Amidst the mumbling of fair-weather fans, critics and realists scattered throughout the world of hockey, there are a few helpless romantics that love a good comeback and a Cinderella story. I would dare to venture that Michigan-based fans specifically, know the the rollercoaster-esque feelings that our local sports teams can induce. This season, in the world of NHL hockey, none understand it better than Red Wings fans. Through the tumultuous regular season, we’ve been jilted, heartbroken, encouraged, enraged and the list goes on. Underlying every good drama, is a glimmer of hope. Albeit small glimmer, but one nonetheless. With the 25-consecutive playoff appearance record now hanging by a thread, Detroit fans are reaching for anything to believe in – myself included. Rising from from the ashes are a handful of bright prospects. Young men with the vision and talent it takes, if properly developed, to continue the legacy that is the Detroit Red Wings.
Tallying 31 points so far this season as a Grand Rapids Griffin, Robbie Russo was selected by Detroit to make his NHL debut March 7th. The 24 year old defenseman was thrown into the mix. Averaging 20 shifts in each of the 3 games he’s played in the NHL so far, not including today’s matchup against the New York Rangers. Russo has put up one shot on goal and is currently a -1 overall in his NHL career. Back home in Grand Rapids, he’s consistently shown himself to be a key facet in a play, but seldom getting the “glory.” In 56 games played in the AHL regular season, Russo has had 24 assists and 7 goals.
Where is the hope in all of these numbers, you may ask? Consistency. That’s where the hope is. Russo, though still fresh meat to the NHL, he has proven untimely ability to move the puck, anticipate plays, and demonstrate poise every shift. Consistency is not a word that would be synonymous with the Wings this season, but with Russo’s refreshing constant nature, there may yet be some hope.
There’s no saying how long he’ll be with the Wings before he rejoins his fellow AHL-ers, but combined with the offensive edge the Wings have suddenly culminated, the young blood obtained from Grand Rapids may be just what Detroit needed. The romantic in me is believing that this was all we needed – a jumpstart. The fairweather fans and analysts may disagree. Its a long shot, yes. With understated leaders like Robbie Russo paired with our veteran (and very able) captain, Zetterberg, the Wings may yet have a chance at prolonging their playoff appearance record.