Ilta-Sanomat’s Tommi Koivunen wrote an article regarding Valtteri Filppula’s return to the Red Wings (Filppula happened to take part in an annual tennis tournament featuring NHL players and alumni over the weekend), and here’s a very rough translation thereof (Finnish is…complicated):
Valtteri Filppula didn’t dare to stop at traffic lights–now he returns to the notorious NHL city
NHL veteran Valtteri Filppula returns to the familiar surroundings of the Detroit Red Wings.
Detroit has a reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.
The statistics support the reputation: last year, Detroit dropped out of the top spot in violent crime statistics of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Only St. Louis had more.
“The center of the city is such that when I played there last time, there wasn’t much to do there except for games. Instead, the suburbs were really nice,” says Valtteri Filppula, who played for Detroit from 2004-2013.
“On one hand, its reputation is going in the right direction. I remember in the first few years I wasn’t going to stop moving, especially when I was alone. At the traffic lights I kept going to keep the car moving all the time.”
In recent years, Filppula has traveled in the city center late with his teammates as a visitor.
“There is now a safer vibe,” says Filppula, who returns to the music city known as Hockeytown for the next season.
Familiar GM’s fought
Familiar and safe. That’s what the Detroit Red Wings are sure to be for Filppula, who celebrated a Stanley Cup victory there in 2008.
It’s also a homecoming of sorts for Filppula and GM Steve Yzerman. The team’s captain ended his career due to a bad leg in 2005, when the Finn took his first steps in the same organization.
Since then, Yzerman signed Filppula in Tampa Bay with the Lightning in the summer of 2013. Earlier this year, Yzerman, who moved from Tampa to Detroit as GM, recruited Filppula back to the Red Wings. So the circle closes.
“We’ve always had a good relationship. It seems that I’ve been a favorite player for him. That’s what it’s about, so it’s nice to feel that you’re wanted,” Filppula says.
In addition to Yzerman, the signing of Filppula was greatly influenced by the fact that he received a two-year contract. He’s receiving a $3 million salary for both seasons.
“I’m starting to age, so as a result, it was harder to get more than one-year deals. Other negotiations were more about one-year contracts.
In addition to Yzerman, Filppula received strong interest from the Edmonton Oilers, whose new GM Ken Holland is also a former boss of Filppula from Detroit. It tells a lot about the appreciation for the Finnish forward.
“Of course, it feels good that it’s not the other way around, and that the old bosses don’t want to deal with you in any way. There was indeed some talk with Edmonton, but when Detroit came about, it seemed good to go back to this team.”
Filppula returns to a familiar but still different environment.
The Red Wings have moved from the Western Conference to the East. The legendary home Joe Louis Arena is being demolished. The team will begin its third season in the new Little Caesars Arena.
“There is a big difference. Especially now that I’ve learned about players from other teams, many have said that the Joe was not a nice place to go and play. Maybe it was time to change,” says Filppula.
“When I played there with the visiting team, I can say that it wasn’t that nice. But the facilities for the home team were top-notch. And of course the reputation was also influenced by the fact that Detroit had so many good teams for so long. It was a place where you rarely won games [as a visitor].”
The days of the Red Wings’ glory aren’t yet starting to come. For the past three springs, the team that played in the springs of 1991-2016 has been at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
In addition to Filppula, the team will try to get help next season from 23-year-old Oliwer Kaski, a free agent.
“We haven’t met yet. At the World Championship, I saw some of his games. It’s always nice when there are Finns on the team. It’s a nice thing, especially when traveling.”
“The Islanders had Leo Komarov, and a couple Finns,” says Filppula, grinning.
Last season in new York
Last season Filppula played for the New York Islanders, one of the NHL’s phenoms.
Filppula’s season was also good. He scored 17 goals plus 14 assists for 31 points in 72 games, and he had a plus-minus of +19.
In the playoffs, Filppula had four points in eight games.
Contrary to expectations, the Islanders, one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, played a fine season under the leadership of Barry Trotz. But their season ended in the second round of the playoffs against Carolina.
“I was really happy in New York. It was really nice, and I didn’t feel out of place. The only minus was that half our games were played in Brooklyn. Going there and being in your car for an hour-and-a-half on the day of the game was unpleasant,” Filppula says.
The Islanders played many of their second half games at the Nassau Coliseum, which was their permanent home until the 2014-2015 season. A special arrangement was made when the new rink in Brooklyn didn’t attract the public.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Islanders beat Pittsburgh with a 4-0 series win and played at home in the Long Island Coliseum.
The second round games were played in Brooklyn, where there were more fans, but the Carolina Hurricanes swept them 4-0.
“We were in the middle of the games with the other team at the Barclays Center, as if we were playing away games. The Coliseum was a good place for us. All the players lived ten minutes from the rink. It was a lot more comfortable there.”
“When you lose 0-4, it’s not closed,” Filppula says.