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Red Wings mid-day news: Jimmy Howard believes the Wings’ ‘program’ sells itself to UFAs

Updated 2x at 6:45 PM: Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard’s at the Michigan International Speedway as a co-grand marshal of today’s “Quicken Loans 400,” and he spoke to the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff about uncertain off-season outlook, suggesting that the Wings don’t need to do much more than be the Wings to attract elite players…

As far as what the future holds for his own team, Howard was less certain. Of retired team captain defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom, Howard said. “You can’t replace Nick. It’s impossible.”

Still, they must try, but Howard wasn’t interested in speculating on the route the team might take to do so. “That’s (GM) Kenny (Holland) and (assistant GM) Jim Nill’s department,” said Howard, who didn’t plan to become actively involved in the process by reaching out and calling any potential unrestricted free agents that the team might pursue. “I don’t feel like it’s up to somebody making phone calls. If they want to be a Red Wing, they will be.”

Howard did admit he feels similar intrigue and excitement to fans of the team waiting to see what July 1, the first day of free agency, will bring to the team. “There is that sort of ‘what’s going on’ in everyone’s mind,” Howard said. “We’ll see what happens July 1. It’s the first time in a long time that the Wings have been able to go out in the open market like this.”

Howard sounded similar notes in a conversation with DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose...

There has been plenty of speculation in the media and amongst fans that the Wings will try to land one, or both, of this year’s top unrestricted free agents – center Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter.

Certainly, the offseason losses of defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom, who announced his retirement after 20 seasons, and Brad Stuart, whose rights were traded to San Jose, general manager Ken Holland and assistant GM Jim Nill has their hands full this summer.

But as intrigued as Howard is to find out what new faces may join him and his teammates on next season’s roster, the Wings’ goalie said he isn’t the lobbying kind.

“I don’t feel like it’s up to somebody making phone calls,” said Howard, about calling UFAs to convince them to come to Detroit. “If they want to be a Red Wing, they will be. That’s Kenny and Jim Nill’s department.

“There is that sort of, ‘What’s going on?’ in everyone’s mind. We’ll see what happens July 1. It’s the first time in a long time that the Wings have been able to go out in the open market like this.”

And the Detroit News’s Eric Lacy reveals that Howard consciously chose to not “name names” while admitting that he’s not a speed demon:

“I get scared to death when I get my vehicle up over 80,” Howard said.

Howard served at Michigan International Speedway as a grand marshal of Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 and said he’s a lifelong race fan who would rather watch. The race, scheduled to start at 1 p.m., likely will be delayed due to rain that’s expected to stay in the Brooklyn area until about 2 p.m.

During Howard’s press conference Sunday, he donned a blue Tigers hat and mentioned Ricky Rudd, a 32-year veteran who retired in 2007 as his favorite driver.

Howard also reflected on the Red Wings’ future with retired defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom; he expressed confidence in his teammates to help fill the void.

“First and foremost, you can’t replace Nick Lidstrom; it’s impossible,” he said. “He’s one of the best to play the position, but at the same time it gives someone else an opportunity.”

Howard declined to answer a reporter’s question regarding which free agents he would like to see join the Red Wings this summer. Predators defenseman Ryan Suter and Devils left wing Zach Parise are among the top free agents.

Via RedWingsFeed, the Windsor Star posted a video of Howard speaking to the media…

Both MIS’s Twitter account and the Wings’ Twitter account posted pictures of Howard and his father at the race.


As it’s Father’s Day today (happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there), it’s less than surprising that the Toronto Sun posted a slideshow of famous hockey dads that happens to include one Gordie Howe…


In a different kind of developmental vein, and continuing last night’s draft talk theme, we can at least feel somewhat comforted by the fact that the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch spent the past couple days speaking to “league sources” that feel the draft’s level of talent, across the board, is quite poor:

“It’s (bleeping) terrible,” said one Eastern Conference executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “This year’s draft has to be the worst draft in 12 years.”

Hold it — the draft can’t be this bad can it? Surely top prospects Nail Yakupov (Sarnia), Ryan Murray (Everett), Mikhail Grigorenko (Quebec) and Alex Galchenyuk (Sarnia) are going to be strong talents. Everybody is going to do their mock drafts. But here’s one guarantee: Nobody is going to be right. This could go several different ways.

