Kukla's Korner

Abel to Yzerman

The second day of the Red Wings’ training camp: Everything’s situational; the art of standing around

Training camp in the post-second-lockout NHL is strange as strange can be.  Before 2004, teams generally “broke camp” after seven to ten days, and the embarked on a six-to-eight game exhibition season.  Nowadays, the CBA demands that coaches not interact with players until the start of a five-day training camp, after which, in the Red Wings’ case, the team will begin an eight-game exhibition season which takes place over only twelve days.  Moreover, as one “team” of Red Wings players—the intense travel schedule necessitates splitting the 40-or-so of the 63 players in camp right now splitting into two “teams” for the duration of the exhibition season—heads to Pittsburgh to play the Penguins on Wednesday, September 22nd, the Grand Rapids Griffins will begin their training camp at Joe Louis Arena, and the Griffins won’t “break camp” and head back to Grand Rapids until September 30th, when a second round of cuts is made as the Wings pare down their roster for a three-games-in-three-nights slate of exhibition games which serve as the team’s dress rehearsals.

In other words, the Red Wings’ roster players, guys battling for jobs like Kirk Maltby, Drew Miller, Mattias Ritola, Aaron Downey and Derek Meech, those bound for the Grand Rapids Griffins no matter what, the junior-eligible and Griffins-eligible players that want to prove that they’re worth some exhibition season action and the try-outs that are doing their damnedest to earn a contract, like Ottawa 67’s defenseman Marc Zanetti all have three days’ worth of 90-minute practices, two 40-minute, running-time scrimmages and a “Red versus White” game on Tuesday to both shake the rust off—which is why it’s so important that players hold “informal skates” for a few weeks prior to training camp, usually at their places of employment—and it’s the job of the Red Wings and Griffins’ coaches, management and scouts to determine who fits in where in the pecking order, all within a sum total of four days, physicals included.  That’s an incredibly short window of time in which to figure out who deserves to go where, and it’s an incredibly short window of time in which to prepare your team for the part of the season that’s perhaps most intriguing but least covered, the exhibition season, where jobs are truly won and lost over a little more than a week and a half. 

So while the Wings’ scouts and management are making assessments—and yes, Captain Kangaroo himself, Ken Hitchcock, is at the rink, so he must have signed some sort of, “I promise not to screw you over with the information I learn from watching your players practice” agreement—and the players are trying to both shake the rust off, get used to their new linemates and make an impression, the coaches have to hammer home the details of a team’s systems of play, and do so very, very quickly.

That’s why, before the start of every team’s 45-minute practice, during the middle thereof, and afterward, the coaching staff uses Centre Ice Arena’s lobby as a de-facto classroom, where game video is very specifically broken down in minute detail to illustrate how teams must respond in the situations emphasized on any particular day, usually with Mike Babcock, Paul MacLean, Brad McCrimmon and in many cases video coach Keith McKittrick taking part in the presentations as players sit on nothing more than folding chairs in many instances, digesting 10-to-15 minutes of video before, during the middle of, and after every practice.  From my perspective, that means that it’s all but impossible to get an interview with a coach because they’re doing this three-videos-a-practice dance with each of the team’s three “squads,” Team Delvecchio, Team Lindsay, and Team Howe.

On Saturday, the team worked on its transition game, and on Sunday, it was all about Mike Babcock’s favorite topic, forechecking, and the drills employed were very specific and very detailed in their intricacies and form.

I’ll hold you in suspense (or hockey suspenders) for a bit as I shift over to the other part of the training camp coverage you’re paying for, my experiences and attempts to learn and grow as a partisan Red Wings fan who happens to have a press pass.  I remain at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of pull, and as the media’s access to players is perhaps more limited than the time the players have to cram oodles of information into their heads, I’ve learned that there’s an art to standing around, and it’s an art that I’ve barely begun to learn.

Without getting into too much detail, I couldn’t get into two scrums because the players/management were more familiar with the sources involved or they had more pull than I did, and in a personal failing, I knew that players were walking past that NONE SHALL PASS yellow line (seriously, there should be a bridge-keeper who asks the press three questions before we try our luck at getting a bagel and some Gatorade) and into a locker room very specifically to sign autographs for the volunteers who make Traverse City’s prospect tournament and training camp work by donating their time, energy and effort, very literally on a 24-hour-a-day basis in some instances, so I let Thomas McCollum, Willie Coetzee, Landon Ferraro, Trevor Parkes, Jan Mursak and Pavel Datsyuk, among others, walk by because I knew where they were going and what they were doing.  I’m not telling you this to try to garner sympathy, nor am I trying to use this as an excuse for the fact that all I got were “scrum” clips today, and that I can admit to only mustering up the courage to ask 6’6” Sergei Kolosov if I could bother him on Monday. 

I’m telling you this because I don’t know the protocols of standing around—usually when reporters are getting scoops in passing, I’m compulsively taking notes of the on-ice action in what is now a third-full five-subject notebook—and I’m not very good at crossing boundaries yet.  On Sunday, I didn’t feel that I should have crossed that particular boundary, and the coverage suffers because of it, but I admittedly felt weird stopping players doing what I knew they were doing to be interviewed.  That isn’t a good thing or a bad thing—it’s a learning thing, and I’m learning by making mistakes, for better or worse.

As to the day’s events, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness and Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji confirm that Kris Draper earned “day-to-day” status as he was healthy enough to be wearing his workout clothes but not healthy enough to test his sore groin on the ice:

Not surprisingly, Kris Draper did not take the ice with the rest of his Team Delvecchio mates this fine Sunday morning.

