The Malik Report
From the land of Twitter, via RotoWorld, I'm not saying that Rita, one of my Grand Rapids Griffins pals, told me she knew which way the wind was blowing, but I am not surprised that former Griffins coach Todd Nelson is suddenly in the running to replace Jeff Blashill because a little birdie mentioned his name:
The Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner reported that the Griffins have six candidates to replace Blashill, including Toledo Walleye coach Derek Lalonde. So far we know that Todd Nelson (Oklahoma City/Edmonton Oilers), Mike Sullivan (Boston alum, Vancouver) and Erie Otters coach Kris Knoblauch, who is also in the running for the Maple Leafs' assistant coaching job, are all in the mix, but the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson believes that Nelson should be the odds-on favorite to coach the Griffins:
Those who are familiar with Nelson and his tenure with the Griffins, as a player and assistant coach, endorse him.
Fox Sports Detroit's Keith Gave penned a long missive about Jeff Blashill's coaching journey and dream to coach the Wings, speaking with both Jeff and Jim Blashill ("Blash's dad") about the long journey that's led Blashill to be entrusted with both a) keeping the Wings' 24-year playoff streak intact and b) advancing deeper into the playoffs than Mike Babcock's taken them in recent years:
"The pressure for me, and it's a year-to-year thing, is something you put on yourselves as an organization, as a manager, as a coach and as players, and it's bigger than any outside pressure that you could face," he said. "With that said, we don't worry about what could happen if you don't do it. We worry about what it's going to take to do it. That's our focus."
That was the focus for his Griffins this spring when they found themselves down 0-2, in the best-of-five opening-round Calder Cup playoff series with the Toronto Marlies.
"People were talking about the pressure of Game 3: If you lose, you're done," Jeff said. "We all understood that, and we weren't hiding behind it. But our focus wasn't on what might happen if we lost, it's 'What is it going to take to win?"
It is that singular focus, with the kind of attention to detail and structure and process that drew comparisons to his friend and mentor Mike Babcock, that gives General Manager Ken Holland -- and should give Wings fans -- the confidence that the team has the right man at the right time behind the Detroit bench.
Gave continues, and his article's worth your time. I can certainly tell you that Blashill believes in focusing his team on the here-and-now as much as he focuses them on intensive preparation, so the Griffins weren't talking about winning games as much as they were talking about winning period by period, shift by shift and puck battle by puck battle when they were down against the Marlies, when they were up against the Rockford IceHogs and when they ultimately fell to the Utica Comets.
The nexus of their focus never changed--it was all about the process, the journey in the present tense, and for two-and-a-half rounds this spring and six of eight playoff rounds under Blashill's tenure in Grand Rapids, that kind of singular focus worked.
Gave also provides an update on the Wings' assistant coaching search, via a separate article:
So we've talked about the incredibly unpopular option the Wings might exercise in bringing back Daniel Cleary, we've talked about Johan Franzen's possible return to health, and we've talked about Jimmy Howard's future, too.
This afternoon, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose touches upon both topics, but the main thrust of his notebook involves the Wings' pro scouting meetings, which are slated to take place next week at Joe Louis Arena. There, the Wings' pro scouts will formulate their free agency and/or trade plans based upon the Wings' projected roster for the following season, and Jeff Blashill will be taking part in said meetings to help forecast which Grand Rapids Griffins might graduate to the big club:
“Blash is going to have a perspective about the young players down there,” Holland said. “He’s going to have a perspective of being with those guys on an everyday basis as we plan. We’re trying to go younger. We’re trying to get better and sometimes when you’re dealing with younger people you got to have patience and you believe the patience is going to reward you somewhere down the line.”
Holland and Blashill have had preliminary discussions on how the new coach foresees systematic changes to the team.
