The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/09/12 at 03:48 PM ET
Updated 3x at 2:14 PM: I’m currently typing from the “mezzanine” separating the two rinks at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, and I’m trying to be as inconsipicuous as possible while Aaron Downey and Wings capologist Ryan Martin work their tails off with kettlebells, lunges and jumps, a rope pull while standing on a ball and lifts and drops of those barbells that look more like telephone poles—as only part of their workout. As I’ve been told that Mike Babcock will be watching this part of activities this afternoon, and as Babcock is going home today, I’m going to split the afternoon session to watch the players work out for a while—Nick Barnowski is up here for Michigan Hockey, and has posted several pictures of the padded kettlebell, the, uh, log the players are using…
And while Nick may have inspired me to watch the workouts because the Wings’ prospects are just gushy about their new strength and conditioning coach, Peter Renzetti, I’d really like to try and get a word in edge-wise with Babcock.
Put perhaps a little too bluntly, this is a return to working with athletes and front office personnel after almost a year of circumstances beyond my control prohibiting me from doing so, and I’m learning the hard way that there are pluses and minuses to what I do.
While I may all but religiously record the details of every drill from my perch in the stands, I know why the MSM’ers stand at the end of the rink: they do so because the Wings’ management will walk by, and the beat writers can bend their ears pretty regularly. Me? I get all shy and demurring about daring to “bug” them, still, and I’m trying very hard to get past that, but it ain’t easy.
While my rapport with the players is pretty solid as I’m genuinely a fan that roots for them and wishes all the best for them, I’ve also learned from the beat writers that, by comparison, I tend to throw softballs their way…
I’m learning that there’s nothing wrong with their pack mentality, because they go from player to player and snag tons of quotes that aren’t necessarily anyone’s property. Today I went off on my own and did my own thing, but I missed out on interviews with Jake Paterson and a long conversation with Jiri Fischer because I didn’t follow Ted Kulfan, George Sipple or Brendan Savage around…
And I’m learning that I really should have swapped out my God-damned cell phone as my 2-year-old possessed beast doesn’t have the battery power to be much more than a paperweight, limiting my ability to take pictures and upload them or “tweet” from anywhere other than my laptop.
I don’t mean to make this about my journey as much as the prospects’ experiences, but that’s kind of been my thing, and while I’m trying to learn and implement changes after being nothing more than an observer for almost a year, it ain’t easy. That’s also why I’m looking for your feedback regarding both the form and content of these little ditties and who you want me to speak to and why, because I’m admittedly rusty and could use all the constructive criticism, encouragement and occasional badgering (though not with real badgers please) as I can get.
That and the sleep deprivation tends to get to you, which is why I’m not uploading the Petr Mrazek interview where he was sitting in Teemu Pulkkinen’s stall and I called him Tomas Jurco. It does happen…
Anyway, although my time frame for writing is a little shorter today, I was very, very intrigued by what I witnessed at today’s on-ice session—and I’m going to be equally intrigued to see how it plays into tomorrow, because after this second “two-a-day” set of morning workouts and/or on ice sessions followed by the reverse in the afternoon, tomorrow’s about honoring Bryan Rufenach’s memory and giving the prospects their first chance to really go all out and scrimmage from 7-9 PM…
And then after both they and I get some shut-eye tonight (the gents are headed to the Cherry Festival) and gear up for tomorrow’s activities, they’ll have to come down from their first chance to make a full-contact impression in a hurry, because on Wednesday and Thursday, it’s back to getting up at 6 (for me) or 6-something (for them) and spending ten hours at or near the rink.
The camp will wrap up with one more scrimmage on Friday, a morning one, before the players do fitness testing and engage in exit interviews (generally speaking, they’ve done so in Detroit, but that may change).
All in all, that’s still an action-packed week, but the hiccup that is some unstructured time tonight and then an evening scrimmage tomorrow immediately followed by the two two-a-day sessions should throw all kinds of havoc into the youngsters’ body clocks, with several more veteran campers suggesting that while even junior-aged players are used to that kind of shuffle of their body clock, those who’ve played in the AHL and are familiar with playing 3 games in 3 cities in 3 nights, usually with a matinee game squeezed in the middle, and then rolling back into Grand Rapids late at night or early in the morning with an early practice on the schedule will try to make the most of their experience while passing it along.
This does play into the theme of today’s morning session, because Team Lidstrom was shaken from its comfort zone in a big and positive way.
