By Mark Wilson 3/6/2014

I’ve always been big on athletes’ leaving teams for that aged old “change of scenery.”

David Legwand fits that bill perfectly.

When the Red Wings acquired the forward from the Nashville Predators a tick before the NHL 3 PM trade deadline, it had “change of scenery” written all over it.

Detroit didn’t give up much to get Davey back home.

Patrick Eaves was sent to Nashville along with a conditional third round draft pick and minor leaguer Calle Jarnkrok. Kind of a “no-brainer” deal.

This thing had “Legs” because it’s about time “Legs” got out of Tennessee.

After Grosse Pointe North High School and a season with the Detroit Ambassadors of the NAHL, Davey drove down M-14 and a spot with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL.

I keep calling him “Davey” because that’s what we called him when he played for the Whale. I did a couple of TV pieces with Legwand during that bust-out first season at Compuware Arena.

All he did that season of 1997-98 was score 54 goals and total 105 points in 59 games. He was a fan favorite every night of that small yet committed Plymouth crowd.

Plain and simple… Davey Legwand was a bona fide homegrown hockey star.

The big boys took notice of that season.

In the 1998 NHL draft, Legs was picked second overall behind Vincent Lecavalier of the Lightning and ahead of San Jose’s Brad Stuart. He was one of only FOUR American players taken in that first round.

Nashville was an expansion team and about to embark on its first campaign. Legwand was the first EVER draft choice by the Predators.

Considering how long it seems that Nashville has had hockey, it feels like Legs has been there FOREVER.

He came back to Plymouth for a second season at Compuware and finished with 80 points in 55 games; a notch lower than his previous campaign. It earned him a trip to the country music capital for some NHL ice time.

Legwand played in exactly ONE game that call-up.

In 1999, he was in Nashville to stay.

Barry Trotz is the only NHL coach he has ever known and David Poile the only GM he has ever known.

Trotz and Poile made sure that Legwand knew he was the future of the franchise. A slow offensive start ended in 2000 with Davey scoring just 13 times and assisting on 15 others in 71 contests.

As it turned out, Legwand wasn’t the scorer we all thought he would be but serviceable enough to be the team’s career leader in pretty much EVERY offensive category. It took him seven seasons to register his first 20-goal slate; 27 in 2006-07. His 63 points that year were a career best for a single rodeo.

Legs’ only other 20 goal season came two years later.

When the Wings made the deal, Legwand left Nashville with 210 goals, 356 assists for 566 points.

All Nashville team records.

One thing missing from Davey’s resume is a Stanley Cup.

In fact, he hasn’t had many long protracted playoff runs.

2010-11, the Predators grabbed the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Trotz finally had a team worthy of Cup consideration. Pekka Rinne in goal and two outstanding players in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter made Nashville a contender for the first time since expansion.

Until then, they had never won a single playoff series.

Taking Anaheim to game six, an SRO crowd of more than 22,000 at Bridgestone Arena watched the Predators win their FIRST ever series, four games to two.

Vancouver was too tough in round two and knocked off Nashville in a similar six game set.

Legwand and the Preds were even better in 2011-12.

They eclipsed the Red Wings in the Central Division standings with 104 points and the fourth seed in the Cup playoffs. Home ice advantage was a first for Nashville when the post-season opened in April.

Another milestone for Trotz and company when they knocked off the Wings in five games to win their second ever playoff series.

However, once again, they were bounced in round two; this time in five games to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Nashville hockey fans were dying to at least see a conference finals appearance.

To be honest, it’s a little absurd that Trotz and Poile remain in jobs they basically created back in 1998. With very little success over 15 years, you’d think those two would have been replaced a few times over by now.
Instead, the ownership group has stuck with the two NHL veterans to run the show in Tennessee without much interference.

In a decade and a half, Legwand has only played in 47 playoff tilts. He has 28 points in those 47 games.

Suter left last year in that tandem move to Minnesota with the Devils’ Zach Parise. Legwand was definitely the last of the Mohicans in Nashville. It only made sense that his time had come in 2014.

Davey didn’t wear out his welcome in Keith Urban’s adopted home; it’s just that it had been long enough.

If he wasn’t traded now? When?

