Talbot bitter, angry about Hossa's exit
Marian Hossa joined the Detroit Red Wings this season after helping the Penguins reach the Stanley Cup finals last season. The Penguins play at Detroit tomorrow night.
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Max Talbot understands how unrestricted free agency works and why, in July, Marian Hossa was allowed to choose the team for which he wanted to play.
He just doesn't get why Hossa, who had joined the Penguins at the trade deadline and helped them come within two victories of a championship in June, decided to abandon them in favor of Detroit, the club that beat the Penguins in the Stanley Cup final.
And, all these months later, Hossa's decision still stings him. A lot.
"Oh, yeah," Talbot said. "There's [anger]. You can't forget about something like that because everybody in the organization and [the players], we expected him to come back. We thought he was comfortable here, and he was really good with [Sidney Crosby as his center], and stuff.
"The way he left was kind of, [a blow] to the heart, but you have to live with that. ... You have to respect his decision, but, for us, it's not the best thing that could have happened."
No, probably not. Not when Hossa is one of the game's finest two-way forwards and, 13 games into this season, has established himself as the Red Wings' leading scorer, with eight goals and nine assists.
"He makes that team even better than it was last year," defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
Hossa is playing with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom on what has been Detroit's best line and will be looking to pad his statistics when the Penguins visit Joe Louis Arena at 7:08 p.m. tomorrow.
But, even though Hossa's former teammates, pretty much to a man, wish he had remained with the Penguins, Talbot is one of the few -- if not the only one -- to express any real bitterness.
Even Crosby, who formed an extremely productive partnership with Hossa during the playoffs, insists he has no hard feelings over Hossa's departure.
"He earned the right to make that decision," Crosby said. "As much as you wanted to have him back, it's up to him, and he has to do what's in his best interest.
"It would have been nice [if he'd re-signed], especially for me. I loved playing with him. Selfishly, it was good. But it's up to him."
That seems to be the near-consensus in the Penguins' locker room, where Hossa was appreciated for his contributions to the Penguins' success and popular on a personal level.
"He was a great teammate," Orpik said. "I wouldn't say he's quiet, but he kept to himself. He got along with everyone, fit in really well and his work ethic was second to none, in practice and games."
Winger Pascal Dupuis, acquired from Atlanta in the trade that landed Hossa, offered the same basic assessment.
"He was a great teammate," Dupuis said. "He plays hard, he likes everybody, he smiles all the time. He minds his own business. That's what makes him a good teammate."
Mind you, Hossa's on-ice contributions had a lot to do with that, too. He led the Penguins with 12 goals in the playoffs, and his 26 points placed him ahead of everyone on the team except Crosby.
Because he was so well-liked by most of his former teammates, Hossa isn't likely to be targeted for any special physical abuse tomorrow. Of course, given that he's 6 feet 1 and 210 solid pounds, hitting Hossa isn't usually much of a deterrent, anyway.
Orpik, who had a league-high 56 hits before last night, figures to make contact with him a few times over the course of the game, but realizes that hitting him doesn't necessarily translate to knocking Hossa off his game.
"I think people saw how strong he is on his feet," Orpik said. "He's a pretty physical guy, himself. He's hard to play against."
The Penguins will be reminded of that tomorrow, and it might not always be pleasant. If it's any consolation, though, they don't seem likely to second-guess anything involved in Hossa's departure, including the decision not to lobby him to stay.
"I didn't think we really had to," Crosby said. "He enjoyed the city. We had a great run. We had a great group of guys. There were no issues. It was up to him, as to what were the important factors in his decision.
"As a team, as a city, as teammates, there's nothing we could have done differently. He knows what it's about. He played with us, got a pretty good idea, went though a great playoff run.
"I think he knew everything there was to know. He took all that in and made his decision."
First Published November 10, 2008 12:00 am