Here’s that roster:
Willie Coetzee #45
Brent Raedeke #47
Trevor Parkes #37
Andrej Nestrasil #49
Riley Sheahan #15
Landon Ferraro #41
Andreas Athanasiou #78
Kellan Lain #57
Dean Chelios #24
Ted Pletsch #67
Travis Novak #56
Julien Cayer #65
Adam Almqvist #53
Brendan Smith #2
Gleason Fournier #46
Max Nicastro #58
Mike McKee #73
James De Haas #74
Thomas McCollum #38
Parker Milner #29
if you’ve stayed with me this far, let’s get two points of clarification out of the way:
• I asked Mike McKee if he’s going to head back to the USHL or whether he’s going to go to Wayne State University per a TMR reader who spoke to him at the draft, and McKee says that he’s going to make his decision based upon what the Red Wings want him to do at the end of camp. Said through spits of chewing tobacco, but still.
• And Adam Almqvist, despite being a very quiet gent, made it very clear that the story sitting on Expressen’s hockey page forever, still stating in July that he’s going back to HV71, is not true: Adam will be turning pro with the Grand Rapids Griffins this upcoming season, and I cannot think of a better development for him as a player or a prospect. He’s more than ready for North American hockey and it’s time to make the jump.
Anyway, about half an hour after Tomas Storm biked into the rink from where the Wings’ brass is staying (I believe some of them are staying at the ol’ Grand Traverse Resort, while the youngsters and probably a minder or three are a little closer to the beach), decked out a skintight cyclist’s uniform (the man has like 0.5% body fat), Storm got onto the ice in a pair of winter gloves, not hockey gloves, and meticulously adjusted and readjusted sets of traffic cones around both faceoff dots, trying to determine which spacing allowed him to stickhandle through them in one stride.
Soon after—and again, this camp’s timing of drills and pacing is to-the-letter perfect, so the coaches and instructors are squeezing way more learning into much less time—at exactly 8:29 AM, the squads were split into “red” and “white” teams, with the “red” team warming up McCollum and Milner for 15 minutes and the “white” team working through Storm’s drills before swapping out to work with the goalies.
Storm’s drills today focused on going against the grain and going against what one’s body suggests is “natural.” He began by having the players face the puck while completing 90-degree turns to the left and right, rotating back and forth while maintaining a direction of travel from the right side of the blueline to the left, swiveling around the puck as it moved more or less in one direction parallel to that blueline and their bodies shifted and shuffled from their right side going forward to their left side going forward and back again.
Then Storm had the players engage in a drill where they crossed over two strides to the right, kicked their right leg out, then shuffled back toward the left using crossovers, kicked their left leg out and lathered, rinsed and repeated as necessary, all while carrying the puck forward, and even the more nuanced stickhandlers had difficulty with that…
In something I can only describe as goalie-like in its appearance, Storm had the skaters take two strides back, then two strides forward, and two strides back, and a push-off going forward, making what I an only describe as what looked like a “VWVWVW” motion, eventually cradling the puck while skating slowly forward toward the blueline. It was incredibly complicated in terms of the footwork involved.
And building upon his “take a knee” drill, Storm had the skaters skate parallel to that blueline while first dropping to one knee and then sliding on both knees before getting up with the opposite leg from the one they first planted on the ice, again, all while pushing the puck forward.
More than a couple of guys plain old fell over attempting this drill, and we’re talking the Riley Sheahans of the world, so some very skilled players had very difficult times working on this particular drill.
Storm rewarded the skaters with what we’ll call target practice. Starting from the goal line, the players deked through and around one traffic cone at the bottom of the faceoff dot, they proceeded to loop around two cones placed approximately 15 feet apart at the “tops” of the dot, and then they deked through a final cone at the hash marks before attempting to score into two tires placed on the net to highlight the left and right top corners. This one, the players had less difficulty with, and I was really surprised by the number of players who either shelfed the puck or ended up hitting the foot-wide tires in the process.
Finally, Storm had the players skate around the faceoff circles in either a clockwise or counterclockwise motion, stickhandling the puck and shooting at the net from the hash marks, with one exception: they had to keep facing the blueline and keep their shoulders more or less parallel to said blueline at all times, which involved transitioning between skating forwards, backwards, sideways and then forwards again. Looping around and looping around, the players did their best to stay up, but sometimes it didn’t work so well.
