The Malik Report
If the Red Wings do waive Ty Conklin, he’ll be headed to a Griffins team that needs goaltending help
by George Malik on 02/20/12 at 02:49 AM ET
I’ve spent quite a bit of my health and legal-issue-related absence refining my skills as a professional worry-wart, but as the Detroit Red Wings’ management begins to hedge toward a decision which MLive’s Ansar Khan and Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji hinted at, and the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff stated explicitly as a rumor bouncing around the press box like mad on Sunday afternoon…
Unconfirmed speculation is that #redwings will waive Conklin Monday in order to send him down. Could be reason why Howard not in today.
I have faith that the Wings will make the best of a difficult situation, both on the ice and in the locker room.
I don’t know the exact CBA specifics thereof, but while the Wings don’t have to waive Joey MacDonald every 10 games/30 days because he’s on a two-way contract, waiving Conklin—who’s been a very quiet but superbly good soldier during MacDonald’s dominant run—would likely mean that, should the Wings choose to go with Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald as their goaltenders of note for the balance of the season, the Wings would actually have to bring up Jordan Pearce or Thomas McCollum should either netminder suffer a ding or scrape as recalling Conklin necessitates the re-entry waiver scenario that nobody wants to mess with (even given Conklin’s somewhat negligible value as someone who might be picked up for free as early as tomorrow morning, and given the Wings’ ability to absorb half of whatever remains of Conkin’s $750,000 salary should the need to recall him arise).
Once the playoffs begin, re-entry waivers disappear and you can bring up anybody and everybody, but for the better part of two months, the Wings would be committing to a Howard-MacDonald scenario, and given MacDonald’s play over the past two seasons in injury-replacement capacities, highly hedging their bets toward giving MacDonald an opportunity to prove that his one-way contract for the 2012-2013 season should be played out in Detroit.
For MacDonald, being told to “get a place” would go a long way toward giving the 32-year-old the ability to truly find permanent NHL employment with the team which signed him as a free agent back in 2001, and given both his 11-6-and-5 record, 2.12 goals-against average .925 save percentage over this past two seasons with Detroit, never mind his very affordable $550,000 salary cap hit, MacDonald might end up “getting a place” where he can bring the family he left behind in Nova Scotia because he found last year’s season as something of a yo-yo between Grand Rapids and Detroit a little too much to bear on the familial front.
I’m not Ken Holland and I might be one of the few Wings fans who would never wish that job upon himself (I’m glad that he loves it because it’s a hard one), but at this point, it certainly seems that MacDonald’s earned the right to back up Howard as everybody hopes that the Wings’ starter won’t be hampered by his still-healing right index finger, because if Howard does need some assistance and/or a little breather here or there as his pain tolerance requires over the next four or so weeks, the Wings simply cannot afford to surrender points in the incredibly tightly-packed Western Conference and Central Division standings for the sake of getting Conklin back on track. It seems kind of mean to suggest as much, but as a partisan Wings fan, I would rather have MacDonald sitting his dominant butt on the bench, ready to go as needed, than I would knowing that Conklin might offer a shaky alternative if somebody goes after Howard in a scrum to try and bait him into swinging that sore finger around (and we know that will happen at some point, and as a goalie, trust me, if guys know you’re hurting somewhere, they hack the hell out of your sore spots at every opportunity, so every time Howard stops a puck with his blocker, he’ll get whacked) or if Howard simply finds that the thuds of pucks hitting his stick and trying to steer his paddle without the finger which is supposed to guide it. Conklin’s been a wonderful “good soldier” and I think that the Wings have let him out to dry and then some on more than one occasion, but you want to have the best goalie possible ready to go if Howard needs an extra game off here or there, and that player is Joey MacDonald.
For Conklin, obviously, the situation’s discouraging to say the least as he might very well have flamed out of two organizations, and may need to either play for a while in the AHL or Europe to regain his status as an NHL-caliber back-up (despite truly having played fairly well in 9 appearances) for the Wings.