Draper, whom coach Mike Babcock said felt “a tug in his groin,” is probably somewhere getting treatment and doing whatever off-ice workout he can. Maybe he’ll be available today to let us know what happened and how long he thinks he’ll be out.

He never did, but Ken Holland uttered, “Day-to-day” while I was writing notes with my face a foot from the glass.

In other news, Patrick Eaves is quite hirsute. The new dad clearly did not get a pre-training camp haircut. But he’s still flying around out there, his hair flowing in the wind behind him.

My departed old man would say that Eaves looks like a hippy, but my departed old man used to wear that haircut when he was a hippy.  There were milk cartons full of unscented body wash and foot powder and very ordinary shampoo sitting in the unused rink (green bottle, not that Fructis stuff but not Suave, either, I didn’t write the brand down), and I’m sure Eaves uses half the carton.

Anyway, the two main stories of the day from the Mainstream Media’s perspective involved one Christopher Osgood, who does come off as slightly standoffish and Mike Vernon-with-the-press cocky-but-relaxed as you’d think (though he had no problems stopping in his full gear after a practice to tell me that he didn’t get an inch chopped off his thigh rises for the sake of the new “proportional goalie pad” rules because he never really changed them, though their top ends remain built up to all hell get out).  Osgood looks much more relaxed and composed in his stance, he’s back in Vaughn gear save for his blocker, and he’s so casual it’s kind of silly.  As Wakiji notes, when Jim Bedard had Osgood do “mirroring” drills with Petr Mrazek, charging back and forth across the ice while attempting to mirror one’s opposite in terms of both arm and leg strides, Osgood wasn’t having it, at least not at full speed:

Goaltender Chris Osgood was born on a day, but it wasn’t yesterday.

He and young Jordan Pearce were working with goalie coach Jim Bedard and one drill required them to go as fast as they could to the boards to retrieve a puck. Pearce, being the young fellow he is, rammed himself into the boards.

Osgood, on the other hand, wasn’t taking any such liberties with his not-quite-as-youthful body. He skated over, managed to avoid the boards and finished without any self-abuse.

“I know where the boards are,” he said.

It was Mrazek, but she was thinking of Pearce because Wakiji spoke to the cerebral goaltender the details of cleaning a moose as his parents bagged one in Alaska recently;

Back to the guy with the helmet-cage goal mask (I swear, Vaughn must have an “in” with the Wings—the Oxford, MI-based manufacturer has Joey MacDonald in full Vaughn gear, Pearce and Howard in everything but a Vaughn stick, Ozzie’s going back to Vaughn and even Petr Mrazek ditched his Reebok glove and blocker for a pair of Vaughns…and I like the JRZ-made Bauer stuff, so trust me, I’m not on their payroll, and Osgood told me that he went back to Vaughn “for nostalgia’s sake” as it’s the gear he started out with), who told DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose that he feels healthy and prepared for the season to come after a very difficult and injury-marred 2009-2010 campaign:

“I don’t feel rusty, I feel real good, rested for the first time,” Osgood said. “Just because we got the time to workout more, get on the ice more and just rest my body in a better way than I did in the two previous years when we went to the (Stanley Cup) finals. I just fell like I’m ahead of the game.”
“I feel a lot better than I did in previous years, because I just had more time off,” he said. “That was big for me. Obviously, I didn’t have a good year last year, so I want to have a good year this year. I don’t know how many more years I’m going to play, so definitely we want to have a real good year this year.”

Coach Mike Babcock claims to know nothing about goaltending (or injured players, and I’m not buying him on either count), but he did praise Osgood’s performance in the scrimmage…

In Sunday’s scrimmage, Osgood’s Team Lindsay defeated Team Howe, 3-1. Osgood looked solid in 20-minutes of work, even though he was nearly steamrolled by Team Howe’s Tomas Holmstrom on the crease.

“I thought Ozzie had a good session. Good for him,” Babcock said. “I think that that is important. Anytime you’re a veteran player and you’re playing in the league, I think it’s real important to get off to a good start, and obviously Ozzie committed his summer to doing that, and ideally that will show.  He has too much skill not to have success.”

You can check out the box score of the running-time scrimmage via Pointstreak, and it’s worth noting that Osgood stopped fifteen shots for “Team Howe” before Petr Mrazek took over for the second half. He’s just calm and poised again, which is good to see, not trying to over-commit or over-reach, staying back in that sort of crab-like stance, letting pucks come to him.

The other guy who made an impact in the scrimmage, although Jimmy Howard would insist via three or four pairs of legs in front of him, was Kirk Maltby, who had a smile on his face despite his precarious situation after the game, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan noted:

Kirk Maltby is trying to earn a job with the Red Wings, a unique position for the long-time veteran.  So anytime this training camp Maltby can do something positive, such as scoring a goal in his team’s 3-1 intra-squad scrimmage Sunday, it’s a plus.

“You always want to play well, regardless of your situation,” said Maltby, who is on a two-way contract and is likely to start the season in Grand Rapids. “I’m not going to surprise them with anything. But from a confidence standpoint it’s nice to contribute and gives you a little momentum to just go out and play.”

Maltby continued in speaking to MLive.com’s Khan...

“I can’t really sit there and worry about what may or may not happen,’’ Maltby said. “When you start thinking about that stuff too much it could definitely carry over onto the ice and affect that.’’

Sebastien Piche and Valtteri Filppula also scored for Team Lindsay. Jordan Owens scored Team Howe’s lone goal.

