The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/20/12 at 05:04 AM ET
Updated 2x with very intriguing Q and A with Drew Miller at 4:47 AM: Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk probably won’t win the Selke Trophy as the league’s best defensive forward tonight, but he’s in Las Vegas to attend the NHL Awards (airing at 7 PM EDT on NBCSN and on tape delay at 8 on the CBC) anyway.
David Backes is the favorite to win given that Datsyuk missed a dozen games recovering from knee surgery, and while we haven’t heard too much from him in terms of media appearances, but he reminded us why…Let’s say Wings fans might be going nuts (arguing about Darren Helm‘s value and Henrik Zetterberg‘s likely status as the Wings’ next captain? Must be the solstice, and the 11-and-change days till UFA Day) right now, offering an eloquent observation to ESPN’s Scott Burnside:
Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, nominated once again for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the game’s top defensive forward, still isn’t used to the idea that he’ll report to training camp and not see No. 5 Nicklas Lidstrom in the dressing room. He joked that it’s all a bad dream.
“Actually it’s not really good dream,” Datsyuk said. “But I’m never thinking about this dream, it’s like a nightmare. I’m still not like believing that this has happened. Maybe once the season start it’ll be different story.”
Hopefully not a nightmarish one.
Anyway, Datsyuk doesn’t exactly talk himself up, so MLive’s Ansar Khan and Wings GM Ken Holland did so for him…
If the Detroit Red Wings are to extend their NHL record streak of 11 consecutive seasons with at least one major award winner, it will be up to Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk will be seeking his record-tying fourth Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward Wednesday at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network, CBC). He is Detroit’s only finalist for any award. He is competing against David Backes of St. Louis and Patrice Bergeron of Boston.
The Red Wings have had at least one NHL award winner from 2000-2011. That 11-year streak is a league record, according to team statistician Greg Innis. Datsyuk is attempting to tie Hall-of-Famer Bob Gainey’s record of four Selke Trophies (1978-81, the first four years the award was presented) with the Montreal Canadiens.
Datsyuk has won Selke three times (2008-10) and has been a finalist the past five seasons, matching the streaks of Montreal’s Guy Carbonneau (1986-1990) and Gainey (1978-1982).
“Pav is a pretty special player, he has a tremendous amount of respect around the league,’’ Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He has tremendous offensive talent, but in my mind he’s a 100-point defensive forward. There’s not many of those. He blocks shots, wins draws, knows how to angle; he’s as good as there is in taking the puck away. He plays hard, he plays physical.’‘
A master at stripping opponents of the puck, Datsyuk ranked third in the NHL in takeaways (97) despite missing 12 games with injuries. He posted a plus-21 rating and was the club’s top faceoff man, winning 56.2 percent of his draws, the eighth consecutive season he has been above 53 percent. Datsyuk had 19 goals and 67 points in 70 games.
“Pavel, in the last 20-30 years, is one of the best defensive forwards in the game,’’ Holland said. “We’re fortunate to have Pavel on our team.’‘
And the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan may very well have upped the ante by speaking to Igor Larionov about Datsyuk (and Todd Bertuzzi, too):
“It’s been a pleasure watching how Pavel has developed,” said Igor Larionov, a former Red Wings player who mentored Datsyuk. “He’s grown into quite a talent.”
If Datsyuk loses, it would end an NHL-record streak of 11 consecutive years in which at least one Red Wings player has won a major award (2000-11).
Many analysts seem split on picking a winner. Datsyuk was third in the league with 97 takeaways and was the best faceoff player for the Red Wings, winning 56.2 percent (702-for-1,249). He also was plus-21.
“He does everything out there good,” forward Todd Bertuzzi said of his linemate. “He works so hard defensively.”
Backes led all forwards in average ice time (19 minutes 59 seconds) and led the Blues in face-offs (1,353), blocks (72) and had a plus-15. He also had a Blues-leading 226 hits.
Bergeron has been considered one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL a long time — and has the numbers this season to win the award. He led the NHL in plus-minus (plus-36) and led the No. 2 Bruins defense (2.39 goals-against).
In terms of a “reputation vote,” the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association could make it close, but I don’t think that Datsyuk will prevail this year.
As USA Today’s Kevin Allen—who may have been one of the only people to actually vote for Nicklas Lidstrom as the player best suited to win the Lady Byng Trophy for the first time in his entire career (it seems criminal that Lidstrom never won the Byng)—notes, Lidstrom may receive one more honor as the PHWA also votes on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd All-Star Teams. Here are his picks:
First All-Star team: LW Ilya Kovalchuk (New Jersey), C Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh), RW James Neal (Pittsburgh), Ds Shea Weber (Nashville) and Zdeno Chara (Boston), G Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers).
Second team: LW Ray Whitney (Phoenix), C Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay), RW Marian Hossa (Chicago), Ds Erik Karlsson (Ottawa) and Nicklas Lidstrom, G Jonathan Quick.
