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The Malik Report

Red Wings morning report: leaving on a predictably strange note

I’m heading on vacation for a week today, and as such, my availability will be limited for the vast majority of the next week. I’m heading to the U.P. and a location where internet access extends to a “clubhouse” but not the cabin I’ll be staying in—I will kinda sorta be on vacation—so if anything big breaks, Paul will cover it here, but I’ll only checking in a couple of times a day. I’ll return on Saturday, August 4th and will take things a bit slow due to the time of year (here’s hoping that it’s not too quiet). Before I embark on a 400-mile drive with the mom:

As you might expect in late July, the news cycle is a feast-or-famine one, and we begin with St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock’s assessment of the state of the Red Wings in a discussion of the Blues’ Central Division rivals, held with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford:

The Blues may not be the clear-cut favorite to win the franchise’s only consecutive division titles since the Central realigned in 1998-99, but they clearly won’t have to fill the same voids as their counterparts.

[Nicklas Lidstrom, 42, won four Stanley Cups and the Norris Trophy seven times with Detroit, also amassing 264 goals and 1,142 points in 1,564 games. The six defensemen listed on the Red Wings’ roster now have a combined 1,154 NHL games.

Asked how it will be facing Detroit without Lidstrom, Hitchcock replied: “Different. It will be really different not having to play against that guy because he was such a good player for such a long time. It will be different to not have that guy on the ice because he got you out of so many problem areas, it was incredible.”

The Red Wings were early favorites to land Suter and even Parise in free agency, but despite making competitive offers, they chose to play elsewhere. Those decisions have led some to speculate that Detroit has lost a bit of its luster as a destination. In the days after Suter and Parise signed with Minnesota, the Detroit Free Press published a column denying that notion, insisting the city still holds its prestigious title.

“We’re still Hockeytown,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press. “There’s still sex appeal to play here.”

Like Holland, Hitchcock indicated that location was a strong factor in where the top free agents decided to play. Defenseman Jason Garrison signed with Vancouver, near his hometown. Defenseman Matt Carle returned to Tampa Bay, where he had two previous stints.

“Ninety percent of the players went to the destination that they felt comfortable with from a living standpoint, and you can’t blame players for that,” Hitchcock said. “That’s what was really intriguing. It’s like the lifestyle seems to matter a lot right now. Next year, if there’s four or five guys from the Detroit area, they’re going to want to go back there. Everybody is talking about Detroit (losing power). Yeah, they might be a different team, but that doesn’t mean they can’t win hockey games.”

• M-Live’s Ansar Khan also answered some reader questions regarding something of a scapegoat in Johan Franzen and he pondered the shape of the Wings to come in a Q and A column on M-Live.com (first it was Mlive, then MLive, now M-Live…Sigh):

Question: Seems like everyone on the forum jumps all over Franzen for inconsistent effort. I’m not local and don’t see a lot of games, but when I do I’m not sure I see the same thing. Is what people are saying accurate? Do you get any sense from insiders that they see the same problem?—Harry.

Ansar Khan: I think some of the criticism is valid. He lacks intensity at times and goes through stretches where he isn’t noticeable. After scoring five goals against Ottawa midway through the 2010-11 season, he inexplicably scored just two goals in the final 27 games.

There always is a scapegoat for a team’s failures. After the Red Wings’ first-round playoff loss to Nashville, many fans lashed out at Franzen, some saying he should be traded. Franzen might be their most tradable asset, but be careful what you wish for. He has a low salary-cap hit ($3.95 million) for a player who finds a way to score almost 30 goals every season. That offense would be virtually impossible to replace at that price.

Question: Where on earth will offense come from if they can’t swing a trade? Do you think (Danny) Cleary or Franzen have any meaningful trade value? (Ian) White or (Jakub) Kindl?—Harry.

Ansar Khan: Franzen has trade value, but, coming off an injury-plagued season, I don’t think Cleary does right now. And they’re in no position to deal a defenseman. If they can’t swing a trade, then the offense will have to come from within, from secondary sources like Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson and newcomer Damien Brunner.

Question: Any chance Brunner is the real thing?—Harry.

Ansar Khan: Coach Mike Babcock believes he’ll be a top-six forward right from the start. He certainly has the skills, but it’s anybody’s guess if the Swiss scoring star will make the transition to a more physical NHL game in smaller rinks.

Question: With the unusually high number of forwards signed for the upcoming season, does management have different possible trading scenarios to cut the number down? If not, do the signings of Brunner, Samuelsson and (Jordin) Tootoo spell the end of their Detroit days for players like (Drew) Miller, (Patrick) Eaves, (Cory) Emmerton and (Jan) Mursak?—Nicolas.