Who added a twist to Babcock’s comments that I cannot emphasize enough as someone who’s learning slowly—quotation in the hockey business is, to some extent, an art of interpretation as your sound recorder can’t exactly catch everything, and most of the time the MSM’s on a very tight deadline to get the quote re-interpreted and out, fast:

“I thought Ozzie had a good session, good for him. I think that’s important,’’ coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s called work ethic and getting prepared and treating every practice like it’s an opportunity to get better. You do all those things and you engage mentally and physically ... he’s got too much skill not to have success.’’

I remember Babcock very distinctly pausing and saying, “It’s called work ethic,” but it took Khan’s quote to jiggle that out of my head.

Back to Maltby, who described his goal to Roose:

Maltby broke a scoreless tie when he wristed a low shot between Jimmy Howard’s legs in the second period. Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller assisted on the goal.

“We didn’t have the best first period as a team, really,” Maltby said. “We came out and played a lot better. We had a good entry, and Abby got it to me in front and I just tried to get a quick release and Millsy was in front screening, so I think it went five-hole and caught Howie off guard.”

Shoulder good after spending four months out via reconstructive surgery?  Check:

“Right now I don’t have any issues,” he said. “I tried to throw a couple little checks, and what-not. No issues, so I’m happy about that.”

To say that pairing Abdelkader with two players fighting for a job is an understatement, and I thought the Drew Miller-Justin Abdelkader-Kirk Maltby looked terrible in practice, but that’s what pros do—they turn things around in a hurry:

“He’s just in a situation,” Babcock said of Maltby. “He’s going out there and getting himself ready and battling, and he’s in a situation with his contract that he’s got to win a job, obviously.  They want to play here, they have to perform. So for him – and I thought (Drew) Miller was real competitive today – it’s important that these guys have to play for their ice-time.”

I can certainly confirm what Jimmy Howard said via Fox Sports’ Wakiji...

“I didn’t even see it,” he said. “It went through about three sets of legs and then through mine. The first two out there today were seeing-eye pucks. Malts, what can I say? It’s Malts.”

The ever-affable Howard (yes, he has a slight, “Gee, golly” affect to his personality) also praised Osgood…

“He’s ready to go,” Howard said. “You can just tell with his body language. At the same time, he’s still the same old Chris. Nothing bothers him, he just goes about his business. I think that’s why he’s been so successful throughout his career.”

And Howard said that, personally speaking, the only thing that’s changed about him is his level of confidence going into that dreaded sophomore season:

“I’m more comfortable,” Howard said. “I’m not as nervous or as worked up as I used to be coming into camp, always constantly thinking about what I’ve got to do and everything like that. It’s more about just getting myself ready. I know what I have to do and that’s just work hard every single day.”

I asked Howard if he’d tweaked anything stylistically over the summer to prepare for a sophomore season (read: the nice way of saying, “People kind of think they have a book on you now”), and he said he didn’t, he just worked a little extra with Jim Bedard and will remain at the top of his crease, letting pucks hit him, whenever he can.  He also told me that the stick change from a red Warrior Swagger with white lettering to a white stick with red lettering, which would have driven me nuts, was just a case of, “They sent me the sticks” and he used them.

The thrust of Wakiji’s story, however, involves her one-on-one interview with Darren Helm, who very quietly (I mean very quietly) talked to Wakiji about learning from one of his hockey heroes in Mike Modano, his diminished role thanks to Modano’s signing…

“It’s going to be a fight every night to kind of keep your position, stay in the lineup,” Helm said. “There’s six of us, I think, that are kind of have to prove ourselves each night.  That’s going to be a little different, having lots of guys, and hopefully we can stay healthy so we don’t have that problem of having to use all those guys.”

And his progression along the NHL player’s learning curve:

“It’s a long year and learning how to play the whole 82 games being ready and focused,” Helm said. “I think I learned a little bit last year about how to kind of stay ready for each game. It’s tough to play 82 games 100 percent with a lot of energy.  Just trying to find that even level where I can play as hard as I can but not kill myself.”

In the multimedia department:

Video: Fox Sports Detroit posted a two-minute clip of Ken Daniels and John Keating discussing the Wings’ season at hand;

Via Mike Serven’s Red Wings Feed on Twitter, the Traverse City 9&10 News posted a 1:44 clip of practice footage, and Michigan Editor’s YouTube channel covered Kris Draper’s “good walk spoiled,” I mean appearance at the Wings’ golf outing on Friday:

The 7&10 News posted a video from Sunday as well;

The Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness posted clips of Maltby and Babcock‘s interviews, as well as video clips of Osgood, Bertuzzi and Franzen (talk about chemistry—the Big Galoots and a Finn line is fantastic and Bert and Mule have excellent chemistry), Team Delvecchio exiting the ice, Jimmy Howard doing positional drills, a practice drill from Saturday and two clips from Saturday’s scrimmage;

The Red Wings’ website also posted clips of the “sights and sounds” of the first…


And second days of training camp…


As well as Osgood and Babcock’s media scrums as they relate to Osgood’s play:


I very honestly have yet to ask Babcock a question.  He’s incredibly intense, curt, and obviously busy, and I’ll…Try.  I’d really love to sit down with the man one-on-one and
Photos: The Detroit News’s David Guralnick posted a 21-image photo gallery;

The Red Wings’ Facebook page posted a 20-image gallery of Bill Roose and Dave Reginek’s photos;

The Traverse City Record-Eagle posted a 5-image photo gallery (it’s Smugmug, so you might have to use a “snipping tool” or “print screen” to save the images);

ESPN posted a short slate of Wings-related images from Saturday and Today‘s on-ice sessions;

And Getty Images hasn’t updated its Wings gallery with anything from training camp, but player head shots are always worth a laugh.