In terms of the early goalie drills, McCollum and Millner started situated halfway between the net and the side boards at the goal line, first minus sticks and then with sticks, stopping shots aimed at their toes to increase side-to-side quickness and recovering from the butterfly. Milner’s got some fantastic toes and lateral mobility.
The wrinkle thrown in with their sticks was an intriguing one: for the pleasure of being able to use their goal sticks, the goalies had to drop to the butterfly, shuffle two sides to the right in a half-butterfly, return to that butterfly position, stop a shot, then shuffle two strides to the left, re-square themselves and stop another shot, moving back and forth and back and forth to emphasize edgework.
The third drill began something of a theme: With three pucks placed at the center and right and left “tops” of what has become a horseshoe-shaped goal crease, the goaltenders went from post to post, “tagged up,” dropped to the butterfly and then stopped shots from either their blocker or glove sides (depending on the drill). Here, McCollum’s size shined, while Millner’s much smaller upper body and tight glove and blocker positioning yielded holes along the goalposts, though Milner’s what I guess we would call early-2000’s style “pro fly” allows him to squeeze the five hole easily. He uses pads that have a break below the knee but nothing above, and they’re board stiff in the thigh rise, so he uses those very effectively as a blocking surface.
Then the fourth and fifth drills involved goalies having to adjust to a pass from player to goalie coach made behind the net, with the shooter then skating toward the opposite goalpost to fire a puck toward the netminder, again, working the blocker and glove sides, and then incorporating a second pass to the forward as he went toward the opposite post so that the goalies had to recover from one post save and push out to make another in short order.
Things got even more complicated from there. Shooters then lined up from the blueline, fired a hard shot on net, would get a pass from below the goal line from one of the instructors and slide it across toward another player coming off the half boards, who would skate toward the faceoff dot and shoot. Add in two shots from the point and things got really complicated.
Perhaps just as importantly for the shooters and very specifically defensemen, Bedard had the d-men skate across the length of a goal stick placed just north of the center of the blueline so that they walked the puck laterally before firing pucks on the net and then getting that pass from behind the goal line to slide to a winger coming from the side of the net opposite the side toward the defensemen skated—i.e. if the D went from left to right, the right winger would get the pass, and if the D went from right to left, a player on the “glove side” would receive a pass.
Toss in some goal-line passes instead of blueline passes on the blocker and stick sides and you have yourselves a goalie salad, I mean a tough workout.
I should note right now that when McCollum and Milner were on their own, they also did an inordinate amount of legwork and edge-work to increase their lateral mobility and recovery from the butterfly position, shuffling side to side over the full 85-foot width of the rink and skating through the faceoff dot in W’s and X’s. They really skated hard today.
In terms of power skating, Andy Weidenbach’s drills had players literally falling over at times.
His emphasis on long strides and taking s-turns would remain important throughout the skating drills, and he continues what I can best describe as “great circle” drills, where players try to face the goal line skating in either a counterclockwise or clockwise fashion over the center ice circle and then from about the faceoff dots to the blueline…
And just as the goalies had to do their share of lateral work, Weidenbach and Jiri Fischer had the players working on three chippy crossovers skating forward to the left and right, to the left and right in more s-turns, with Fischer emphasizing that the players had to dig in as they pushed off at one side of the S than the other.
But that was comparatively easy. Then the players were asked to skate up to the center ice red line or the faceoff dot and literally pivot their bodies around, skate a stride back and then to a 360, trying to keep themselves pointing forward for as long as possible. The “hipsy-doodle” was intense.
The skaters did pretty well while slithering backwards with their legs kept together, but when they were asked to do crossovers while skating backwards, more than a few players fell over, including defensemen, so Fischer reminded the players that their center of gravity had to be back into their hips so their legs didn’t go out from under them.
After a few more great circles in which players skated in tighter three-man groups, I am not kidding here, the players engaged in a slate of pirhouettes, where they shuffled their legs under themselves and pivoted off their feet at 90-degre angles, all before skating backwards with a forward-style stride, trying to shuffle back and forth with their skates pointed 180 feet apart and their knees bent—even Smith had trouble with that one—lifting one leg off the ice and then pushing it down “snapping” it back 90 degrees to instigate a full 180-degree spin, and the last one…
To top of circle, hips turn backwards, blueline, turn, to circle, turn, red line, 360 and in.
Forward backwards turn turn 360, pivot to rt, then left, then forward, then right, back to faceoff dot, forward to red line, 360 turn.
