The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/04/12 at 02:27 PM ET
Updated 5x with marginally Wings-related chatter at 6:33 PM: As the Free Press’s Helene St. James just wrapped up her web chat and on both the fourth anniversary of the Detroit Red Wings’ 2008 Cup win (5 years between championships, perhaps? Too long by Wings fans’ standards…) and 32nd anniversary of Gordie Howe’s official retirement from hockey, we begin what will probably be a “roving” post updated with afternoon news simply:
I have one “in real life” friend who has Nicklas Lidstrom’s temperament, and while he’s not exactly the life of the party, he is both “fun to be around” and has a brilliantly dry, almost Datsyukian sense of humor when he opens up. According to MLive’s Brendan Savage, once the doors to the Wings’ locker room were closed, Lidstrom was, in his own way, hilarious, and he may or may not have engaged in a “Mutt and Jeff” routine with his best friend:
“He has a devious sense of humor,” said former Red Wings coach Dave Lewis, a longtime assistant to Scotty Bowman who also spent two years as Detroit’s head coach. “I’ll leave it at that. It’s probably something he would only pull on his teammates. It’s not something he would put on display in front of other people where other players ala Darren McCarty or Kris Draper would show you as media or fans. He’s a fun player to be around.”
Everybody agreed with Lewis that Lidstrom is indeed a fun guy to be around but nobody would go into specifics when it comes to some of the things Lidstrom said or did in the dressing room. But retired defenseman Chris Chelios did admit that Lidstrom’s good buddy, defenseman and fellow Swede Tomas Holmstrom, was a favorite target.
“Most of them always end up back talking about Homer,” Chelios said with a grin. “If it’s funny, somehow everything relates back to Homer. Nick loves to just dig into his best friend and he’s an easy target. We were talking (Wednesday) when Nick was having a tough time with his speech. It was a lot more difficult than he thought and I said, ‘Let Homer do it. Between his crying and his accent, no one would understand a word.’ I would have liked to have seen him throw out a few jabs. He does have a great sense of humor.”
Holmstrom just shrugged it off when asked about Lidstrom needling him.
“For me it usually goes in and out,” he said, pointing to one ear and then the other. “It’s been so much fun. It’s a sad day. He’s had a great career. He’s played against all the best players for 20 years. Detroit’s been fortunate enough to have him. Everybody is fortunate to have him here.”
I’ll leave reading Ken Kal’s take on Lidstrom’s relationship with the media to you…
And in other Red Wings-related news stories, the noon news from both WXYZ and WDIV report that the U.S. Secretary of Transportation did not give the Ilitch and other business titan-backed M1 Rail Line a full endorsement when secretary Ray LaHood visited Detroit today, asking instead whether the rail line that may or may not stop at Woodward and Temple will be self-sustainable;
With Nicklas Lidstrom off to retirement, the Red Wings are in an interesting position. Most believe that in the cap era you must have a foundation of young assets to either play at the NHL level or be used to acquire other assets. The Red Wings, because of their strong finishes year after year, don’t really have that young foundation at the moment. So they will try to “rebuild” in the post-Lidstrom era through free agency. They’ve got lots of bucks to spend and have long been a destination of choice for NHLers. Conveniently, with Lidstrom gone, they also don’t have an artificial individual salary cap in place any longer. So Ken Holland really is free to do whatever he wants. But can it work? If both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, for example, choose Motown this summer, will that keep Detroit at the top of the heap? The Wings themselves were built on the draft through players like Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Kronwall, Jimmy Howard and Henrik Zetterberg. Can they now revitatlize their lineup through free agency?
Why yes, Damien, yes.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers turned their weekend concert in Detroit into a tribute to a National Hockey League legend.
At the end of Friday’s [June 1] show at Joe Louis Arena, drummer Chad Smith—who was raised in suburban Detroit and sported a Detroit Red Wings jumpsuit as well as a team logo on his bass drum—brought out Nicklas Lidstrom, a 20-year team veteran and its captain who had announced his retirement the previous day. Lidstrom, who attended the show with several of his teammates, received a building-shaking ovation that he told the crowd of 15,000 was “unbelievable.”
“This tops it all,” said the beaming Lidstrom, who visited with the band and spent time with Smith’s mother Joan Smith after the show. “This is another great memory for me. It’s hard to imagine; I came here 20 years ago… and 20 years later, getting this kind of ovation… I love you guys.”
An acknowledged first-ballot Hockey Hall of Famer, Lidstrom was the NHL Player of the Decade for the 00s in both Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News. With the Red Wings he won four Stanley Cup championships and seven James Norris Memorial Trophies as the NHL’s top defenseman, as well as a gold medals in the Winter Olympics and Hockey World Championships.
Smith, meanwhile, told the Detroit crowd that it was “a dream come true” to play in the building where he’d attended so many concerts—starting with Rush at age eight—and hockey games. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, meanwhile, sported a Lidstrom jersey during the show’s three-song encore.