I guess I can state the obvious here: I have a cell phone camera that I don’t know how to use yet and don’t have a Flip Cam yet, so no photos or video from me.  I’m learning and hopefully by next year I’ll invest in a Flip Cam and some sort of rudimentary camera, though I’m no photographer…

And Phrooge.com’s Deanna Bradford’s been very kindly sharing photos with me this weekend—just because she can, so for once I can say, “Hey, go to this person’s website and check out what she has to offer,” because I really am grateful for her kindness.  Here are just a few of the thousands she’s taken, all in thumbnail format (clicky for embiggening):


In terms of the box score and stats, aside from noting that Tomas Tatar’s had a rough start to camp in terms of raising his level of play from the prospect tournament to the NHL level, which isn’t necessarily surprising, that Brian Lashoff was back on the ice and was his rock-steady self, and that Jordan Owens is trying to turn heads and knock some heads into the boards at the same time—and he’s doing a fine job of it, really making an impact and standing out on a line with Griffins-bound Jamie Johnson as his center and WHL-bound Brooks Macek as his right winger.

For reference’s sake, by the way:

Team Howe:


Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Tomas Holmstrom

Mattias Ritola-Cory Emmerton-Jan Mursak

Francis Pare-Brent Raedeke-Aaron Downey

Jordan Owens-Stephen Johnston-Brooks Macek


Jonathan Ericsson-Ruslan Salei

Doug Janik-Brendan Smith

Marc Zanetti-Greg Amadio


Jimmy Howard
Jordan Pearce

Team Lindsay:


Johan Franzen-Valtteri Filppula-Todd Bertuzzi

Drew Miller-Justin Abdelkader-Kirk Maltby

Tomas Tatar-Joakim Andersson-Jamie Tardif

Andrej Nestrasil-Landon Ferraro-Trevor Parkes

Antonin Honejsek


Brad Stuart-Brian Rafalski

Gleason Fournier-Derek Meech

Sebastien Piche-Sergei Kolosov

Brian Lashoff (injured, he said he tweaked his shoulder and is fine, I asked)


Chris Osgood

Petr Mrazek

Team Delvecchio:


Jiri Hudler-Mike Modano-Dan Cleary

Kris Draper-Darren Helm-Patrick Eaves

Ilari Filppula-Jamie Johnson-Willie Coetzee

Darren Archibald-Louis-Marc Aubry-Mitchell Callahan

Chris Minard (injured, undisclosed)


Nicklas Lidstrom-Niklas Kronwall

Jakub Kindl-Logan Pyett

Alex Cord-Travis Ehrhardt


Joey MacDonald

Thomas McCollum

The stats for Team Howe , which has played in three games, Team Lindsay, which has played in two games,  and Team Delvecchio, which has played in one game, are also available on PointStreak.  Owens leads Team Howe in scoring, and both Francis Pare, who’s much, much bigger and better than he used to be physically, and Brent Raedeke, who I think is still looking at me funny because he knows I talked to his dad (he’s only very proud of you, Brent), are making strong pushes…

And again, regarding the free agent try-outs, while Trevor Parkes and Darren Archibald continue to roar up and down the wing as “power checkers,” Alex Cord plays solid stay-at-home defense, Antonin Honejsek shows flashes of potential and the aged try-out of the bunch, Aaron Downey, at least looks like a real, honest-to-goodness grinder who can get up and down the ice, crash and bang and dig up pucks in the corners, Marc Zanetti looks the sharpest of the bunch. 

The Ottawa 67’s defenseman is a very fast skater, he has good vision, a slick outlet pass and a hard shot, and perhaps most importantly, there’s no intimidation level whatsoever in terms of stepping up from playing with youngsters his own age to NHL’ers.  He and Brendan Smith have given the strongest showings of a group which includes AHL-ticketed Greg Amadio, Gleason “The Wanderer” Fournier, Sebastien Piche, a very, very, very solid and very, very, very strong no-frills defenseman that is Logan Pyett, the ever-steady Travis Ehrhardt, big Brian Lashoff and Sergei Kolosov, whose passes are still a little off at times but has really impressed me in terms of his size, strength and mobility for someone who’s at least 6’6” and is still finding his game to some extent.

Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson really stepped up their game on Sunday playing alongside Jamie Tardif, with Tatar finally grinding it out down low and using his sneaky speed to get into dead spots, while Andersson won faceoffs, moved that big frame up and down the ice and set up Tardif and Tatar pretty regularly. 

Andrej Nestrasil looked more comfortable as well, and again, Landon Ferraro’s up and down.  He’s overthinking a bit, a la Thomas McCollum on a bad day.

Of the players who made the weirdest impression upon me, while Doug Janik looks energized and excited about playing for the Red Wings or Griffins now that he has a two-way deal, Derek Meech looks…resigned to the fact that he’s not going to be here, one way or another, come October.  There’s just no intensity to his game right now, and while he’s trying, you can kind of see that he’s going through the motions because his heart isn’t in it.

Ericsson stepped up alongside Salei today, knocking people over pretty heavily; Brad Stuart was extremely kind and polite in the scrum, and he and Rafalski, again, have some work to do in terms of getting on the same page; Lidstrom and Kronwall are like clockwork, so there’s no worry there, and as much as Kindl has impressed me by looking NHL-ready in terms of his bulk and ability to win board battles and one-on-one battles for the puck, make superb outlet passes and get up and down the ice while remaining in good position, Logan Pyett’s making a very quiet push. 

He was a more offensively-minded defenseman in the WHL, but he’s more of a utilitarian, albeit slightly undersized, and between the fact that Pyett’s turned from a pipsqueak to an over-muscled young man, his simple, no-frills and very evidently physical approach to playing as a “glue guy” defenseman, i.e. someone who has the offensive chops to pinch in and when necessary, but is generally committed to not being noticed, save when he smashes someone into the boards, is very impressive. 