“I’ve already had some conversations about where people fit and some of the conversations I had with Mike Babcock (were) a little different,” Holland said. “He sees people fitting in a little different. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to be as important, just different. Certainly as we go into training camp there might be some different line combinations, different opportunity. I’m hoping our players are excited about the opportunity.”
Holland won't have to worry about hitting the upper limit of the salary cap for the following season unless he signs a top-flight UFA defenseman and a top-six forward, but Babcock was very specific in telling Roose that he must think in four dimensions--because the Red Wings have a gaggle of restricted and unrestricted free agents-to-be next summer, and the Wings want to retain as many of them as possible:
The Hockey News's Ken Campbell and the Free Press's Steve Schrader have updated us on Gordie Howe's condition pursuant to his second round of stem cell therapy in Mexico, and now the Canadian Press's Sheryl Ubelacker (via RedWingsFeed) offers a third update:
The 87-year-old hockey legend was treated Monday at the same Mexican clinic where he underwent an initial injection of stem cells in his spine in December, following a debilitating stroke last October.
Mark says his brother Murray, who’s a doctor, took Howe to the Tijuana clinic, where their dad got “a little boost” from the therapy.
Mark says they are flying today to Toledo, Ohio, where Howe will stay with Murray and his wife after having lived with his daughter Cathy Purnell in Lubbock,Tex.
“The way we approach it as a family is every day that we’ve had Dad, ever since his first treatment, has basically just been a bonus,” Mark said from New Jersey, where he lives. “So we’re just trying to enjoy the moments.”
Howe also has a form of dementia, and Mark says that like anybody’s who is aging, his father has “some good days and some not so good days.”Living with Murray will make it easier for Howe’s family members and friends from his years as a Detroit Red Wing to visit, which should help his father adjust to his new home, he said.
“With his dementia, sometimes he gets a little disoriented. So the more familiar faces he has around, the easier the transition is.”
I don't believe that the Red Wings are going to move Jimmy Howard until and unless Petr Mrazek proves that he's a capable #1A goaltender during the 2015-16 regular season and playoffs, but 97.1 the Ticket's Jeff Riger feels differently, and he broached the subject with Wings GM Ken Holland at yesterday's Blashill presser:
“Is it time for change” Holland asked. “When I look at the combined salary cap of the two combined, Jimmy’s is $5.3 (million dollars a year) and Mrazek is $737.5 ($737,500) they add up to about 6 million dollars. When you look at what we put into goal in relation to our 29 competitors, we’re probably; I’m just guessing we’re middle of the pack. There’s some below us but there’s teams that have $8-9 million in goal.”
While Holland is right, the situation doesn’t make sense. It would be one thing if the salaries were reversed or even if the Wings expected Howard to regain his form and return as the teams number one net minder but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Mrazek is younger with better skills and he also has his first playoff series behind which bodes well for that all important “experience factor” that we hear so much about. He’s the future, not Howard.
Sure Mrazek struggled at times and yes he allowed his fair share of “soft goals” but the money Howard is owed is better used in other areas. This blog is not to bash Jimmy and what he’s already achieved in a Wings uniform should not go unnoticed but the GM’s job is to make the Wings better next season and this is simply a matter of money, cash better spent elsewhere.
Riger suggests that now is the time to move Howard, to which I ask: who's going to back up Mrazek, then? What do you think?
The Olympia Room is often packed with Red Wings alumni during major announcements, and MLive's Brendan Savage asked Ted Lindsay to weigh in on Jeff Blashill's hiring yesterday. Here's what Lindsay told Savage:
"Coach has got to be his own man," Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay said Tuesday after Blashill was introduced as the new coach at Joe Louis Arena. "Babcock was a special guy. He was here 10 years. That's a long time for a coach to be motivating players because of a lot of players today leave a lot to be desired sometimes. We're all different personalities. (Blashill) recognizes Babcock does a good job. He's not Babcock. He's Jeff. That's what he wants to see himself as."
