TAMPA – The beard is fuller, the full-sleeve tattoos a little more faded, but Mike Green can still wing the puck around the ice. The offensive defenseman is Detroit’s representative at the All-Star Game this weekend on the strength of 26 points in 48 games. His average ice time of 22:34 is a full two minutes more than the next Red Wing (Trevor Daley) and Green is still killer on the power play.
But Detroit is struggling and Green is due to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer. The Red Wings have been fielding offers for the veteran since last season, but clearly Green has a lot of worth to the organization. Nevertheless, Green is aware that Detroit could trade him before the deadline and he would fetch a nice return, given his skill set.
In the meantime, Green has been happy to share his accrued wisdom with the young Red Wings, who are still a couple years away from making any sort of noise again in the East.
“I’m not an old guy, but I’m older in the league,” he said. “I have an obligation to help these younger guys and give them advice. I don’t want to put too much in their heads – there’s a reason why they’re in the NHL – I’m just coaching them through some of the things I’ve experienced in my career.”
And it’s been an interesting run for the Calgary native. During his heyday with the Washington Capitals, he frequently led the NHL in goals by a defenseman. He earned First Team All-Star honors two years in a row (2009 and 2010), yet never won a Norris Trophy. He was also snubbed by Team Canada for the 2010 Olympics. At the time, he was seen as a purely offensive guy – but perceptions of what a blueliner can be these days has changed a lot since then. Now, you want a puck-rusher who can help on the offensive end. In retrospect, it seems kinda rough that Green was criticized so much for, essentially, being ahead of his time.
“Yeah, I did get criticized a lot,” he said with a laugh. “No, it’s great though. It’s great to see these younger defensemen coming up. They’re extremely talented, they shoot the puck well and they jump up in the play. I love watching it. It’s good for the game and helps the game evolve. I like where the league is going.”
As for Green himself, he continues to evolve. His high-flying days in Washington never amounted to much success in the playoffs – though the Caps haven’t crossed that mountain since he left, either. In a league that is much faster than it was even five years ago, the veteran is keeping an open mind when it comes to his game.
“Finding that balance has always been the adjustment for me,” Green said. “In Detroit, they really focus on the defensive side of the puck and it has really helped my game. I’m grateful for that.”
As a person, Green is also very different than when he came into the league more than a decade ago. He’s a father now, and that has life-changing results. Axel is now two years old and the hockey bug is apparently hereditary.
“We brought him to the rink the other day and he was just shaking with excitement,” Green said. “We had kinda kept him away before, so now I’m like, ‘OK, he needs to be around a bit more because he’s starting to understand it.’ That was special.”
And whether Axel ends up watching his dad play out the rest of the season in Detroit, or on a contending Stanley Cup team that ponies up the goods for his services, there will definitely be excitement in the Green family.