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An Open Letter to Kirk Maltby (Now with Postscript!)

UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 12: Kirk Maltby #18 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on during the game against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on January 12, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Hey Kirk.

Good to see you again. Hope the summer has been restful and relaxing for you, although it sounds like you’ve got alot on your mind. I don’t envy you Kirk. It’s just a major life changing decision in front of you, right?

I mean, let’s look at it objectively. On one hand, you’re the odd man out on the team that you have played with for 14 seasons. You’ve won four Stanley Cups in Hockeytown, and number five is more than a fleeting thought as training camp gets ready to crank up in a few weeks. Despite that, you’ve already been told that you probably won’t make the big club out of camp – given that there are a number of younger guys that can pretty much do everything you can – but have been offered the opportunity to take a two-way deal in case the Wings need you down the stretch. It’s obviously not an ideal situation, but you’re a loyal guy and want to give the franchise that has taken care of you the benefit of the doubt before looking elsewhere. That’s admirable for both sides, but it’s a harsh reality that sees you taking the AHL maximum $105,000, a far cry from the $750,000 you made last year and the $950,000 you made each of the two years prior.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. Despite the relegated role you would have in Detroit, you know you still have some good hockey left and you really want it to be in the NHL. A couple of teams have expressed interest in your services, including the Tampa Bay Lightning and their GM – and your good buddy – Steve Yzerman. Sadly, it’s not the Red Wings, but it IS NHL hockey (with an NHL payday) and there’s a familiar face or two around the St. Pete Times Forum for you to connect with. Let’s not forget that it’s warm pretty much all year round, and there’s some great beaches that you can check out on those off days.  It sounds great, sure, but I feel you: it’s just not the same as playing in Detroit.

What to do?

Allow me to give you some advice Kirk: Go South.

Now, before you and the rest of the Wing-O-Sphere get out the pitchforks and torches, allow me to explain the logic here Kirk. First, I understand that you want to be loyal to this organization and to the fans who pack Joe Louis Arena every night. It’s an intoxicating feeling playing in front of the rabid Hockeytown fanbase, I’m sure, and one that will NOT be replicated in Tampa Bay. But the stark reality of your situation is that you won’t get that feeling on a regular basis here in Detroit, and if you do, you’ll most likely be taking it in from the comfort of a luxury suite high above Joe Louis Arena instead of on the ice with the teammates that you share the bonds of friendship with. Regular season, playoffs, it doesn’t matter. Time is of the essence in your situation and I can’t imagine the idea of appearing in (at best) 10 games this year is really worth it. The Lightning can offer you exactly what the Red Wings can’t right now, and that’s a legitimate shot at playing in the NHL this season on a regular basis. At the end of the day, isn’t that what this is really about? The fact that you can still play hockey and still can offer something to the team? Under that criteria, TB makes sense and you know it.

Sure, it’s a difficult situation with the family and you’ll be moving to a new place, but it’s only a temporary thing, right? Give it a year in Tampa Bay and if you’re ready to hang it up, the house in Grosse Pointe and the job with the Wings will still be right there. Hey, you may even decide you REALLY like it down in Tampa and I’m sure Stevie would be more than willing to hook you up with some work when the playing days are done. If not, hop on that jet back to Southeastern Michigan and pop on that training jacket and get to work scouting the young kids. Both the immediate family and the extended Wings family will be waiting for you with open arms when you return, and that’s a guarantee.

Look Kirk, I know it’s a tough decision and one that you want to take your time with. But take my advice to heart buddy. Nobody will question your loyalty when you head down south. The Wings have respected your work with the organization with the best offer they can muster and you’ve respected the organization by taking the time to carefully consider it. You’ve done your due diligence and you’ve thought long and hard about this one, I know it. You’ve earned it though. You’ve earned the right to have this decision put in front of you and you’ve earned the right to be a Red Wing for life. If that’s what you choose, I’ll give you a big virtual hug and say “Welcome back!” But you’ve also earned the right to play hockey at the highest level possible while making the best living possible for not only you, but your family as well, and sometimes that means making the difficult decision.

So sit back, wipe the cloudiness of the nostalgia from your eyes, and take a good long look at where the best fit for you is next season Kirk. It’s time to see the forest through the trees my friend.

A forest full of palm trees.