That being said, especially given that the Grand Rapids Griffins are absolutely desperate to close the 7-point gap between themselves and the Lake Erie Monsters in the North Division standings, and given that the team’s lost 5 of their 7 February games and find themselves, as the Grand Rapids Press’s Peter J. Wallner notes, both 8 points out of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot and in rather desperate straits in the goaltending department, as Wallner noted on Thursday, it’s not as if the Griffins wouldn’t give Conklin every possible opportunity to reclaim his form:
Without MacDonald, the Griffins have struggled. Jordan Pearce was pulled Wednesday after the second period at Chicago in favor of Tom McCollum, who will start Saturday’s home game against Peoria. McCollum, who was strong in relief against the Wolves in a 4-3 overtime loss, has a save percentage of .882 (3.63 gaa). Pearce is at .874 (3.53).
“Bottom line, it needs to be better,” said coach Curt Fraser. “Joey was such a stabilizing force on this team. I mean, the team just played with more confidence with him around. With these kids, while they have been good at times, they need to not let the pressure get to them.”
McCollum is aware of the expectations.
“First off, we get along well,” he said of teammate Pearce. “But you have to push yourself to get better because you know that if you play well, you’ll get another chance and then you have to try and build from there.”
In six games without MacDonald, the Griffins (20-20-5-4) have allowed five goals three times and four goals twice. So what’s next? Fraser will wait along with everyone else.
“If it’s Ty, that would be terrific for us,” he said. “If he comes to us you know he would have the mindset to prove something.”
On Saturday, the Griffins dropped a 3-1 decision to the Peoria Rivermen, with McCollum giving up 3 goals on 29 shots, and Wallner spoke to Griffins captain Garnet Exelby about the immense importance the Griffins are placing upon turning things around almost immediately:
The Griffins play two of their next three at home. They currently are 13th in the Western Conference (20-21-5-4) and eight points out of a playoff spot. In March, they face road trips of five and four games.
The goalie situation also may be resolved soon. The Detroit Red Wings are expected to decide by Monday whether to send back down Joey MacDonald or waive Ty Conklin, who could then join Grand Rapids mid-week if he clears waivers.
On Saturday, Tom McCollum stopped all 11 shots in the first, was hung out to dry on Peoria’s first goal, by Brett Sterling, in the second. Later in the second, a shot by Anthony Peluso squirted through his arm, and then he was victimized by a backhand shot point blank by Phil McRae in the third, moments after the Griffins had cut the margin to 2-1.
“I think we’ve given up too many goals, so one step where I think we’ve been doing a better job is with our penalty killing and not taking as many penalties,” said Exelby. “We just need to be solid defensively in our own end and talk to each other.”
Put simply: the Red Wings don’t necessarily bear any responsibility to send Ty Conklin down and place themselves in a situation in which they find themselves needing to recall Conklin via re-entry waivers over the next two months, but at this point, the Grand Rapids Griffins rather desperately need more stable goaltending if they are to make the playoffs, and if Ken Holland, Jim Nill, Ryan Martin, Mike Babcock, Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters have decided that they’d prefer to stick with MacDonald as Jimmy Howard’s back-up for the balance of the regular season, they would be doing Conklin no disservice by sending him to a team which would give him every opportunity to shine and lead them back into playoff contention—just as MacDonald would if the Wings choose to send him down in the hopes of sustaining his dominant play while giving his previous employer an incredibly necessary boost…
And we all know that the Red Wings’ players understand that hockey is a cutthroat business, where jobs are won, lost and “stolen” all the time, but we’re far, far removed from the days when Manny Legace served as the Berlin Wall between Dominik Hasek and Curtis Joseph’s respective egos. The Wings want each other to do well, but the team’s success always comes first and foremost, and if Conklin has any complaints if he is in fact on his way toward I-96’s western terminus for the balance of the season…Any negative comments would be a radical departure from the “Red Wings way” norm.
The Wings’ coaches and brass will sort things out so that their netminding is the best that it possibly can be and so that the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate receives the goaltending reinforcements it desperately needs, and at this point, both “hot” and substantiated rumors suggest that Conklin’s about to embark on a journey to reclaim his status as an NHL-capable back-up while playing for a team a few hours west of the one he began the 2011-2012 season with, but neither Conklin nor Joey MacDonald’s respective personal goals will be harmed in the process.
More importantly, the Wings and Griffins’ collective goaltending situations ensure that both teams’ best interests will be served regardless of whether Conklin is waived or MacDonald is sent down to Grand Rapids until Jimmy Howard needs a breather.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.