• And this is just bizarre: Businessweek’s Tom Keene hopes that Europe will straighten up and fly right economically, just like Nick.
Update #1: This is telling, via RedWingsFeed: DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose speaks about Dick Axelsson’s adventures at the Inline Hockey World Championships in Ingolstadt, Germany, but he does so while describing Axelsson as a “former” prospect:
Dick Axelsson, who was a Wings’ second-round draft pick in 2006, is making quite the name for himself on the inline circuit. The 25-year-old forward has four goals and five assists in three games for Sweden in the IIHF Inline World Championship currently going on in Munich, Germany.
In a draft class with Cory Emmerton, Jan Mursak and Shawn Matthias, who was later traded to Florida in exchange for Todd Bertuzzi, there were high hopes for the slick-skating Axelsson – the younger brother of P.J. Axelsson, who played nearly 800 NHL for the Boston Bruins.
The Wings signed Axelsson to a three-year, entry-level contract in 2008, and a year later assigned him to the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids. Once there, Axelsson played 17 games before deciding in December that he wanted to return to Sweden and his former team Färjestad BK.
The Red Wings still own Axelsson’s NHL rights for at least another year thought it’s highly unlikely that he’ll ever play in Detroit.
In 2008, Axelsson was a dominant force at the world inline tourney, registering 16 points en route to winning the gold medal and tournament MVP. The following year, he continued his dominance on the rink while helping Sweden capture its third consecutive world inline title.
Axelsson just finished his fifth season in the Swedish Elite League, producing nine goals and 11 assists for Modo, a club that he has already left. It’s expected that return to Färjestad next season where he helped them to SEL playoff championships in 2009 and 2011.
The Swedes play Slovenia in the quarterfinals tomorrow, and I believe that you might be able to watch a web stream of the game via the tournament’s website.
• And NHL Gossip on Twitter pointed me toward this one, but I don’t like it at all: Bruce Ciskie suggests that Nicklas Lidstrom’s “timing was off” in daring to announce his retirement during the Stanley Cup Finals, echoing a certain troll’s comments
This makes me angry. It’s called, “There are always leaks,” folks, and that more than anything is the reason that the Wings chose to simply get Lidstrom’s presser over with on a day that was the first of a two-day pause between Stanley Cup Final games.
Update #1.5: More grumbles from me: the Free Press’s Sports staff notes that Tomas Vokoun was traded to and signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins, stating, “Sorry, Red Wings” in the headline. I’m not a Vokoun fan at all, and I get the feeling that he wants to play more than the Wings would give him the opportunity to accomplish. At 2 years and $2 million per year, that’s too long and too expensive given that a Scott Clemensen, Curtis Sanford, Jonas Gustavsson, Martin Biron, Johan Hedberg, Alex Auld, Josh Harding, Chris Mason and even Al Montoya and Marty Turco will be available at affordable prices and on one-year deals.
Update #1.75: Whoops, take Sanford off that list.Pro Hockey Talk’s Mike Halford reports that the rumors of Sanford signing with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl were in fact true, and he’s done just that.
Update #2: From Sportbox.ru, I’m just going to let Google translate spit it out:
Russian Hockey Federation has presented the design rings world champion, who will be awarded to players of the national team, won the title in May.
The ring is made of white and yellow gold. Cover of the stylized hockey ground and decorated with the image of the Russian flag and 26 rubies, symbolizing the victory of the national team at the world championships. In addition, the upper part of the ring is decorated with the words World Champion and an indication of the year when it won gold - 2012. Both labels are made with enamel and sapphires. One side wall of the ring is decorated with the logo of the past in Sweden and Finland the tournament, made with enamel. The other - the coat of arms of Russia, inlaid with diamonds. On the inner side will bear the name, game room and a number of the ring.
Recall that the championship rings and the title of Honored Master of Sports will be awarded to the players and coaching staff members of the team in August 2012.
The Russian Hockey Federation’s website posted a picture of the championship rings, and you’ll either love the design or hate it:
Update #3: The Detroit Free Press’s Matt Helms reports that the M1 Rail Line is…Kinda in limbo;
• If you are in Dallas today, the Dallas News’s Mike Heika reports that the Stars players who’ve bought into Steve Duchesne’s AHL team will be wecomed into the fold:
The Allen Americans Monday will welcome former Dallas Stars players Mike Modano, Ed Belfour, Richard Matvichuk, and Craig Ludwig to the organization. Modano, Belfour, and Ludwig have partnered as minority owners, and Matvichuk has been named as defensive coach.
The press conference will be held at the Allen Event Center and is open to the public. Americans fans, Stars fans, and hockey fans in general are all encouraged to attend. Current and former Stars players will be present along with the Allen Mayor, Stephen Terrell, and the CHL Commissioner, Duane Lewis.
