How important are the Detroit Red Wings to NBC?
All of their announcers made sure the fans knew that the Red Wings were robbed in their 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday afternoon regarding a disputed goal that shouldn't have counted.
Sunday, the Red Wings put on a good show in their 4-3 shootout loss to Original Six rival, the Chicago Black Hawks at the Joe Louis Arena. NBC knows that the best thing that can happen to the Red Wings is despite the fact that they have several key players participating in the upcoming Vancouver Olympics, that it's vital the Red Wings get healthy during the break and make a strong second half run to get into the playoffs.
The network has scheduled a Stanley Cup Finals rematch between the Red Wings and defending champions Pittsburgh Penguins in Pennsylvania on January 31, which happens to be the same day as the NFL Pro Bowl.
Sidney Crosby against the trio of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom will still give the game plenty of star power. Will it matter what the records of these two franchises will be? I doubt it but as the Red Wings get more players back from injuries, this contest figures to be a dandy.
How Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock and General Manager Ken Holland are holding up is anyone's guess. In my opinion, they're both geniuses because the team is still contending for a playoff spot despite the off-season losses of Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelson, Ty Conklin and Chris Chelios.
By letting Conklin depart, this forced Holland to find out what he has with rookie Jimmy Howard and the young goaltender has responded by being the workhorse and turning veteran goalkeeper Chris Osgood into a backup role. What happens should the Red Wings return to the post-season remains to be seen.
But you can limit the checkbook of Red Wings Owner Mike Illitch due to a salary cap and stop the Red Wings from spending and being the NHL's version of the New York Yankees, but 27 straight post-season appearances, four Stanley Cup Championships and six trips to the Finals are still what makes Detroit "America's Team." All you have to do is travel to opposing stadiums and you'll see plenty of red and white jersey's and a huge following that says "Lets Go Red Wings" in these sold out stadiums.
While Crosby is expected to carry the superstar tag on him into the new decade, he'll need help that his key rivals are playing well to help the NHL's chance of staying on national television.
Even though the Chicago Black Hawks are building a good young team and are finally playing well, until they start to win Stanley Cups, it will be hard to take them completely serious. Yet, being an Original Six team, I'm always hoping to see the day where the Stanley Cup Finals does have an Original Six matchup.
A Detroit, Chicago series against the Boston Bruins or New York Rangers would be a dream for NBC.
But if Montreal or Toronto made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, against the Red Wings or Black Hawks, I'm sure the executives at NBC wouldn't complain because of the traditions of the Canadiens or Maple Leafs.
They could play up the North American angle and a USA versus Canada match-up does feature an Us versus Them theme.
But for now, I'll still be curious to see how many times the Red Wings appear on NBC's Game of the Week on Sunday's therefore, the entire country will know how important this marque franchise is to it's weekly ratings.
Even though it's a pipe dream right now, I doubt the USA audience would complain if the Red Wings and Penguins were to meet for the third straight year in the NHL Finals. I know NBC wouldn't mind a rubber match series with the score currently tied 1-1.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com and his blog is on www.scottsports33.com.