“There’s all kinds of factors involved here,” said one director of player personnel. “No. 1 is the Russian factor because they’ve got lots of options with the Kontinental Hockey League offering big money. No. 2 is the lack of depth factor because there isn’t much here. No. 3, this draft is unpredictable. I get the sense that you might see teams go off the board after No. 10. There is a huge dropoff and that’s when teams might decide that they want to take a chance on another player. Not saying it will happen, but it certainly could.”
An Eastern scout suggested teams after No. 5 might be more than willing to either unload their selection to move out of the first round completely or slide if they believe the guy they want isn’t going to be selected.

“If you think there’s someone you’re comfortable with, you should go after him because, if you’re right, you’re going to look great. You should pay the extra price to go get the guy you want,” the scout said. There’s a lot of talk that some teams are willing to take two second-rounders instead of a first because if you’re going to screw up anyway, you may as well take two shots at it instead of having just one choice.”

Not everybody is down on the draft.

“There’s not as many high-end players as some previous drafts,” said an Eastern chief scout. “It’s not as deep as some previous drafts, but I really do believe that if you do your homework and follow your scouting model that you increase the probability of having a successful draft. The players are there. You’ve got to find them. You’ve got to nurture them. You’ve just got to do your job. I’d say after No. 10 or No. 11, it’s not great. It doesn’t go off the cliff. Depending on your needs, it seems to me there are going to be players there for teams. Sure, not all these players have the high probability to play like many did in other years, but there are still players who are going to be taken after No. 10 or No. 11 that are going to play. You’ve just got to make sure that you go find those guys.”


If you’re interested in a different sort of educated guessing, MLive’s Brendan Savage offers some early Stanley Cup odds from sports betting websites…

Bovada, a popular online gambling site, has the odds of the Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup at 12-1. That seems to the popular number regrading Detroit. Bovada puts the Red Wings behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit fan favorite Sidney Crosby at 15-2 and reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles at 11-1.

Also checking in at 12-1 are the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks.  There isn’t a lot of disparity there, is there? The Nashville Predators, who knocked the Red Wings out of the playoffs in the first round this year, are 18-1.

LasVegasSportsBetting.com also has the Penguins as the favorite at 7-1 followed by the Kings at 11-1. Detroit, Chicago, New York, St. Louis and Vancouver are all 12-1 and Nashville is 18-1.

VegasInsider.com has the same odds for all of the teams listed above.

The website that thinks the most of the Red Wings’ chances at winning their fifth Stanley Cup since 1997 is GamingToday.com. It has the Red Wings at 10-1 with Pittsburgh the favorite at 5-1. Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Vancouver are also 10-1. Hmm, seven teams at 10-1? That’s almost 25 percent of the entire NHL. It’s almost as if the bigger question is who isn’t listed as 10-1 on that site?


If you’re interested in another sort of “insider scoop,” the Newark Star-Ledger’s Rich Chere will be taking part in a web chat on Monday at 12 PM EDT…


And finally, the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson didn’t make a single Wings mention in his Hockey World column, but, via RedWingsFeed, the Tenessean’s Josh Cooper spoke to several “experts” about Predators GM David Poile’s difficult off-season in terms of trying to re-sign over a dozen restricted or unrestricted free agents, including UFA Ryan Suter and RFA Shea Weber:

“A GM has to have one foot in the here and now and one foot in tomorrow and one eye on what he’s building in the short term and what he has to build this season and the playoff season, and never take his eye off the ability to make his team better,” ESPN.com hockey columnist Scott Burnside said. “There’s no question that the uncertainty surrounding Weber and Suter … what happens to them is going to have a dramatic impact on the franchise. And who knows how it’s going to play out.”
“I think this past season was a learning experience for Poile, even for a guy that’s seen it all over the years, because he deviated from the normal course in Nashville and got aggressive in adding pieces late in the season,” ESPN.com hockey columnist Pierre LeBrun said. It obviously didn’t have the desired effect — Poile was the first to admit that — but I think it was still an important thing for Poile to do to prove to his own players and to people around the league that the Predators are serious about wanting to be contenders and acting like it.”

As Poile said, winning the award wouldn’t make him a better GM. Losing it wouldn’t make him a worse GM. But the real referendum lies ahead with Suter and Weber. Something he knows all too well.

