A year ago, Dominik Hasek had just won the Stanley Cup, capping his first year with the Detroit Red Wings after nine with the Buffalo Sabres (and a few forgettable ones in Chicago) in grand style. Having accomplished the one thing he came to Detroit to do, Hasek retired, returning home to the Czech Republic to raise his children.
And now he wants to come back.
Hasek's retirement last summer left the Wings scrambling to pick up a free agent netminder to replace him. They set their sights on Toronto's Curtis Joseph and signed him to a three-year, $24 million deal. Two years of that deal still remain.
And now Hasek wants to come back. After taking a year off. To the Red Wings. Who already have a top-level goalie.
This causes more trouble than good for the Red Wings. Should Hasek return, the Wings can excercise their $8 million option on him for next season and attempt to trade Joseph. Or they can let Hasek become a free agent and sign anywhere, including with the arch-rival Colorado Avalanche, who are looking to replace retired legend Patrick Roy.
Either way, the Red Wings will be forced to give up an expensive, world-class goaltender. And it looks like Joseph will be the odd man out.
Detroit's WXYT-AM reported Wednesday that the Wings had agreed to bring Hasek back, assuming they can trade Joseph. The same report said that Detroit was in talks with the Philadelphia Flyers about sending Cujo to them.
This is all wrong.
Hasek hasn't played goal in the NHL in over a year. He's thirty-eight years old. Who knows how rusty he might be?
He's already claimed the Stanley Cup, the only goal he had left when he came to Detroit in the summer of 2001. What's to say he'll play with the same passion he had that year?
Joseph was blamed by many for the Red Wings' 2003 playoff meltdown, a four-game sweep by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the first round. Joseph complied a 2.08 GAA in those games. He let in some soft goals but he stopped more. Still, he became the scapegoat, nevermind the Wings' offence that couldn't score three goals in a single game.
Now it comes down to picking between Hasek and Joseph. And it looks like the Red Wings want to make the wrong choice.
There is nothing that says Hasek is more likely to lead the Wings to a Cup next year than Joseph. Hasek's contract would last only one year while Joseph's is for two. It is too much of a risk to bring Dominik Hasek back to Detroit.
I'll say that again, more strongly: The Wings should not bring Dominik Hasek back.
Scotty Bowman told Canada's TSN that Hasek would come back only if Detroit would bring him back. That fixes everything, now there's no need to worry about Hasek jumping ship to the Avalanche.
The Red Wings need to tell Hasek, "Sorry, Dom, you had your chance to stick with us and you didn't want it." There is no reason they should bring him back.