Up front, as previously stated, I love the Franzen-Filppula-Bertuzzi line, which needs a better nickname than the one I gave it.  Filppula can dart in and out of traffic and make savvy plays or charge up the ice using his speed to back off defenders while Franzen and Bertuzzi take turns either barreling to the net or sliding into superb shooting positions, all while cycling the puck fantastically well and pumping the puck to the point when necessary.  Their personalities seem to mesh pretty well, too.  For whatever reason, the easygoing Franzen calms Bertuzzi down a little bit, and Bertuzzi’s competitiveness perks the occasionally sleepy-eyed Franzen up a bit. It’s only been all of two days, but I really like what I see from that line.

It goes without saying that the Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom line works like one of those $8,000 Swiss watches the players wear—Homer got an assist while falling onto his butt right in front of the net on Saturday that still sticks in my mind because it was characteristically deft by Homer to feather the puck back while falling—and the Hudler-Modano-Cleary line sometimes looks gorgeous and sometimes looks like it has some bugs to work out.  Modano was right when he said that Cleary is “up and down” and Hudler “ad-libs,” and the problem for Hudler, in my opinion, is that he’s still trying to readjust to the North American ice surface, where there isn’t an extra 15 feet of width to lurk in.

I didn’t get to see much of “Team Delvecchio” otherwise, but in terms of the other line that’s caught my eye, I think that Mattias Ritola has a bit of the jitters on a line with Cory Emmerton and Jan Mursak, because Emmerton, whose subtle speed and ability to make plays belie his tenacity in the corners, has arguably produced the strongest performance, despite Mursak’s goal-scorer’s speed, sweeping passes and rather impressively hard game in terms of competing for pucks in the corners—Mursak hits people and hits them hard…

While Ritola’s kinda in and out.  Again, I find it incredibly frustrating that we’re essentially going to miss two thirds of the most important part of the layering of the team-building process which begins at informal skates and the prospect tournament for the NHL’ers and hopefuls, respectively and reaches its second stage here at camp.  The exhibition season is where jobs are won and lost, where players like Maltby, Meech, Miller and Ritola will write the stories of “where they end up” on the ice, not in the headlines, and where players like Ferraro or Aubry can make contract pitches (assuming they’re not sent back to Major Junior hockey immediately) and prospects like Tatar, McCollum and Kolosov can remind the team that the Wings need not only rely upon veteran call-ups when they suffer injuries.

As for the technical specifics of the drills involved?  The frustrating part about what I’d like to describe is that when you’re working on the forecheck, generally it’s a five-on-five drill where the “defensive” team has to stand still while a coach dumps the puck in from the blueline and the offensive team’s forwards are “allowed” to win the battle before the five defensive players engage, with the defensive team “winning” the drill once the puck is cleared, or the offensive team “winning” the drill if they pump the puck back to the point and/or get a shot off.  It’s about body position and balancing skating down a “lane” of the ice while not allowing yourself to be steered wide and then battling for the puck, and there’s not really a way in which it can be done without one team agreeing to “lose,” at least initially. 

Almost every drill today was either started or finished by a coach’s whistle, with the players either working on in-tight forechecking from the red line forward or a five-man unit taking passes from Paul MacLean, Brad McCrimmon or Keith McKittrick (during the scrimmage, Mark Howe and Curt Fraser were on one bench, and Jiri Fischer and Jim Paek were on the other, and during the practice drills, Fraser and Paek are very, very, very attentive as they’re assessing their potential rosters) passing the puck out to a defenseman, who walks up the wall and then either passes to a forward who rims the puck around the back boards or charges into the offensive zone to retrieve a dump-in by skating straight up-and-down or diagonally.  Occasionally forwards rotate back to support each other, they cross over, or one defenseman stays back while a second defenseman jumps into the rush to help two forwards by being the “third man,” sometimes doing nothing less than stopping in front of the net to serve as a screen. 

There are iterations on the drills where defensemen pass d-to-d before firing the puck in, they did a d-to-d-and-back drill once, quite a few of the drills involved forwards moving diagonally and holding back to cover zone space instead of a particular skating “lane” per se…

But I did more drawing than I did writing, and I’m not sure I could diagram them clearly enough to make any sense.  I feel very badly about this, because forechecking isn’t complicated—it’s just hard to do outside of a game situation, and that’s why today’s drills were so intricate and nuanced at times. Stuttering and staggering attack seemed to be the key to winning the game, so to speak, as puck support is key when you have one or two guys charging in after an opposing defenseman trying to clear the puck, and whether that support comes from a forward or a defenseman depends on the positioning of his opponents. 

If the opposing team’s forwards are cheating toward the blueline or center ice, it’s better that the third forward lurk near the blueline, and if the forwards get caught back in a scrum along the boards, it’s OK for that third forward to dig in, if you will, and a defenseman to wander into that edging-in-from-the-blueline-toward-the-hash-marks spot. 

Going over about 20 pages of notes, what did I find out that nobody else did?

Well, Ken Holland told me that the fact that the Wings can exceed the salary cap by as much as 7.5% for signing or performance bonuses to over-35 players, per the NHLPA’s agreement to extend the CBA for an additional season, was the only reason the Wings could sign Ruslan Salei and Mike Modano.  If the Wings don’t exceed the cap this year, the bonuses owed to Salei (I believe about $350,000 per Capgeek.com) and Modano (up to $500,000) will be retroactively applied to bring them up to the cap, and if the Wings are capped out this season, that $850,000 will be applied to next year’s cap figure.