See you in a year,


P.S. (2:42 PM): Kirk, one more thought I meant to add in my original note and completely forgot to…

You might hear some people tell you that you should stay in Detroit based on the fact that good friend and former Grind Liner Darren McCarty did something similar on the way to the 2008 Stanley Cup. Remember that nostalgia I was talking about? Yea, that reference is nothing more than that. Any so called precedent that McCarty set is complete and utter bullshit.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love D-Mac as much as everyone else, but his stint in GR was a shrewd move by Ken Holland to give a guy who was struggling both professionally and personally a chance to finish out his career in a place that he knew as home, while bolstering the roster with some physical, veteran depth for the playoffs. The only similarity that the two of you share is the fact that you would (POTENTIALLY) provide that same playoff depth should the Wings need it. That’s where the similarities end. McCarty had ZERO options other than the contract in GR. You have NHL offers waiting for you. This is most definitely not the same situation and you know it. Do what’s best for you.

7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Kirk Maltby (Now with Postscript!)”

  1. Well done. You could have signed that from every Wing fan.

    Kirk has more than earned the right to choose how he wants his career to wind down. He owes the Wings nothing, as he has been a loyal soldier since he arrived.

    Even if he takes the 2-way deal here and is in Grand Rapids for most of the season, he would still be called up for the playoffs, and to have his leadership and experience in the dressing room would be hugely important. Yes, I realize there is already a lot of that present; but Kirk has 4 big shiny rings on his finger, and you listen to a guy who has accomplished that.

    I hope he stays for selfish reasons, but if he takes a deal somewhere else (except Chicago, Colorado or Anaheim), I will wish him good luck and save travels.

  2. Chris,

    The McCarty Precedent I was talking about was that of a veteran player the team didn’t have a main roster spot for during the regular season nonetheless getting a shot at contributing later. Obviously the specifics of the McCarty situation don’t apply here. But there is a general similarity and pointing to that isn’t bullshit as far as I can see.

    Whether you’re talking about a guy coming out of a personal hell or a guy at the end of his career, it’s still a team taking care of its guys. As with McCarty, the Wings aren’t offering Maltby a contract in Grand Rapids so he can finish his career as a minor leaguer. They’re leaving the option open to use him again later if needed.

  3. Right. Maltby has been taken care of now. He received his offer from Detroit and there’s a better NHL offer out there and we all know it. If Maltby wants to prove that he still can contribute, Detroit isn’t the best spot to do it. If Maltby just wants a shot at another Cup and to stay close to home, then he can languish in Grand Rapids and maybe see 10 games of action in Detroit. That doesn’t seem to match up with where his head is at (at least from where I sit), so it only seems to make sense that Maltby take the show out of town this year.

  4. By some ways of accounting, 10 games of action on a contender is still better than 82 on a team that’s technically still building, despite Yzerman’s great work thus far. While I wouldn’t blame Maltby for going to Tampa Bay, to me it would be a waste of his time at this point in his career. He gets to be in on just the first leg of a long journey to perennial contender and he gets to play a lot. Sweet huh?

    It depends. At his age, guys are usually thinking about what presents the best chance at winning, what presents the best chance of seeing payment on the investment of another season’s toil. Call me a homer, but Of the two options, I don’t think there’s any disputing that Detroit offers much better odds of that return than Tampa does.

    Sure, the investment may be a bit heavier because he’d be taking long bus trips rather than flying up and down the East Coast, but still. Maybe just maybe the whole languishing in Grand Rapids would be worth it.

    The hit to his pride may be pretty heavy, but ask Darren McCarty if he regrets a second of the time he spent in Grand Rapids. Yes, the specific circumstances are entirely different, but Mac leapt at the opportunity to be a part of possible glory. I’m not going to sit here and call for Maltby not to do the same thing.

  5. Well said, Hollis. Although my concern is that he’d reject the offer not out of a desire to play at the highest level, but perhaps because he feels he deserves more from the team. I hope he sees that by offering to keep him in the fold but still promising to put the best players on the ice that the organization is continuing to show amazing loyalty to both players and fans.

    Regardless of where he plays, he’ll always be remembered as a Red Wing. Larionov, Chelios, and dozens of others are still part of the family, even though they hung up their skates in some other city. Hell, with the exception of Lindsay’s return, not one of the Production Line ended their playing careers here.

    Personally I hope he stays for the love of the organization. I have to imagine his leadership in Grand Rapids would be huge to the development of our prospects.

  6. I love you Malts. Its sad to see our nucleuous starting to crumble. But you will always be a piece that sustained that together and you will go down in history for that. A selfish part of me wants you to stay with the wings and especially come to training camp for one last time. But a true fan wants you to succeed. Therefore Kirk I will miss you terribly, but you have too much heart and too much hockey to sit this one out. All the best…………. Christine, your canadian training camp buddie….. miss you.

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