- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

DETROIT The defending Stanley Cup champions will start the season without their Hall of Fame coach, their two-time MVP goaltender and their inspirational captain from last season.

But even without Scotty Bowman, Dominik Hasek and Steve Yzerman, the Detroit Red Wings may be the best team in the league. They will still have eight potential Hall of Famers while Yzerman spends the first few months of the season recovering from knee surgery.

They had an extremely focused and motivated group last year after failing to advance past the second round of the playoffs following their Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998.

"I remember the first year we won, people said they didn't pick us to win it again because they thought complacency would set in," Brendan Shanahan said. "But I think the opposite thing happens when you win a Stanley Cup. I think once you get a taste and win one Stanley Cup, you know what it takes to get there and you know it's worth it. It makes you hungrier, not complacent."

Shanahan and the rest of his teammates were thrilled when Dave Lewis was promoted to coach following the retirement of Bowman, the winningest coach in NHL history. Lewis was a Red Wings assistant for 14 years nine under Bowman following the end of his playing career in Detroit.

"I think it was smart that they hired a guy from within the organization," Shanahan said. "He's extremely hungry, and we're hungry for him."

Lewis feels comfortable replacing Bowman because he believes he's ready for the job and because of the players he has.

"I look at pressure a little differently than a lot of people," Lewis said. "It's an adrenaline. It's something you can create into a positive if you focus it that way in your mind. That's the way I'm looking at it now. But I'm sure there will be nights you'll be up at 3 or 4 in the morning, be in a cold sweat, and wonder, 'Why would you do that?' But I haven't had that yet."

When he was hired, Lewis said he eventually would have to show that he's the boss. But Lewis said he hasn't had to "rant and rave, kick garbage cans or smash sticks" to prove it.

"There's different ways to communicate a message," he said. "I have yelled at people, if that's what you're looking for."

When Hasek announced his retirement last summer, Detroit went after Curtis Joseph, the best-available goalie, and signed him to a three-year, $24million deal. "Cujo" is 346-260-81 for his 13-year career with Toronto, St. Louis and Edmonton.

Like Hasek, Joseph wanted to play in Hockeytown to complete his career with a Stanley Cup.

"I don't think we've given up anything in goal," general manager Ken Holland said. "Curtis Joseph is obviously tremendously motivated. One of the reasons he came here is he thinks we give him a real good chance to win a Stanley Cup.

"If you look back two years ago, prior to us getting Dominik Hasek, I think most hockey people would consider two of the top five goalies were Hasek and Joseph. We're very fortunate after losing Dominik to get Curtis to fill his shoes."

Even though Yzerman is sidelined, the Red Wings still have leaders because of veterans like Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brett Hull and Shanahan.

"The leaders that we have in this dressing room are not shrunken leaders when Steve is around," Shanahan said.

Yzerman's absence also will provide more opportunities for Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Datsyuk.

Fedorov's talent should consistently be on display because he's a free agent after this season. Datsyuk's skills turned heads and dropped jaws in his rookie year, and he's even more polished this season.

Like the New York Yankees, the Red Wings with a payroll of about $60million not only spend a lot of money, but they also draft and develop players. Swedish forward Henrik Zetterberg, a seventh-round pick from 1999, and Russian defenseman Dmitri Bykov, last year's eighth-round pick, should show once again that the Red Wings are as wise as they are rich.

"Some nights the story is going to be Joseph," Shanahan said. "Some nights it's going to be Hull. Some nights it's going to be Sergei. And some nights it's going to be Henrik."

But Zetterberg and Bykov have to be ready to play on the "Team To Beat," Shanahan said.

"Last year we had a big bull's-eye on us," Shanahan said. "We're going to have an even bigger bull's-eye on us this year. Every night we go to play a team, it's going to be a huge challenge because it's going to be a game that the team circled on their calendar a month ahead of time. We have to be ready for that."

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