I also made sure to note that when Eaves and Helm were paired, it was Aubry who was providing good “back pressure” during a forechecking drill, and that Pavel Datsyuk was using a stick that not only had its logo blacked out, but also had tape down the shaft diagonally, which is something that Pavel never does to his sticks on his own, so it must have not had any “grip” or his patented pine tar on the shaft.

Here’s the schedule for the remainder of training camp…

TEAM HOWE Event Location
9:25 a.m.  Video
9:30 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.  On-ice Practice David’s Rink
10:15 a.m.  Video
10:20 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  On-ice Practice Huntington Rink
11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.  Off-ice Workout
12:15 p.m.  Media Availability

10:55 a.m.  Video
11:00 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.  On-ice Practice David’s Rink
11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.  Scrimmage Huntington Rink
12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Flood
12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.  Scrimmage Huntington Rink
1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.  Off-ice Workout
2:30 p.m.  Media Availability

TEAM LINDSAY Event Location
11:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.  Warm Up Huntington Rink
11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.  Scrimmage
12:15 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Flood
12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.  Scrimmage Huntington Rink
1:00 p.m.  Video
1:05 p.m. – 1:50 p.m.  On-ice Practice David’s Rink
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.  Off-ice Workout
2:30 p.m.  Media Availability

TUESDAY, SEPT. 21 Event Location
Noon Red vs. White Game Huntington Rink
Post-game Media Availability
Bus Departs for Detroit Centre Ice Arena

And here were the scrums I managed to stick my microphone into:

Chris Osgood:

Download file.

Mike Babcock:

Download file.

Kirk Maltby:

Download file.

Brad Stuart (that’s me at the end talking about drills):

Download file.

And Jimmy Howard:

Download file.

I’ll update the story overnight as Kulfan, Pleiness, St. James and RedWingsCentral have yet to update their stories, and I need to sleep sometime.

And, for the record, this is the first time I haven’t written a “Sunday Scuttlebutt” column in ages, but Kevin Dupont’s whining about Vanderbeek pushing Lou Lamoriello around and forcing him to sign Kovalchuk, as well as his, “You know, Donald Fehr allowed MLBPA players to use steriods!” scare tactic is lame;

What’s not lame, per the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema, is the Grand Rapids Griffins’ spiffy new site, which really did take site users’ suggestions to heart;

It’s worth mentioning that PlymouthWhalers.com’s Peter Krupsky notes that the OHL season in Metro Detroit gets underway on Thursday when the Whalers play the Windsor Spitfires (so expect some Red Wings Major Junior-aged prospects to head home on Tuesday);

Crain’s Detroit Business’s Bill Shea penned a profile of Tom Gores as he, not Mike Ilitch, is the front-runner in the bidding war for the Pistons at present;

And ESPN’s Scott Burnside’s supposed to head up to Detroit for training camp, but I’m not sure when…Tuesday?  Wednesday?  Thursday?  We’ll see.

Update 11:40 PM: Pleiness weighs in on Osgood, who discussed last season’s difficulties…

“When I was supposed to play I didn’t and when I wasn’t supposed to I did,” Osgood said Sunday afternoon at Centre I.C.E. Arena in Traverse City. “I don’t know how much I’m going to play (this season). I just come ready for anything. That’s what I told myself this year, just be prepared for anything that comes my way. I think I’m ready for that.”
“I didn’t have a good year last year,” said Osgood, who led the Wings to back-to-back appearances in the Stanley Cup finals. “That’s definitely motivating. I don’t know how many more years I’m going to play so I definitely would like to have a real good year this year.”

And his areas of focus this season, starting with pushing Howard…

“That’s not a goal, you have to have tough competition on the team to play well,” Osgood said. “I don’t want to sit and not play. You always want to be on the ice and playing. You want to be that guy.”

And, more than anything, “staying ready”:

“It’s impossible to talk about numbers,” Osgood said. “So many different things go into it. I’ve talked to Mike lots and I said I’ll be ready for anything. That’s my goal. That’s kind of the motto I’m going to live by this year.”

Pleiness also noted that Maltby remains an optimist as he plays for his job…

“You always want to play well regardless of your situation,” Maltby said. “This gives you a little momentum and a little confidence to go out and just play.”

Maltby is also coming off season-ending shoulder surgery.

“I can’t sit here and worry about what may or may not happen,” Maltby said. “If you do it could carry over on the ice and affect that.”

And finally from Pleiness—I haven’t tried to interview the gentleman he mentions as he’s a civilian, but he’s around all the time, unshaven, with his kids, as he’s the coach of the Traverse City North Stars:

Former Red Wing Dallas Drake had a broom and was helping clean the arena after the scrimmage. He was doing so with his son’s team, which plays their home games there.

Humble, humble, humble.

Also, Andreas Lilja offers a little…outspoken…commentary to the Mercury News’s David Pollak from the San Jose Sharks’ training camp, where he’s trying out for the team:

Lilja turned down a chance to stay with Detroit earlier this summer.

“I think I decided pretty early I was going to try to look for something else,” he said. “I wanted to try to get to a team where I would have a little more responsibility, I guess. Play a little bit more minutes—that was the key for me.”

Lilja said he had other options, but picked the Sharks in early September after talking with McLellan.

“It’s a fair chance. That’s what I’m aiming for,” Lilja said. “I want to do everything in my power to take a spot. I know they’ve got a great team, so it’s going to be tough.”

You may also listen to Brett Lebda’s comments to the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle if you wish.  Lebda’s excited to be playing in Toronto, which he says is, “This is number one hockey market in the world, and everyone knows that; it’s even a step up, a way-step up from Detroit, already from what I can tell.”

