Before we delve into the mythology that surrounds Marian Hossa’s playoff performances, let’s first take a look at his superb lone season with the Detroit Red Wings.
There were plenty of times during the season that Hossa was the best player on the Red Wings. This was the same team Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg skated on, so this is hardly light praise.
Hossa gave the Wings stellar play in all three zones and was a cold-blooded assasin with the puck on his stick. He notched 40 goals, the third time he’s done that in his career. 10 of those goals came with the man advantage and 8 goals were game-winners.
My ever-lasting image of him in a Wings jersey will be the October 25th tilt against the Blackhawks. In a 1-1 shootout tie, Hossa picked up the puck at center ice, took about three strides into the zone, and rifled the puck over Nikolai Khabibulin’s shoulder for the winning tally. That’s what they call a goal scorer’s goal.
Hossa seemed to save his best performances last year for the Hawks. In 4 games last year, he notched 2 goals and 4 assists, with three of those assists coming in the Winter Classic. Then, in Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals, he had 2 goals and 3 assists. He also would’ve assisted the game-winner in Game 5 if Crisotbal Huet didn’t make the ‘Save of the Century’ to close out regulation.
What defined Hossa’s Red Wing career in many people’s eyes, though, was his performance during the playoffs. Statistically, 15 points in 23 games is nothing to scoff at. Unfortunately for Hossa, those points came in bunches so it appeared as though as he disappeared for stretches. If his current shoulder injury helps explain that, then maybe his postseason wasn’t so bad at all.
Something to keep in mind before the uneducated help sway your opinion about his past playoff performances: Hossa was arguably Pittsburgh’s best player in the previous year’s Cup run. He racked up 12 goals and 14 assists in 20 games. Before that, he put up some impressive numbers with the Ottawa Senators in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 playoffs.
To put into perspective how fickle people can be about the playoffs, we’re a year removed from various media outlets raking Evegeni Malkin over the coals for his performance against the Red Wings in the Finals. How does that look now?
Marian Hossa’s 2009-10 will be a success if…
Playing with Patrick Kane will invoke images of his Thrasher days. Hossa never put up better numbers in his career than when he skated with Marc Savard and Ilya Kovalchuk. In his two full seasons in Atlanta, he notched 92 and 100 points. If he skates on a line with Patrick Kane, there’s a very good chance his numbers will be just a tick below those. Hossa will be the true sniper that Kane has yet to play with at the NHL level. Of course, a lot of that depends on this…
Hossa is fully recovered from rotator cuff surgery. Nothing will be more of a cock-tease than if we’re constantly hearing about when Hossa may return. So far, the word is that he’ll be back by late November. If that’s the case, he’ll only have missed about 20-25 games and that wouldn’t be too bad at all. If it’s January and we still haven’t seen him, start lighting your torches and sharpening your pitchforks. Sure, it would be lovely if he could play the whole year, but he’s here for the remainder of his career, so I’m sure you’ll see him play a full season in the Indian Head at some point in the next decade.
Marian Hossa’s 2009-10 will be a disappointment if…
He averages less than 0.75 points per game. In his career, he has an average of 0.93 points per game. If he’s only playing in 60-something games next year, it would be a real drag if he can barely clip the 30 point barrier. Unlike every other player on the Hawks this year, Hossa won’t be judged by his final output. What’s more important, because of his limited playing time, will be how much he produces while he’s healthy.
He becomes the Blackhawks scapegoat for playoff failure. Fair or not, to many people, Marian Hossa was the reason the Wings lost in the Finals to the Penguins. He put a pretty big bullseye on his back by spurning the Penguins multi-year deal for a one-year deal with Detroit and up until the trade deadline, the move seemed like a no-brainer. Now, Hossa spurned the Wings for what amounts to a lifetime contract with the rival Blackhawks and he’ll be expected to produce in the bright lights of the playoffs. If he doesn’t, then the vultures won’t just be circling his carcass, they’ll be in full feasting mode.
Unlike last year’s two big free-agent signings for the Blackhawks, Hossa doesn’t come with any warning tags. He plays strong in all three zones and is one of the true elite talents in the NHL. Unfortunately, he went under the knife a couple months ago, so fans will have to wait another couple months to see their newest present unwrapped.
The way I see it, the Hawks will come roaring out of the gates to start the season, plateau as they gear up for the annual Thanksgiving trip, and in desperate need for some scoring. Enter Marian Hossa. If he brings anything his career numbers suggest, then it will be like making an in-season trade and should be enough to carry the Hawks through the rest of the season.
If he doesn’t, then God help us all.