Not easy for anyone.
That about sums up the day’s drills.
As I’m quickly running out of time, Jim Paek’s drills involved layering in the usual shooting 3-on-0’s 2-on-0’s or 2-on-1’s with tons of dumping, chasing and retrieving, with many stops so that Paek could emphasize the positioning of the 3-man attack and hard drives up the middle.
He’d add in d-to-d passes to start the rush, drills where the d-to-d passes would add in a forward from one of the half board positions to skate up in a 3-on-0 or a player who would sneak in to make it a 3-on-1, and especially dumps and chases along the wall, I think for a good ten minutes, where there were no shots whatsoever, merely attempts to encourage players to skate very, very hard up the wall when they cleared the puck, just as he wants the players to skate very, very hard up the middle when they’re attacking their opponents.
Adding another wrinkle, two defensemen and a forward would skate up ice, get a shot off, and would receive a pass from a coach behind the goal line to “keep in” the puck with the third player screening the goalie, and eventually working in a fourth player who would either defend or help get into the attack.
Paek also had the players start from one faceoff dot and engage in full-ice three-on-three rushes, dump-and-chase retrievals, and some drills where the players would actually “dump” the puck in on the goalie before the goalie keyed the breakout.
To quote Chris Chelios when things got chippy, “Don’t be half-asses.” Nobody was.
By the time the players simply split up for forwards to work on faceoffs and defensemen to take point shots, and Brendan Smith led the stretches, a good workout was had by all.
Okay, I’ve got to catch up on links. Player assessments later—I’ll squeeze them in this entry as the afternoon progresses:
• Rick Bouwness held a Twitter Q and A with Jiri Fischer;
• The Midland Daily News’s Hugh Berenreuter notes that Marcel Dionne will take part in a Great Lakes Loons Wings alumni bobblehead giveaway, and he shared some thought about his career:
“People now forget that when I was in Detroit, there were problems,” Dionne said. “The guy that saved that franchise was Mike Ilitch. When Gordie Howe left, management could not put it together. A lot of guys will never win a Stanley Cup. Some guys won just by going to the right team. I don’t mean that in a bad way. You look for championships. It’s very difficult to win. It’s very hard to accomplish. My brother (Gilbert Dionne) won the Cup with Montreal (1993).”
So he understood how important it was for Red Wings fans when Detroit won the Stanley Cup or when the Los Angeles Kings finally won the Cup this season.
“With the Kings winning, it’s a closure for me,” Dionne said. “Detroit went along and made the right decisions with the right people. It was great to see. I’ve been reminded about the Kings all the time. It was great to see them win it. I’ve learned to never blame the players. Some were put in wrong situations. Management wasn’t able to put everything together.”
Dionne’s history with management wasn’t always perfect. After four years with the Red Wings, he forced a trade when he asked for more money. When the Kings offered Dionne $300,000, the Wings sent Dionne to Los Angeles.
“I was the first guy to fully go on the market, and I was one of the first players making $300,000 a year,” Dionne said. “I was criticized for it. But I watched guys like Gordie Howe play 26 years for the Red Wings, and I saw what the organization was doing to him. Who am I, compared to Gordie Howe? If it wasn’t for the money, Detroit was the place to play. I loved it.”
Although Dionne was a Quebec native, he quickly adapted to Los Angeles.
“Detroit may have been the place to play, but L.A. was the place to live,” Dionne said. “Beach, 80 degrees, Hollywood stars. Any fool that says you need three feet of snow to play hockey is wrong. You can be successful wherever you go now.”
• Nick Barnowski did a fantastic job writing up his thoughts from the morning session, including some quips from Jim Nill:
“The most important part of this camp is probably the off ice,” Nill said. “All of these guys need to develop physically. You want to make sure they’re going at it the right way, so the most important part is being in the gym.”
That was interesting and telling to me, because Nill and company have probably seen each prospect play dozens of times, yet likely rarely have the chance to witness their workout and off-ice habits in person.
I then asked Nill what they look for as far as on-ice evaluation. “We watch their skating. Do they have good speed, are they mobile, can they change direction well. The basics, how do they handle the puck, how is their shot release, are they quick on their shots.”
Then, of course: “Once we get into the scrimmages and some of the other drills we want to see how they think. Everybody can handle the puck skating around the ice, but we want to see what happens when there’s two guys on them and how they make quick decisions and their hockey sense.”