“That’s all we’re trying to do. We have to win,” Poile said. “We have to sign Ryan Suter. If we don’t sign Ryan Suter, we have to do something else.”

Update: Sport.sk (I can’t find a specific author’s name given) conducted an interview with Tomas Tatar, and while I’m not going to translate it as their Slovak translates into garble (I can work wonders with garble if there are simply word order issues and mistranslations of words that I can determine the synonyms of, but Sport.sk’s Slovak is…a mess), he’s training hard this summer, but expects to play the vast majority of the 2012-2013 season in Grand Rapids.

Update #2: Via RedWingsFeed, Howard reiterated his points of emphasis to the Detroit Free Press’s George Sipple:

“That’s Kenny and Jim Nill’s department,” Howard said Sunday when asked for his thoughts on the free-agency period that starts July 1. “They’re both considered the best in the game, and I’m sure they’ll take care of us.”

Howard spent Father’s Day with his dad, James Howard II, at Michigan International Speedway. Jimmy was at the track to serve as the grand marshal for the Quicken Loans 400 and, after a two-hour rain delay, father and son gave the command for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers to start their engines. Legendary Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom has been retired for nearly three weeks, and that reality is starting to set in for Howard.

“You can’t replace Nick Lidstrom,” he said. “It’s impossible. He’s one of the best, if not the best to ever play his position.… It’s going to be tough to replace him, but at the same time it gives somebody else an opportunity.”

Defenseman Ryan Suter of the Nashville Predators and forward Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils are considered the top players who figure to become free agents July 1. The Wings aren’t the only NHL team that covets both players. Will Howard be making calls to recruit potential free agents?

“No, I’m not going to do that,” he said. “First and foremost, if they wanted to be here they would be. I don’t feel like it’s up to somebody making phone calls. If they want to be a Red Wing they will be. We’ll see July 1. There is that wondering what’s going on in everybody’s mind. It’ll be the first time in a long time that the Wings have been able to go out on the open market like this, right?”

Update #2.5: The Jackson Citizen-Patriot’s Aaron Aupperlee focused on the Father’s Day aspect of Howard’s visit and included a 5-image photo gallery:

Howard, joined Sunday by his father, James Howard, said he grew up a NASCAR fan. His neighbors went to races at different tracks and proudly flew their NASCAR flags. He grew up cheering for Ricky Rudd.

Howard wished his 8-month-old son, James, to the race but will have to wait until he is a little older.

James Howard said it was great to spend Father’s Day with his son at MIS.

“Words can’t explain how proud I am of Jimmy,” James Howard said. “As son, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

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MsRedWinger's avatar

Thanks, George!

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 06/17/12 at 02:37 PM ET

HockeyFanOhio's avatar

Thanks for the update George.  Happy Father’s Day to everyone!

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 06/17/12 at 08:49 PM ET


Thanks, George
Now, I’m not sure if the Wings have to trade for the rights to either of the big targets, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Few questions:
1. I’ve read elsewhere that the Parise/Weber “relationship” is overblown, but I wonder if it would improve the odds if one signs first in Detroit, would it make it more likely that the other would come into Detroit?
2. I wonder how much free agents do before July 1, scouting out the teams and cities on their own (i.e., their agents are doing the homework now, I would assume, without talking directly to the other teams).
3. I just realized: if the Wings do sign, both, you might see the target get a lot bigger for those who don’t like Detroit in the first place. However, that would be a nice problem to have cheese

Posted by Bugsy on 06/17/12 at 09:42 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

1. I think that the odds improve significantly simply because Parise is Parise and Suter is Suter. If somebody’s weighing multiple contract offers and one lands in Detroit early on UFA day, that’d make them think twice.

2. I’ve been told that there’s a disturbing *lack* of homework-doing by free agents, that they don’t necessarily call anyone who’s played in City X or for Coach Y to ask them about their experiences, and that one of the biggest reasons that we see so many “dud” signings is that players very literally choose to hook up with employers for long periods of time for the money alone.

I would hope that agents pick up the slack in that department—because Parise’s remarks went along the lines of, “Well, my final decision will be made by me and my agent, because he knows about this stuff better than I do.” In this day and age, that “stuff” has to involve knowing about the style of play, coaches, the city they’re playing in, where they might live, schools, relationship with the media, at least in basic terms.