Lindsay knows first-hand about coaching the Red Wings. In addition to playing 14 seasons in Detroit – where he was a member of the famed Production Line along with Gordie Howe – Lindsay coached the Red Wings for 29 games over two seasons.
But Lindsay's teams in Detroit were part of the "Dead Wings" era and he didn't have the luxury that Blashill will enjoy after inheriting a roster that includes players like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall.
"That's definitely going to help him," said Lindsay, who still attends many Red Wings functions with his 90th birthday approaching July 25. "The other thing you look at is five or six of the kids that have been on the team in the last couple of years, he coached them in Grand Rapids. So it's not a strange thing. I remember one game, a couple of the kids were saying how he doesn't get rattled, he's very calm, no pressure on him. So that's a good asset for a player to have."
Savage continues, offering advice aimed at Blashill from Chris Chelios and Kris Draper...
New Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill joined Hockey Central at Noon to talk about his new job and the roster he’ll be working with.
Update: Here's the audio of the interview sans video:
Updated 4x at 2 PM: Two more columns about Jeff Blashill popped up between the overnight report and this blogger's wake-up call, so:
1. MLive's Ansar Khan took note of Ken Holland's comments regarding Blashill's status as a "players' coach"...
Was Babcock's message getting stale? Was it time for a change? The Red Wings didn't think so, offering him a five-year contract worth $20 million. But when the Maple Leafs offered a mind-boggling $50 million for eight years, Babcock couldn't refuse.
Blashill shares some of the same philosophies as Babcock; they spoke regularly by phone the past three years. And while Blashill isn't as abrasive as the hard-driving Babcock, he's no pushover, for anyone who might think the Red Wings are going from a tough, demanding coach to a softie.
"I don't think he's a soft coach," general manager Ken Holland said. "One of the things I believe is very important in being a head coach is you got to make people accountable. They got to understand there's parameters and expectations and if they don't abide by those parameters and expectations on and off the ice -- commitment to gym, commitment to fitness, attention to detail, playing a 200-foot game, playing 45-second shifts, they got to buy the team game -- you're not going to have success."
2. And CBS Detroit's Ashley Dunkak spoke with Blashill's parents about their son's desire to coach at the highest level:
I apologize for the Jeff Blashill content overload, but the Detroit News's Bob "Wojo" Wojnowski wrote a fantastic article about Blashill's hiring as a "refurbishment" of the Red Wings franchise, and this missive deserves top billing:
"I actually think Jeff is going to be a great fit," said Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings. "He has proven himself at many different levels. Talk to players who have been around him and he has an incredible way to motivate them, yet hold them accountable. … I don't know if you're ever turning the page. You're just continuing to develop and evolve, and I love the way our team is evolving."
Generally, ownership craves continuity and development, and the Ilitches like both. It's evident in the arena that will rise not far from Comerica Park. And coincidentally, the Wings just did what the Tigers did a year ago, when they replaced a longtime leader (Jim Leyland) with a first-time manager (Brad Ausmus).
The Wings are trying to find a way back to the Stanley Cup Finals without discarding the philosophies that produced 24 straight playoff appearances. Landing a coach who sounds like Babcock and extols the same traits of high-character, high-energy players is a smart way to try. Hey, if you're getting younger, get younger together.
"One thing that eases the transition is, a lot of the guys know my style," Blashill said. "I'll have my own approach, and I'm sure there will be change. But I'm sure there will be a lot of similarities to the way Babs coached."
Fifteen members of this year's Wings team played for the Griffins, and guys like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Luke Glendening, Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek will form the next generation's core. Even the older stars — Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall — are familiar with Blashill, who was an assistant one season under Babcock.
The Wings' packed farm system gives Holland viable trade pieces, and he might yet pull off a deal. That's more likely than a major signing in a weak free-agent market, but there's no obvious move pending.
Continued, and Wojo's article is worth your time...
Update: The Free Press's Jeff Seidel nails it, too:
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