil for the first 6 years of the deal, then it would trail off to lower the hit. At that point, he would either retire, get bought out or renegotiate a new deal. For a guy that has expressed such a strong desire to play in Detroit, it seemed like a no brainer. Then it happened. On July 1st, 2009, less than one year after he signed with the Wings, Hossa turns on his old team yet again and joins a team that his old team and fans would hate... the Chicago Blackhawks.
I don't get it. I don't get it from every point of view. I don't understand why he would leave the Wings, a team that he fit in with and came within one game of a championship with, to join the Blackhawks, a team that the Wings beat in 5 games without Datsyuk and Lidstrom. I don't understand it from the Blackhawks angle. They're a good young team with a lot of young superstars whose contracts will be up for renewal at the end of the the 09-10 season. They have their own version of Crosby and Malkin with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. With Hossa's contract on the books for 12 years, they risk losing these players along with a few other good young players. I don't get why Hossa would sign a lifetime deal with a franchise he's never played with before. Typically, if you sign a long term deal like this, you know what you're getting yourself into. In this situation, he doesn't know the city, the management, the coaches, the players, or the system. He could flop right out of the gate. Its a bizarre move for both Hossa and the Blackhawks and another tough loss for the Wings less than a month after suffering a tough loss in the Finals. No, Pens fans, the irony isn't lost on me.
Before July 1st, I said I would support and cheer for Hossa even if he left the Wings because I didn't want to be like the Pens fans were this past season with the hatred towards this nice, quiet, "shys away from confrontation" kind of guy. But blowing off the Wings, to sign with their rivals for just a little more cash... I can't do it. He could have signed with the Kings, Wild, Rangers, Sharks, Bruins, whomever. But the Blackhawks, nope. Can't do it. He's even making the same stupid mistakes this time around as well. When asked why he left Detroit, he said, "They have a chance to win the Cup". Hasn't he learned anything from what just happened to him this past season? Now he gets to play his spurned former team at least 6 times a year for the rest of his career. Will this guy ever learn? Now I along with other Wings fans can join Pens fans in bashing this mercenary that just keeps making one bad decision after another with his career.