One more thing in this update: I’ll have more to say about an undercurrent from John Keating’s story about Mike Modano and Todd Bertuzzi’s discussion of the Wings’ organization’s class later this week.

Update 11:53 PM: Oh, Brett, per the Toronto Star’s Paul Hunter:

Brett Lebda signed with Toronto as a free agent over the summer, leaving the Detroit organization to join a crowded blueline with the Leafs. The 28-year-old speedster tried to see the upside in joining a team that has nine defencemen under contract.

“It’s going to make for good competition in the end. Sometimes you go to teams and you just float your way through training camp knowing that you’ve got a spot. Now, a few guys are fighting for their lives and I feel like I’m one of them. So I’ve got to be on my game every day and work hard and let the chips fall where they may,” he said.

Update, I should be in bed: RedWingsCentral posted Sarah Lindenau’s photo gallery from Day 2 as well.

Morning updates, 6:30-something AM: Fox Sports Detroit posted a combined clip of Kirk Maltby, Jimmy Howard and coach Mike Babcock speaking to the press, and a clip of Chris Osgood speaking to Wakiji snuck through as well;

Via Mike Serven’s Red Wings Feed, Traverse City’s 9&10 News posted a 40-second clip of Niklas Kronwall discussing playing alongside Nicklas Lidstrom;

The Macomb Daily’s Pleiness adds more from Osgood:

“I just feel like I’m ahead of the game and those last two years coming back I felt like I was always playing catchup,” Osgood added. “I never really got things together. This year I feel I’m ahead of the game and ready for anything.”
“Just having more time off has made a huge difference,” Osgood said. “I didn’t play much last year so obviously I needed to go on the ice earlier.  The two previous years were totally different, we played late and we only had two months off really,” Osgood added. “I feel real good right now.”

And then there was this…

During the interview with Osgood a phone went off and many in the media said it was his phone going off. Osgood didn’t think so, until he moved his backpack off his shoulder and the ring got louder. “It’s not me,” he said. “Is it me? That is me.”

It took him about 90 seconds to finally admit it was his phone going off…

As the Free Press’s Helene St. James notes, while Mike Babcock hedged on “talking about numbers,” he did make one plain:

Babcock mentioned 20 victories as a good watermark for Osgood. If he reaches that, it could very well yield an extension for a guy who is in the last year of his contract. All of that is a long way off, of course, so the focus right now is on getting on setting the framework.

“I didn’t have a good year last year, so I want to have a real good year this year,” Osgood said. “It’s definitely motivating. I don’t know how many more years I’m going to play, so I’d definitely like to have a real good year and then see what happens after that.”
One scrimmage only means so much, but the guys shooting at Osgood included Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom, and it’s not like they were making it easy on him. At the very least, it’s a start.

St. James points out that both Howard and Osgood praised Kirk Maltby’s scrimmage performance and goal scored, albeit with their respectively unique sets of derision:

“I didn’t even see it,” Jimmy Howard said, laughing. “It went through about three sets of legs and then through mine. You know Malts, what can I say? It’s Malts.”

Maltby has been with the Wings since March 1996. He ended last season on long-term injured reserve after surgery on his right shoulder in March—and that’s partly why he came back, Osgood figures.

“He wasn’t happy the way it ended last year because he was hurt,” Osgood said. “He wants to finish on his own terms, regardless of whether that’s at the end of training camp or the full year.  He scored a goal today, so he might be done, now. We’ll see if he’s here tomorrow.”

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan shares a good quip from Brad Stuart regarding Babcock’s plan to rotate all six defensemen into the mix on a regular basis, at least early on:

Babcock would like to see his three defensive pairings play close to 20 minutes each. If the plan works, defenseman Brad Stuart believes it would be a benefit.

“It can really help you at the end of March and April, help you be fresher, which would be a big thing for us,” he said.

Kulfan also spoke to Jimmy Howard last week and posited a superb story about Howard’s desire to establish himself as a top goaltender over the long haul:

“I raised the bar on myself,” said Howard, a second-round pick in 2003 whom the Red Wings kept in Grand Rapids for four seasons getting ready for his NHL audition.  “I expect a lot more of myself now. It’s a little easier in some ways this year. Last year, there was so much going on. Finding a place to live, things like that. That isn’t the case this year.  All I have to worry about this year is getting ready to play. That’s a good feeling.”
“Guys like Ozzie (Chris Osgood), Dom (Dominik Hasek), guys like that, didn’t do it just one year. They did it year after year,” Babcock said.  “You have to do it year after year. You can’t do it just once in a while. He (Howard) has the ability.”
“All along, I knew I could play at this level,” [Howard] said. “It was just getting the confidence and believing I can. It’s two different things. Knowing you can go out there and do it and actually doing it.  I just had to get a couple of games under my belt and relax a little bit.”

RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau notes that goaltending prospect Petr Mrazek earned due praise for his performance thus far…

“He’s good,” Howard said. “He’s flying around out there because he’s so quick. All the young goalies have been doing really well so far in camp. Kenny (Holland) loves his depth and they definitely have it at the goalie position now.”

Babcock likes what he’s seeing from Jordan Owens…

“He works hard and brings energy,” Babcock said. “In Grand Rapids they really thought he helped change around their team when he got there last year. He’ll be real good for us in Grand Rapids.”

Jan Mursak, who finally broke through with 24 goals in Grand Rapids last season, knows he has to establish himself as a full-time scorer to garner another contract from the Wings…

“My first year I was down on myself,” said Mursak, who had two goals and seven assists in 51 games in 2009-10. “Last year I started on the fourth line a

Filed in: | Abel to Yzerman | Permalink


Muero's avatar

Great reporting as always.