Going to Detroit was a natural.

Critics of the deal said that Legs has lost some of his hockey… legs; that he had lost passion for the game over the many moons that had passed.


Taking off that silly saber cat uniform and replacing it with the iconic winged wheel was EXACTLY what Legwand needed.

It doesn’t always work this “change of scenery” thing.

Albert Pujols left a Hall of Fame baseball career in St. Louis and has yet to really make a mark in Anaheim.

Michael Jordan was a shadow of himself in Washington.

For heaven sakes, Johnny Unitas at the end was a San Diego Charger! Ugh!

But, those were/are legendary players at the tail end of a career.

Jamie Moyer was deemed “not good enough” for a call up to the Tigers from Toledo in 1992 and went on to win more than 200 games with a variety of teams when Baltimore, Boston and then Seattle saved Moyer from the scrap heap.

Even Chris Chelios’ career was on the wane when the Wings got him from Chicago. Chelly went on to play another NINE seasons in Detroit as he neared 50 years of age.

Maybe not the best examples, but you get the idea.

Legwand is only 33 and arguably has a ton of hockey left in him.

He has age on his side.

A couple of years back I checked on how many guys were playing hockey over the age of 35. There were an amazing 126. The NBA had… eight.

Hockey is just one of those sports you can play for long after guys in other pro sports have checked out.

Injuries last season limited Legs to only 48 games. He came back strong last October still playing at a high level. Davey played in all 62 Nashville games up to the trade deadline. There is no reason to believe he can’t continue to do that well into his golden ice years.

On top of that, he can be a free agent in July.

Where’s he going to go?

If he performs like we know he can, he is staying right here in Motown. Like Mike Modano’s return to Michigan, Legwand gets to play in front of family and friends. UNLIKE Modano, he is younger and wants to keep on skating and making money.

For sure, Ken Holland will get a deal done with Legwand to keep him a Red Wing.

But… he has to perform.

With injuries to Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Captain Henrik Zetterberg, the Wings need a veteran presence more than ever. Franzen returned but Zetterberg could be gone the rest of this season and who knows about Pavel. Legwand can step in and be the top line center.

There is a lot on the line for the Wings moving forward.

At the top is that playoff streak of 22 straight seasons. The last time Detroit missed the party was 1989-90. Bryan Murray was the head coach and Sam St. Laurent was still wearing a full fiberglass goalie facemask.

Hell, some guys were still playing WITHOUT helmets.

Nick Lidstrom was still in Sweden!

That’s a long time ago.

Legwand needs to help immediately. He needs to up his game and provide some scoring, grit and speed to a lineup all of a sudden loaded with younger players. Compared to dudes like Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Alfredsson, Davey isn’t even THAT old.

But, 15 years in Nashville has to count for something.

I remember that first year in Plymouth. Legwand had such raw natural ability it was insane. He was already a hockey legend around these parts before he ever stepped onto an NHL arena rink.

We knew the Wings could never get a player like Legs in the draft because they drafted so low and few teams were about to trade a high pick to Holland and make the Wings any better than they were.

The last time the Wings had even a top TEN pick… was 1991. Martin Lapointe was taken number ten in that draft.

Holland has made shrewd trades, decisive free agent moves and found gems in later draft rounds. It’s no stunner why Nashville dealt Legwand to Detroit now.

Because, they NEVER would have dealt him to Hockeytown before.

With the Wings out of the west and firmly entrenched back in the east, the Preds felt they could deal their long time star and fan fave to Detroit without any repercussion about trading Legwand to an in-conference “rival.”

Even still, some diehard Nashville fans won’t like this.

The Wings are still…. the enemy.

Davey, Legs, or whatever you want to call him, is a good addition to Mike Babcock’s roster. No one ever accused Legwand of “dogging it” and he is what they need if they plan on sneaking into the post-season.

This really is one time a change of scenery should help jumpstart a not-so-sagging hockey career. Certainly, it is worth the shot.

Of course, the scenery around here NOW is potholes and piles of snow unlike Nashville. But, Legwand is a northern boy and can handle it. He might even enjoy the cold and snow of late winter. I know he’ll enjoy slapping on that red winged wheel for the first time.

He was ready for the change.