Ansar Khan: I’m sure they have various scenarios on how to meet the 23-man roster limit. It starts with whether Brunner and Gustav Nyquist make the team, because they are exempt from waivers and can be sent down to Grand Rapids without risk of losing them. Including those two and Justin Abdelkader (a restricted free agent who will sign soon), they have 16 forwards and will need to trim two (they’re expected to carry 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders). One or two might be packaged for a defenseman. If they make no more moves before training camp, I think Miller and Eaves are safe, while Emmerton and Mursak would be the most susceptible of the group to being dealt or waived before the start of the season.
...
Question: Against the grain, I feel like lack of energy and finishing on offense is a much bigger problem than defense. Part of that is I feel like (Kyle) Quincey and (Jonathan) Ericsson are perfectly legitimate top-four partners for (Niklas) Kronwall and White, and maybe (Brendan) Smith even more so if he settles down. Valid?—Harry.

Ansar Khan: I think that would be valid if Nicklas Lidstrom hadn’t retired and Brad Stuart hadn’t left for San Jose. As much as goal-scoring was a problem against Nashville in the playoffs, defense is the bigger issue now, after losing two top-four D-men. That’s a lot of minutes to replace. There’s nobody left in free agency who you can say is a definite top-four defenseman. And getting such a player through trade will be expensive. It’s imperative for Quincey to settle down, Ericsson to continue progressing, Kronwall to cut down on mistakes, White to prove he can thrive without Lidstrom and Smith to show why they’re so high on him.

Question: What do you envision the lines looking like on opening night (assuming no more moves in free agency)?—Brett.

Ansar Khan: LW-C-RW: Franzen-Pavel Datsyuk-Brunner, Valtteri Filppula-Henrik Zetterberg-Samuelsson, Cleary-Darren Helm-Todd Bertuzzi, Miller-Abdelkader-Tootoo. They also have Eaves, Emmerton, Mursak and Nyquist, and room for only 14 forwards. Nyquist will be in Grand Rapids if he’s not in the Red Wings’ lineup. But, your guess is as good as mine. I’m sure everyone has their own projections for line combinations.

Sorry for quoting so much of the article, bit I thought the questions were particularly important for you and I to both read and discuss…

• At the other end of the spectrum, from the BCHL’s Penticton Vees’ official blog, maintained by Fraser Rodgers:

The Vees made another trade just 48 hours after the blockbuster that saw them land Sam Mellor and Rob Mann. Today the team officially announced the acquisition of defenseman of James De Haas from the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots of the OJHL. I say officially because you may recall I wrote about the deal a couple weeks ago. Then the trade wasn’t officially, some dotting of T’s and crossing of I’s were still in order. However, after a long process, De Haas is finally a member of the Vees.

The press release touches on his junior career and so far it’s been very good. This past June he was snagged by the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL Entry Draft in the 6th round, and we all know how well the Red Wings draft in late rounds (Lindstrom, Zetterberg and Datsyuk ring a bell?). I’m not stating that he’s going to be at that level but what I’ve been told is he’s quite the player. The Vees are getting a defenseman who has the rare tools of both size (6’3 200 lbs.) and speed, not to mention a hockey IQ that hockey personnel rave about. I’m not going out and saying this is the next Mike Reilly, that would be comparing apples to oranges. De Haas will be a player and quite the player at that for the Vees and will only get better better as the season progresses. With Mann and now De Haas the Vees have bulked up the blue-line ahead of September; this won’t be an easy team to play against in their zone.

PRESS RELEASE:

July 26th, 2012

VEES ADD ANOTHER PIECE TO THEIR BLUE-LINE

PENTICTON, BC – The Penticton Vees Hockey Club has acquired defenseman James De Haas (94) from the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots, for the rights of forward Mike Sones (92).

De Haas played 45 games in 2011-2012, where he collected 10 goals, 29 points and 32 Penalty-Minutes. In 21 playoff games, De Haas accumulated five goals and 12 points, helping the Patriots to a Conference Championship appearance. The 18 year-old was drafted this past June by the Detroit Red Wings in the sixth round, 170th overall. De Haas is committed for Clarkson University, for the fall of 2013.

Vees Head Coach and GM Fred Harbinson says De Haas is someone the Vees had on their radar for a while, “We’ve been hard at work on this deal for quite some time. James has all the tools, size, quick feet and smart puck moving ability. We are very fortunate to add a player with James skill set and determination.”

Clarkson University is located in Potsdam, New York and play in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference in NCAA Division l Hockey. The Golden Knights have made 20 NCAA postseason appearances, winning five ECAC tournament titles and 10 regular-season championships in their 90 year history. Former Vee, Ben Sexton will captain the Golden Knights in 2012-2013. Notable NHL alumni include Erik Cole and Willie Mitchell, both Stanley Cup Champions.