Is Lidstrom really switching helmet styles after 20 years? He had on a CCM Vector V10 in the photos.

Posted by Muero on 09/20/10 at 02:03 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Eight exhibition games in twelve days whereas the Pens play only six games.  Who the faux sets up these things?  Are they in a fricking hurry or something?  I hope the Wings used their summers wisely because another half-season of sphincter-puckering injuries is just the incentive for me to start ordering up on huge barrels of Jameson’s and Hacienda Dona Engracia Anejo Tequila (which, by the way, I would like to have available on the Hasek ASAP, VooX).

Yes, I’m panicking already.  Pass the anejo, bitches.

Posted by SYF from impossible and oddly communally possessive sluts on 09/20/10 at 02:14 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

It’s a V10.  Yessir.

If you’re buying drinks, I want a REAL Shirley Temple with Canada Dry Ginger Ale and grenadine, not the Sprite crap they served at the RW charity dinner.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 09/20/10 at 02:18 AM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

Thanks George, great work.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 09/20/10 at 02:30 AM ET

Liam Hart's avatar

I saw Pav’s stick blacked out. Looked pretty sick, although the tape threw me off.

Anyways. How did you become such an equipment enthusiast, George? It’s nice to read about, nobody else covers that kinda stuff.

Keep up the good work.

Posted by Liam Hart on 09/20/10 at 05:37 AM ET

Lucce's avatar

Excellent reading!

Posted by Lucce from Kingdom of Zweden on 09/20/10 at 06:52 AM ET

edillac's avatar

Their personalities seem to mesh pretty well, too.  For whatever reason, the easygoing Franzen calms Bertuzzi down a little bit, and Bertuzzi’s competitiveness perks the occasionally sleepy-eyed Franzen up a bit. It’s only been all of two days, but I really like what I see from that line

lol,Mule is a goddamned hippie,cant wait to see that line in regular action

glad to hear about Mursak, personally I think that he just needs to improve his finishing a bit and he’ll be ready for the first team next season

Posted by edillac from isolation on 09/20/10 at 08:32 AM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

Excellent, GJ.

(And anyone not checking out the links embedded by our man, Malik, is missing out on A LOT. Do it.)

Is it October yet?

BTW, this made me chuckle, sounds just like him:

Helm said. “I think I learned a little bit last year about how to kind of stay ready for each game. It’s tough to play 82 games 100 percent with a lot of energy.  Just trying to find that even level where I can play as hard as I can but not kill myself.”

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 09/20/10 at 11:18 AM ET

RWBill's avatar

Great list of information, I’ll get to the rest of it later this morning.  Incredible.

I don’t expect you to be in there pestering players and already busy coaches for quotes or interviews, great reporting on just what’s going on.  You’ve already given me a greater appreciation for the complexity of this whole operation and the compressed schedule in place now.

Great on Downey, sometime into the season if he’s still around and you happen to bump into him I think he’d enjoy talking about his 2 years in the ECHL that enabled his career to take off.  I’m curious whether Brophy had heard of him and recruited him or whether he knew of Brophy’s reputation and figured he could get back into hockey that way by being the epitome of Brophy’s ideal player.

Posted by RWBill on 09/20/10 at 11:21 AM ET

Chris from NOHS's avatar

Only an 8,000 word blog post, or 145% longer than my Supreme Court brief. 

Damn George. How are you not doing this professionally!

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Denver CO on 09/20/10 at 12:48 PM ET

Chris from NOHS's avatar

change the ! to ?

Posted by Chris from NOHS from Denver CO on 09/20/10 at 12:52 PM ET

chollis's avatar

I feel like I just went through an all-nighter after reading all of this, George. Good stuff, as always buddy.

Excuse me while I go pass out now.

Posted by chollis from Seattle. Seriously. on 09/20/10 at 01:48 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

” ...  Lebda’s excited to be playing in Toronto, which he says is, “This is number one hockey market in the world, and everyone knows that; it’s even a step up, a way-step up from Detroit, already from what I can tell.

Burning bridges, eh, Lebs?

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 09/20/10 at 02:21 PM ET

Osrt's avatar

Intense post as always Mr. Malik.

Your assessments of the lines bolster my confidence, although I’m scared Franzen will…..shutting my mouth.

Lebda is an idiot. Have fun being the 6th guy on the league’s worst time. :fistbump:

Lilja got terrible advice. Good luck dude, but eh.

Bertuzzi says to Franzen, “RAWWRRRR.” Franzen then scores two hat-tricks, all with assists from Fil.

Posted by Osrt on 09/20/10 at 02:24 PM ET

TeamDub's avatar

Great post, George… but a little light on content and details. (!)

Keep up the awesome work and good luck adapting and overcoming!

Posted by TeamDub from The gratch. on 09/20/10 at 06:05 PM ET

rrasco's avatar

Took me nearly all of my Monday to get through this, but well worth it.  Good job as usual Malik.

Lebda, hahaha…ok!  Maybe he just wants a longer summer.

NHL preseason officially starts tomorrow.  Oh, it’s been a long time coming.

Posted by rrasco from TEXAS on 09/20/10 at 06:15 PM ET

Sadie's avatar

What an epic post.  I’m obviously very late to get to it, but I finally had a chance to make my way through it, and I couldn’t believe the wealth of information you packed in.  Thank you so much for all your hard work!  It’s much appreciated.

Posted by Sadie from Ann Arbor, MI on 09/21/10 at 12:04 AM ET

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About Abel to Yzerman

Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com