The biggest Wings news on Tuesday involved the Wings’ signing of Darren Helm to a 4-year, $8.5 million contract. In terms of its cap hit, Capgeek.com pegs Helm in at $2.125 million per season, and the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness has the year-by-year breakdown of Helm’s contract:
Darren Helm’s salary-cap hit on his new deal is $2.125 million each of the next four seasons.
However, he will earn $1.75 million in each of the next two seasons and $2.25 million in each of the final two seasons of the deal.
The Free Press’s Helene St. James spoke to Helm, Holland and another Wing about what’s something of an achievement for a 25-year-old Winnipegger who’s become indispensable to his employer:
Ensconced in the woods of northwestern Ontario, Helm described himself as “very happy” with a four-year, $8.5-million deal that more than doubles his salary.
“I’m looking forward to being with Detroit for a long time,” Helm said. “Knowing it’s four years is great for me—you don’t know what’s going to happen, and this still gives me lots of options in the future.”
The deal carries Helm, 25, straight past pending restricted free agency and into the prime of his career. The Wings were extraordinarily pleased with what they saw from Helm when he was called up from the minors in the spring of 2008 and, despite only seven games of NHL experience, ended up being the linchpin to the fourth line’s success in helping the Wings win the Stanley Cup that June.
Helm is the team’s fastest forward, a tenacious checker and a key member of the penalty kill. He has topped 10 goals in two of the past three seasons and had nine goals among 26 points in 68 games this past season, which saw him miss the last month because of a sprained knee. During that absence, and again after a gash to his right arm sidelined him early in Game 1 of the playoffs, coach Mike Babcock said the bottom-six group lacked effectiveness without Helm.
There never was any doubt a deal wouldn’t get done, as the Wings see Helm as part of their transition from an older team to a younger one.
“Our goal is to continue to be competitive,” general manager Ken Holland said, “and part of that is we need our younger guys to be more important. Helm is one of those guys. We think he’s one of the elite third-line centers in the NHL. He provides energy and speed, and we think that there’s more offense in him than we’ve seen.”
Helm is one of the fittest guys in the locker room, and is often the target of teammates’ good-natured barbs for his penchant for walking around without a shirt.
Close friend and offensive mentor Todd Bertuzzi, on hearing of Helm’s new contract, told the Free Press: “He drives me to be better seeing him walk around the room shirtless with a nine-pack and you’re only supposed to have six.”
Holland got a little gushier about Helm while speaking to Pleiness about Helm’s impact:
“He was a big loss in the playoffs,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He just does a lot for our team. He can kill penalties. He can play against the other team’s best players. If you had to put him on the wing he could play on the wing. He’s just a real good, solid, important player for our team. He’s really developed into a premier third-line center in the National Hockey League,” Holland continued. “He does so much for us. He provides energy, he provides speed. He’s physical and he’s developing into a real good penalty killer. He’s a real good role model and developing into a quiet leader on the team.”
“I think it’s a good deal for Darren and it’s a good deal for us,” Holland said. “We’re happy to have him tied up for four years. We really feel he’s a guy that can really anchor our bottom six. We think going forward if we wanted to play him a little bit in the top six we can, but ultimately his role on our team is to be our third line center. I think we have as good a third line center as there is in the National Hockey League.”
Now that Helm’s deal is done, the Wings still have to re-sign restricted free agents Justin Abdelkader and Kyle Quincey…
“I’ve talked to both agents last week and I’ll probably see them in Pittsburgh (at the draft),” Holland said. “We’re going to retain their rights. They’ve got arbitration rights. We’ll find a solution, but right now we continue to talk.”
The Wings would like to get Abdelkader to sign a four-year deal at just under $2 million a season. Quincey could be more difficult to sign at the number the Wings want since he made $3.25 million a year ago. They’re hoping to get him at a modest raise.
And yes, I know those numbers are messed up—the hockey gods know some of you got into quite an argument about Helm’s relative value as compared to, say, Sami Pahlsson, who was heading home to play for Modo no matter what—but the Wings are essentially buying Helm out of free agency, and in terms of Abdelkader and Quincey’s deals?
Blame small-market teams spending oodles of money on role players while trying to get to the cap floor and the ridiculousness that the $4 million-per-season deal David Jones got from the Avs set in motion.
Put simply, yeah, these salaries are out of whack by last year’s standards, but especially given the kinds of numbers players 5 years older and possessing more flaws than Abdelkader, Quincey and Abdelkader are going to get on the open market a week-and-a-half from now, these deals are kind of like signing Jonathan Ericsson to a $3.25 million contract on UFA day last summer, right before players just as up-and-down as Ericsson got $4 million or more simply because they were defensemen who could skate in a straight line and block the occasional shot.
More importantly, while Abdelkader is at something of a crossroads in his career, the Wings don’t have any ready-to-go replacements for someone who they’re hoping will develop into either a 3rd line winger or 4th line center who can take draws, muck and grind, play rock-solid defensive hockey, and if his World Championship performances were any indication of lingering potential, possibly display some net-front tenacity and sustained aggression and instigation of players’ tempers, a la Kirk Maltby prior to the lockout.