De Haas checks in a 6’3 and 200 lbs. adding more size to the Vees blue-line. The De Haas trade comes on the heels of another acquisition, where the Vees added another sizable defenseman Rob Mann, from the Markham Waxers.

• It wouldn’t be an entry from me if I didn’t mention RedWingsFeed, which provides a link to a video of the Ilitch Charities’ college scholarship-awarding event, from the Wings’ website…

And that’s it for me. I’m going to try to squeeze some more stuff in the Pacifica and head up to Grand Marais with the mom. I’ll try to check in tonight, but I may be too tired from the 400-mile drive and unpacking, and I may choose to check in tomorrow.

Take care of this place if you can, and as an FYI: I receive email notifications of every comment you make, so don’t worry about your voice not being heard or something like that. I’ll scroll through my messages and the discussion will continue as I will at least have good cell phone service up there.

Seeya later!

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Comments

SYF's avatar

The press release touches on his junior career and so far it’s been very good. This past June he was snagged by the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL Entry Draft in the 6th round, and we all know how well the Red Wings draft in late rounds (Lindstrom, Zetterberg and Datsyuk ring a bell?).

Fuchin’ eejits…

Posted by SYF from The Revenge of Johnny E on 07/28/12 at 12:57 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

Enjoy the time away, George.
“Up North”? You deserve it ...

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 07/28/12 at 01:23 PM ET

Keyser S.'s avatar

Have fun george. It’s vacation so try not to think about doing anything other than relaxing, drinking beer (good time to start), eating good food, and getting some sun.

And please leave pat kane alone!!!!!

Posted by Keyser S. on 07/28/12 at 01:56 PM ET

Avatar

Have a great vacation up there in the U.P…and say “Hi!” to Grand Marais for me.[One of my fav vacation spots, too.]

And. yeah, to Fraser Rodgers, “Who is this guy Lindstrom?” Aghhhhhhhhhhh

Posted by wingsluver4ever from Hockeytown North on 07/28/12 at 02:14 PM ET

BrendonR's avatar

To be fair, my phone auto-corrects Lidstrom to ‘Lindstrom’ every time.  Drives me nuts.

Posted by BrendonR on 07/28/12 at 02:39 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

6 Norris and can't spell it right.

Posted by RWBill from cruising Brush Street with Super Creepy Rob Lowe. on 07/28/12 at 04:49 PM ET

Avatar

So, Prince Fielder will make about 23MM this year.  The Tigers really don’t look like serious AL pennant contenders.  I wonder what team would accomplish more with said 23MM, Tigers or Red Wings?

Posted by beelza on 07/28/12 at 04:49 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

doesn’t look like ice make’n weather ...

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 07/28/12 at 05:14 PM ET

calquake's avatar

Ansar Khan: LW-C-RW: Franzen-Pavel Datsyuk-Brunner,

I cannot believe Brunner is going to walk into a first line position.  It goes against everything the Wings do with first time NHL players.

Posted by calquake on 07/28/12 at 05:15 PM ET

BrendonR's avatar

Ansar Khan: LW-C-RW: Franzen-Pavel Datsyuk-Brunner,

I cannot believe Brunner is going to walk into a first line position.  It goes against everything the Wings do with first time NHL players.

Posted by calquake on 07/28/12 at 04:15 PM ET

Well “first line” is always a bit subjective when the twins split C duties on the top 2 lines.  Babs said Top 6 to start the year and he’d likely be a better fit with Pav than William Tell.  About time management started thinking about the result and not so much some (albeit usually very effective) protocol involving tenure.

Posted by BrendonR on 07/28/12 at 05:53 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

drinking beer (good time to start)

And please leave pat kane alone!!!!!

Posted by Keyser S. on 07/28/12 at 12:56 PM ET

He’s allergic to alcohol :/

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 07/28/12 at 06:08 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Ansar Khan: LW-C-RW: Franzen-Pavel Datsyuk-Brunner,

I cannot believe Brunner is going to walk into a first line position.  It goes against everything the Wings do with first time NHL players.

         
              Posted by
              calquake
             
              on
              07/28/12 at 04:15 PM ET

Isn’t Brunner around 175#? If so I don’t see him making the bigs this yr. I was feckin’ 175# in 9th friggin’ grade. Sheesh….

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 07/28/12 at 10:05 PM ET

calquake's avatar

Babs said Top 6 to start the year and he’d likely be a better fit with Pav than William Tell.

I don’t necessarily disagree, however Nyquist, to me, sounds like a better fit than Brunner at this point.  We’ll find out in training camp… if there is one.

Posted by calquake on 07/29/12 at 11:16 PM ET

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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.