Hossa must see something many don't in Detroit

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Have you seen that commercial where the guy is encamped on the sofa with his woman, hostage to some tear-jerker chick flick, when he's interrupted by a ring tone alerting him to cell phone photos of his buddies, all busily gambling and canoodling and partying in ...

Detroit?

Honest to God.

Well, Marian Hossa saw it, or at least that's the most plausible explanation for yesterday's events, because Sidney Crosby's right winger with the Penguins signed a one-year free-agent hockey contract for $7.4 million with the Detroit Red Wings, who beat the Penguins in the Stanley Cup final last month. Mr. Hossa settled for up to $74 million less than he might have gotten on a multiyear deal from any number of breathless suitors, I guess because, like our man in the commercial, Mr. Hossa doesn't want to lament that, given the available choices, he could have "done the 'D.' "

Of course, that's not the way Mr. Hossa put it.

"When I looked at it, I wanted to have the best chance to win the Stanley Cup, and I felt Detroit is that team," he said in an evening conference call from somewhere in Europe. "I knew I could get more somewhere else. But of all the teams I could choose from, at the top there were two teams [Detroit and Pittsburgh], and at the end of the day I had to make a decision, and I felt best about Detroit.

"Pittsburgh has a great team, great people, great organization. I had to compare the two teams, and there's a little better chance to win the Cup in Detroit. I had a great time with Sid and playing on the power play with Geno [Evgeni Malkin], but the team in Detroit is something special. I know it's a short term, but we never talked about a one-year [deal] with Pittsburgh. We just talked about a long-term deal. I totally believe Detroit has the kind of team that can win it again."

Really.

You know I could point out here that the difference between the Penguins and the Red Wings, fresh from the same delicious Stanley Cup final, needn't be measured in miles. I could point out that if Marian Hossa gets to Mr. Crosby's last-second rebound in Game 6 a split second quicker, or if Marian Hossa shows up at all for Games 1 and 2, that the Stanley Cup might today be in the possession of his employer as of the day before yesterday, but no.

I'm not saying that.

Mr. Hossa was a force for the Penguins, well worth the gamble general manager Ray Shero took Feb. 26 in trading potentially a small fortune for him, and worthy of all due respect. But the summer sometimes brings a more visceral fallout.

So there is this: In the space of 29 days, Detroit rips from Pittsburgh its fiercest playoff predator, Mr. Hossa; its backup goaltender, Ty Conklin, who put a mesmeric spell on opponents in the injured absence of Marc-Andre Fleury; and, oh yeah, the Stanley Cup itself and all of its fashionably glorious cache. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, all diverted to the same increasingly maddening destination.

Pittsburgh thinks often of Cleveland as its rival metropolis, and sometimes of Philadelphia, but with this week's free-agent fiasco, is there a place somewhere generating more frowns 'round town than Motown?

The research that begot the ad campaign extolling Detroit's "hot cars, cutting edge music, Vegas-style gaming, diverse culture, and championship sports" reportedly concluded that among 11 regional cities, including Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, Detroit was the only one perceived to offer a travel experience appealing primarily to young adults 21 to 34.

Mr. Hossa is 29.

Yeah, they're geniuses out there.

The exhaustively analyzed free-agent period, still less than 72 hours old, now has the feel of failure for the Penguins, but that's probably not right.

Mr. Hossa was a stinging loss because, unlike Ryan Malone, Jarkko Ruutu, Adam Hall, Mr. Conklin and their ilk, Mr. Hossa is irreplaceable. The club could spend years trying to fill that void, but it was never terribly realistic that the Penguins could have Mr. Crosby, Mr. Malkin and Mr. Hossa at the same time for an extended period. By signing Mr. Malkin this week, Mr. Shero did pretty much half the optimum in terms of keeping his indispensables. A long-term arrangement with Mr. Fleury remains a must, and room under the salary cap must be prepared.

In his conference call the day he landed with his fourth team in four years, Mr. Hossa said again and again what a difficult decision he'd just made, and how he felt good about it, almost as if he were still trying to convince himself of that.

He apparently won't be dissuaded until it's clear the Red Wings won't win a second consecutive Cup, and if it were the Penguins who precluded that eventuality early next June, some wounds around here might close.

Wonder if Mr. Hossa would take a one-year deal to play in Pittsburgh in 2009-10?

Man, we need one of those commercials.


Gene Collier can be reached at gcollier@post-gazette.com .


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