Also, tune in Monday morning to FOX 4 Good Day at 7:50 am to see Mike Modano and Craig Ludwig interviewed live. Modano will be making another live TV appearance Monday night on WFAA Channel 8 at 6:25 pm. Ed Belfour and Richard Matvichuk will be on the KTXA 21 sports show Monday night which airs from 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm as well.
• And I’ll try to work on giving you some chunks of Allhockey.ru’s Andrew Osadchenko‘s interview with Igor Larionov later this afternoon…
Update #4: Loudwire and MLIve’s Josh Slaghter took note of Lidstrom’s Chili Pepper weeekend;
• The Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno tried to play the “Drew Doughty is the next Lidstrom” angle, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter shot it down;
• And RedWingsFeed noted that Senator John McCain of all people paid tribute to Lidstrom!
Update #5: Amongst Elliotte Freidmans’ somewhat Wings-related “30 Thoughts”...
24. Both Tampa and Pittsburgh are checking out 26-year-old Swiss winger Damien Brunner, who is an unrestricted free agent. It’s likely Minnesota is too, as the Wild were ahead of the curve and tried to sign him last year. But, he wanted to spend one more year in Europe.
27. Alex Semin apparently loved playing with Pavel Datsyuk at the Worlds. Does that mean he takes the Detroit discount to play for the Red Wings? Trying to think if Semin/Babcock could be a match
30. In the two months, there’ve been three mistakes in this blog—all CBA related. The last one was last week, when I screwed up the “growth factor” inside the salary cap figure. I mentioned the NHLPA had the right to activate it every season, which isn’t quite accurate. Anytime revenues are over $2.1 billion (which is the case now), it is activated automatically—although both sides have the right to negotiate a different percentage. Can’t wait until this CBA is done so I can start butchering the next one.
No worries there…
• From ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, this is just weird:
Predators captain and Norris Trophy nominee Shea Weber becomes a restricted free agent July 1. At this point, there’s nothing going regarding a new contract.
“Nothing to report, no conversations, no talks yet,” Weber’s agent, Kevin Epp told ESPN.com Monday.
No surprise there. The primary focus right now in Nashville is getting UFA-to-be Ryan Suter done as I wrote about last Friday.
Weber is on the back burner until that situation is resolved. Suter’s agent, Neil Sheehy, via email Monday said there was nothing new on that front.
It’ll be interesting to see how Weber reacts depending on what Suter does. Would Weber want to sign long-term if Suter leaves? Can the Preds afford to keep Weber around another season if he doesn’t want to sign a long-term extension? I just don’t see how they can. If Weber doesn’t sign long-term, surely the Preds have to shop him this summer. Either Suter and Weber both sign extensions to stay in Nashville or they’re both gone this summer. There doesn’t seem to be any in-between, in my mind.
Contract talks between the Florida Panthers and UFA-to-be Jason Garrison will resume this week, at which point the defenseman can expect an offer from the team.
Garrison exploded for a career-high 16 goals this season while earning $700,000.
“We’re going to start the process this week, we’re going to talk and see where it goes,” Panthers GM Dale Tallon told ESPN.com Monday. “I talked to his agent at the combine last week and said I hoped we could get together this week and see if we could get something done.”
• And if we are to believe what we read, the IIHF’s Lukas Aykroyd claims that good things could result from so many Wings taking part in the World Championships:
[S]tatistics reveal that nowadays, having players on your NHL roster who have won at least one World Championship is virtually a prerequisite for sipping champagne from Lord Stanley’s mug.
In fact, the last time an NHL team won the Stanley Cup without any past IIHF World Championship gold medallists was 1993, when Montreal defeated the Los Angeles Kings.
In the 17 NHL playoffs that have been contested to completion since then, the average number of players who have previously won IIHF World Championships on the victorious roster each year has been 3.88. And these players usually fulfil important roles with the Cup champions.
There have been 66 such instances in total. Nineteen of the 25 members of the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club (winner of Olympic gold, World Championship gold, and the Stanley Cup) are included.
During the aforementioned span, the Detroit Red Wings are the NHL club that has benefited the most from golden World Championship experiences. They had seven Worlds winners on board for their Cup runs in 1997 and 2008. At the low end, in 1995 the New Jersey Devils only had one Worlds champ (Tommy Albelin), and likewise in 2010 for the Chicago Blackhawks (Jonathan Toews).
It’s not hard to see why World Championship experience pays off for Cup-winning clubs. Granted, the two tournaments are quite different in terms of their duration, style, and so on. Yet they both involve performing under pressure on a big stage against top-flight opposition, often in front of tough crowds.
Especially since 1992, when the IIHF adopted the playoff system, the tournament has given participants a great chance to hone a winning mindset. In order to top the podium, a national team must win three straight elimination games – the NHL equivalent of three Game Sevens. If you can survive that pressure cooker, surely the sky is the limit with your pro club.
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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.