Egad no hockey?
With the 2004-5 NHL hockey season in doubt, Red Wingsitis withdrawal has already begun. No training sessions in Traverse City. Pre-season games are a goner. It is hard to believe, but the entire regular season and playoffs may be cancelled due to a labor dispute. Seriously.
Many of us are ready to cry. Who among us will not feel a tug of the heart when realizing that there will be no highlight reel goals from Pavel Datsyuk, no deft passes from Stevie Yzerman, and especially no blood and mayhem from Darren McCarty fisticuffs? It is going to be a long winter.
By the way, congratulations to the 2004 Detroit Tigers, winners of 30 more games than last years debacle. No, they werent a threat for the playoffs this season but they arent far from being a good team. Seriously. The Tigers already have one of the best hitting squads in the league and a young starting pitching staff that is on schedule to be solid next year.
The problem is relief pitching and it is a big problem. No lead was big enough for the Tigers, as their opponents came from deficits of 5 runs or more behind on many occasions to beat them last year. It didnt help that they lost their best reliever in mid-season, Ugueth Urbina, when his mother was kidnapped in his native Venezuela.
If manager Alan Trammell somehow finds a couple of solid relief pitchers (and Urbina finds his mother) to complement his rapidly improving young team, the Tigers skipper may soon return the team to its past glory.
The 2004 Detroit Lions will not be the answer to filling the slack left by the Red Wings. Coach Steve Mariuccis squad is wracked with injuries once again. The team is improved despite the deflating loss of 2003 number one pick Charles Rogers again for the season and a tough schedule ahead stacked with difficult opponents on most weeks.
This years top draft pick Roy Williams has been incredible, so far. Williams looks like a man among boys when battling for Joey Harringtons passes and has a good chance for Rookie-of-the-Year honors. Next year, when Rogers is healthy
If Dre Bly comes back soon from injuries to solidify the defensive backfield, this team could win half of its games this season. Seriously. A .500 record should be enough to ensure Coach-of-the-Year honors for Mariucci.
Without hockey and another rebuilding season possible for the Lions, this years version of the Detroit Pistons will be the focus of Michigan sports fans like never before.
What a difference a year can make. Last season, the Pistons sneaked up on everyone with their blue-collar, defensive approach to each game.
This year, the Pistons already have a bulls-eye on their backs as the pre-season pick to win the NBA championship once again. Suddenly the Eastern Conference is much tougher than recent years Indiana, New Jersey, and Miami are all improved. Every team, though, will be gunning for the defending champs from Motown.
What will they do for an encore? The scary thing is that the Pistons could conceivably be much better than last year. Several players such as Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, and Tayshaun Prince are still coming into their prime with their best seasons ahead.
Newcomer Carlos Delfino, fresh from the gold-medal winning Argentina team, is ready to make an impact in the NBA. The gifted Rasheed Wallace will spend the entire year with the Pistons after coming to the team late last season. And what more can you say about the presence of the Fro, Ben Wallace.
Whatever you think about the Pistons chances, dont give up on Darko Milicic - the Pistons havent. Having just turned 19, Milicic is not ready to make a serious contribution this year. When the 7 foot tall Darko finally grows up in a couple of years, he will be a force in the NBA.