Five questions with Detroit Red Wings blog Winging It In Motown

Joel Auerbach

"Atlantic Division rivals Detroit and Tampa Bay" still has a funny ring to it, doesn't it? Perhaps it's high time we got acclimated a little better with our neighbors?

It's a contradiction o be the new guy on the block and yet one of the most versed dependable entities in the neighborhood... That's the Detroit Red Wings this season after being moved into the Eastern Conference and joining other storied franchises in the Atlantic Division... Oh, and those two expansion clubs in Florida joined the party too.

We all adapt to a life where the Wings and the Tampa Bay Lightning are direct divisional rivals, and that also means that we (as a community of fans) should get to know a bit more about the Wings and the community of the winged wheel that presides at Winging It In Motown. We've done a Q and A with them regarding the switcheroo to the East, the development system of Hockeytown USA, and a bit more.

Head over to Winging It In Motown if you're not familiar with them or their coverage. They're a huge community of passionate and proud fans. Yes, you may meet octopi on such an endeavor, but you'll live and could make some friends along the way.

Another reason to cross over to WIIM is because we at Raw Charge had answered a couple of questions about the Lightning for them.

Two and a half months are just about done with in this NHL season, and that gives a good enough sample size to give an opinion on things - just what do you guys think of the Eastern Conference and how do you like the Atlantic Division competition so far?

Honestly, I'm thankful we're not in the Central Division right now, where a record similar to ours would have us on the outside of the playoff picture. The Wings have so far been disappointing and I feel fortunate that the rest of the conference seems to be following suit. There are opportunities to right the ship and take charge that I'm not sure would be there over in the West.

The Wings being 5-4-2 against the Atlantic is not going to cut it for that though. Two straight losses to the Panthers are a badly wasted opportunity to get ahead, even without some of Detroit's best players in the lineup. But, somehow the Wings have won 2/3 against the Bruins, so go figure on that piece I guess. Playing to their own level rather than to the level of the competition would be nice.

It's no secret that almost everything Yzerman does as GM is based on what he learned there. That said, look at what Holland did this offseason -- added Weiss and Alfredsson -- which kept some of their deserving young forward off the NHL roster until recently, while Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Andrej Sustr and other home grown Lightning products made the opening night lineup for TB. Is it possible to be too patient with development?

It is possible to be too patient with development and we absolutely are seeing that in Detroit, although not to the extent that I think people are saying. The Weiss signing was a necessary piece for a team that couldn't afford to take a risk at the 2C position (especially with where their prospects are in that regard). Alfredsson was a bit of a surprise, but I think it would have been a mistake for them not to jump at the chance to sign him. Right now, in December, the Red Wings' most-NHL-ready prospects are with the team learning. It took longer than it should have to put Gustav Nyquist in the roster every night, but he, Tatar, Brian Lashoff, Brendan Smith, and Joakim Andersson are all pieces which belong on a roster every night.

Looking at the still-developing guys, there's a handful of them down there which are very close to sink-or-swim territory (Riley Sheahan, Landon Ferraro, Ryan Sproul and Adam Almquist), but it's doing them more good to play big minutes in the AHL right now than to play intermittently for the Wings as the seventh defenseman or the 15th forward. I think the mistakes Ken Holland have made in regards to not having enough youth on the roster are more tied to injury risks and too much loyalty to veterans more than a current issue of not trusting NHL-ready youth to play through the learning curve.

It was announced Tuesday that The Captain, Steve Yzerman, will be suiting up and playing in the 2013/14 Hockeytown Winter Festival Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park. How much does this mean to Wings fans that Stevie's taking time out from his busy schedule (GM of the Lightning, GM of Canada's men's ice hockey Olympic team) to participate?

I can't adequately put into words how much it means to Red Wings fans to have Steve Yzerman back in a Winged Wheel representing them, even for a short time. I think the years since his retirement have forced many of us to think of him more as the executive than the heart and soul of the franchise, but even the announcement he'd be coming to play in whatever capacity he's capable brings those feelings back to the forefront.

I guarantee you that when Yzerman takes the ice for the first shift in the Alumni Showdown, the only dry eyes in the building will belong to those heathen Leafs fans who don't appreciate what a special moment it will be.

Speaking of the Olympics... Does Jimmy Howard get named Team USA's starter?

At this point, it's safe to call it a longshot for Howard to be the starter for Team USA, even with the relative struggles of some other candidates. I think the job is Ryan Miller's spot to lose right now and I don't see him losing that, considering Jimmy's struggles in net. Right now, I'm more worried about him even making the team than I am about him being named the starter.

Touchy subject of economics of Detroit - the city's bankruptcy can proceed according to a judge and we'll try to abstain from all the politics of it. Is this going to have an effect on the Wings going forward? What about the new arena?

Trying not to get too deep into it for brevity's sake, the money set aside for the arena isn't in funds which are directly controlled or maintained by the city, so the bankruptcy filing shouldn't have an effect on the funding other than the possibility that between now and when they actually start building the entertainment district (which will be less than half filled both real-estate wise and money-wise by the Red Wings' new arena), that somebody with the power to borrow, redirect, or flat-out abscond with the money will be able to do so. That's not supposed to be done, but crazier things have happened in politics than somebody putting their hands into a pot of money which isn't theirs.

The majority of the funding dollars which are going toward this project will be collected by a Downtown Development Authority separate from the City of Detroit. Businesses in the downtown corridor pay into this authority and that money is specifically earmarked toward improving the downtown area in order to create an area around which a solid tax base might actually want to inhabit. Opinions abound on whether it's an idea which will work, but the majority of the vitriol being thrown about comes from people who don't understand that this was never part of the city's overall tax revenue and would be a mere drop into a leaky bucket if forcibly redirected into the bankruptcy proceedings.

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