That right there, along with the off-ice work, is probably why this camp is held. They’ve seen the highlight reels and such, but here is where their hockey smarts can grow in addition to their “God-given talent,” as Ken Holland put it. That’s what management is looking for this week
• MLive’s Brendan Savage offers the following...
Just chatting with Mike Babcock. He likes the size of many of the players at #redwingsprospectscamp
As well as the following:
• Hockey is obviously the main item on the agenda this week but the Red Wings are taking steps to make sure the players have some fun as well.
“They’ve got different things,” said assistant general manager Jim Nill. “They might play a soccer game on the beach, a mini putt-putt tournament, barbeque on the beach. Chris Chelios has some paddle boards he brought up here.”
The Red Wings won’t have to go far to find a place to use Chelios’ toys. Their hotel is situated on the main drag heading into town and is right on the beach, a wrist shot from Grand Traverse Bay.
• Alexander Semin might be the most skilled unrestricted free agent still on the market but it doesn’t sound like the Red Wings have any interest in him.
“I talked to his agent once but right now we’re doing nothing,” said general manager Ken Holland in regards to Semin.”
• ESPN’s Scott Burnside weighed in on the Wings’ free agent needs with the following blurb:
Detroit Red Wings: We don’t regularly predict the demise of the Detroit Red Wings but with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the departure of Brad Stuart to San Jose, the Wings’ inability to lure Suter to the Motor City leaves a great void along the blue line and a team that does appear to be at least in a holding pattern, if not outright decline. Still, like Lamoriello, we will never count out a team managed by Ken Holland until the standings tells us it’s time.
• Instead of biting on MLive’s Josh Slaghter’s discussion of Shane Doan’s possible interest in becoming a Wing, I’ll direct you toward Doan’s agent’s comments from Terry Bross to the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan:
I expect by Tuesday we’ll probably start listening to some offers, get an idea of where he kind of fits in the market, and take that next step,” said Terry Bross,Doan’s agent. “I wouldn’t say anything’s imminent.”
Doan’s self-imposed deadline of July 9 coincides with the day the city of Glendale says signatures are due for a potential referendum on prospective buyer Greg Jamison’s lease agreement. Two Glendale residents have been gathering signatures in an attempt to push the lease agreement onto the November ballot.
What the Doan camp hopes to learn Monday is whether enough signatures were gathered and if July 9 will be considered the final deadline for them.
Arizona law says referendum organizers typically have 30 days after an ordinance is passed to turn in signatures, which, in this case, would be Monday. But organizers say because paperwork was unavailable until June 15, they should have until July 16 to turn in signatures. It’s unclear whether the required number of signatures has been reached or if organizers will even submit them Monday to the city.
Bross plans to check in with General Manager Don Maloney this morning to check in on those factors and learn the status of Jamison’s bid to purchase the team.
“Pending the outcome of that conversation, it could go one of two ways,” Bross said. “I would think if they don’t have the signatures and it looks like the Jamison thing is going to go (through), then Don and I would get a little more serious in our dialogue about a new contract. If they do have the signatures or something throws a wrench in it and they say we’re looking at two months before we can make a decision, I think we have to listen to some other offers.”
Multimedia: And here are my interviews with…
• Adam Almqvist…
• Landon Ferraro…
• Mike McKee…
• Max Nicastro…
• Trevor Parkes…
• And here’s some listen-in stuff from Jiri Fischer’s chat with the MSM:
Update: Sarah Lindenau just posted this morning’s photo gallery on the Left Wing Lock as well.
Update #2: I hesitate to even put this in here. Lambert;
Upload Photos and Videos Former Red Wing Nicklas Lidstrom’s house at 47725 Bellagio Drive in Novi has been sold, according to Realtor John Goodman.
The house, which was built in 2004, was listed for $2.9 million, but Goodman said the house was not sold for the full listing price. The home had been on the market for 21 days, according to AOL Real Estate.
Goodman could not release the name of the person who bought the house, who he said made a cash offer and is filling out the paperwork Tuesday.
Goodman said the sale was the highest sale in Bellagio, but could not release the purchase price.
The house in Bellagio is 6,956 square feet and is in the Northville School District. It has five bedrooms with five full bathrooms and three half-bathrooms. The house has a four-car attached garage, tennis court and wine cellar.
There’s a photo gallery embedded in the story.
Update #3: from Lindenau:
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About The Malik Report
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.