I know that the Wings go out of their way to make sure that if players have any concerns, they’re addressed very quickly, and that the Wings are the kind of team that can make spots at the best schools, elite kids’ hockey teams and real estate listings magically open up, that the wives have strong support, hell, that if a player drives a certain brand of car, they’ll be hooked up with the proper dealership, and that to some extent, that kind of player-friendly reputation sells itself because free agents-to-be know that if they come to Detroit, they’re not going to be left to their own devices in terms of making the move, getting settled and getting things straightened out.

Perfectly randomly speaking, it also strikes me as somewhat interesting that more players live in Novi and Northville now as opposed to the Grosse Pointes, Birmingham, West Boomfield or Bloomfield Hills, and that those who live in Novi and Northville just happen to end up living within a 5-15 minute drive of the team’s general manager, assistant general manager and coaches, so that happens to be convenient.

3. The target on Detroit’s back will remain large until the target is no longer there. Too many teams see the Wings as a rival or a team to beat, and until the Wings aren’t elite, it doesn’t matter who’s playing for the Wings. They’re one of those gold standard teams, and that’s why the team has to be so aggressive this summer.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/18/12 at 12:30 AM ET


I used to live on the west side, so I know how nice Northville/Novi still are when I come back. I just didn’t realize how many non-players are on that side of town, too.

You’re right that Detroit’s always a target, but reading enough comments from other cities that are envious or jealous of Detroit right now, I guess I was thinking more of the fans’ reactions (“The rich get richer, grrrr….”) to seeing the 2 top prizes of free agency going to only 1 team, the best team of at least the last 15 years. The players? Yeah, they’ll always see a win over them as a feather in the cap, you’re right, even if they don’t land either one.

In danger of drawing you into the speculation department, I guess I’ll change the half-question above into a question: Do you think either Parise or Suter will have their rights traded before July 1? The implication is that Suter won’t, now the curiosity is Parise, and whether not having to trade for negotiaing rights is a good thing or bad thing from the Wings’ perspective.

Thanks George.

Posted by Bugsy on 06/18/12 at 01:06 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I’m not as optimistic about both players making the market, never mind signing with Detroit—but as you know, I try to keep my expectations low, so my best hope is that the Wings land one and then are able to acquire the second-best alternative on the market to fill the other position…

And in terms of rights-selling, it’s hard to say. Poile has very regularly traded the rights of unsigned would-be free agents to other teams, but he’s swearing up and down that he won’t trade Suter’s rights, and will simply wait till July 1st and let him see what else is out there. Is he lying? He’s a general manager, so that’s his job, but what he’s saying *does* make the most sense in terms of possibly bringing Suter back to Nashville instead of waving goodbye to him.

I have no clue about Parise. None. Lamoriello’s gone so far off the board in the Kovalchuk signing and spending silly money on Anton Volchenkov over the past two years that it’s hard to figure him out. All of “Uncle Lou’s” tried and true moves have gone by the wayside.

I would imagine, however, that he’s going to maximize his time with Parise, too.

Hell, Kenny’s gone off the rails by both trading Stuart’s rights and insisting that, this time around, he’ll be as aggressive as possible going toward July 1st, but this year’s draft is just so weird in terms of teams—with potential unrestricted free agents’ rights in play—having stocked up on first and second-round picks in one of those, “You know how we always say that the draft isn’t great this year? This one is TERRIBLE, like we don’t know where the hell anyone’s going after pick 10!” bad years…Who knows what will happen.

The draft is even more unpredictable in terms of trades on a year-to-year basis, and I can’t help but think that there might be somebody in the front office who will look at the last 8-12 picks of the first round, see somebody they want who’s slipped out of their own top ten, and might tell Kenny to trade up to grab that player.

I’m sorry to offer so much uncertainty, but I don’t think that Suter or Parise will be going anywhere before July 1st, but do think that there will be some moves made at the draft. Whether those involve the Wings snapping up the rights of their Plan B’s or not, or whether they try to grab another 2nd round pick or even trade up into the 1st round, I don’t know.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/18/12 at 01:25 AM ET


Thanks George, great insight. Good night. Rest up for the busy time coming up.

Posted by Bugsy on 06/18/12 at 04:33 AM ET

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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.


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