We already know why Quincey was picked up, and that’s to try to fill Brad Stuart’s skates, despite his status as a “project,” and again, the Wings don’t have any ready replacements for someone who can play 22-25 minutes on the top pair if need be, kill penalties, block shots, provide Stuart-style snarl and hip-twisting smearing bodychecks and at least keep up with the Wings’ puck possession style.
I’m not too keen on the concept that a Suter or Parise can capture $6-8 million, but support players can now command a third to a half of that, but that’s the way the market works, and at this point, it makes more sense for the Wings to go with known quantities.
And regarding Jiri Hudler?
Holland’s hoping that he can retain the 25-goal-scorer, but he might earn $4.5 or $5 million from a team desperate for offense, and even by “market” standards, that’s nuts:
“Obviously, he’s still our guy,” Holland said. “Not much has changed. We kind of both have different thoughts and ideas on what the market is. Jiri played very good for us. He played hard. He scored 25 goals and that’s a lot of goals today in the National Hockey League. He got to play with two pretty good players in (Valtteri) Filppula and (Henrik) Zetterberg.”
The Wings probably won’t pay much more than $3.2 million a season to keep Hudler. And the deal Colorado gave David Jones (four years at $4 million per) could sway Hudler to test the open market. Jones scored 20 goals and had 17 assists last year.
“Ideally we’d like to keep him, but he’s certainly got that unrestricted free agency and coming off the kind of year he had I’m sure he wants to explore all his options and make a decision on whether he wants to hit the market or stay in Detroit,” Holland said. “I know he likes it in Detroit. If there’s a number there that works we’d like to make it work. He’s in a very good situation.”
So’s Ryan Suter, if we are to believe David Poile.
Speaking of free agent speculation, in addition to yesterday evening’s smattering of free agent chatter, the combination of Board of Governors meeting in Las Vegas (banning hand passes off faceoffs? Seriously?) and the NHL Awards involving Shea Weber as the favorite for the Norris Trophy and Adam Henrique as the favorite for the Calder Trophy yielded a quip about Zach Parise’s future from Henrique, via ESPN’s Scott Burnside…
Like the rest of the Devils and their fans, Henrique will be closely monitoring what happens with captain Zach Parise, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“It’s been there all year, the questions for him,” Henrique said. “I’m sure they’ve always been there. He’s a huge part of our team, he’s the cornerstone and a guy that we rely on heavily. He’s a big reason why we got to the finals. So I want to see him back. I think he wants to come back and I’m sure everybody in New Jersey wants him back. Hope to see him there for camp.”
And as Weber’s a restricted free agent, well, things are complicated for both him and Suter:
Last summer “didn’t go as anyone planned or wanted, so I think this year we’re on the same page. I think we know kind of where each other is headed and what the goals are,” Weber added.
Of course Weber will be watching what happens with longtime defense partner Ryan Suter, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“It’s his decision,” Weber said. “It’s a personal thing for him and his family. Whatever he feels best for him but obviously we’d love to have him in Nashville. I’d love to play with him for as long as I could. It’s going to be obviously a period where we’re watching to see what happens, but I don’t think you can stress about it or work yourself up too much.”
Cue the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper!
On Ryan Suter’s situation and how it affects Weber
“Obviously I’d like him to stay, but it’s a personal choice for him, but anything I could do to help I would do, but I don’t think that’s for me to decide. That’s for him and his family. Obviously I would like to play with him for a long time, but I can’t make that choice.”
“Obviously I think (the Predators) are going to do what they can and try to take care of everything. David (Poile) has done a great job in the past in getting everything he wants to do done. However it’s going to unfold, it’s going to take place in the next two weeks.”
“I talked to (Suter) a bunch, not really about hockey. I think we just talk about what’s going on in his farm. That’s what he seems to talk about. He’s out there riding the tractor all day pretending he’s doing hard work, but he’s just driving a tractor.”
“Yeah, maybe that’s a different situation this year too. Ryan was waiting to see what I was doing (last summer). Obviously that didn’t play out as anyone expected. This time around, I’m kind of waiting to see what he does to see what happens with him and obviously we’re hoping for the best and everything works out.”
According to Poile, there’s no movement on the Suter front. He hopes to talk to Suter’s agent, Neil Sheehy, at the NHL Draft this Friday. And if nothing comes to fruition then, Poile said he would hope to continue talking Monday.
This likely means that Poile won’t trade Suter’s rights before the draft — something he has been steadfastly against, at least publicly. It still seems like Suter will go to July 1, but the fact that there’s still conversations between his camp and the Predators can’t be considered a bad sign.
And he spoke to the Predators’ CEO as well:
During the uncertainty, and quasi-tumult of this offseason for Nashville and the Predators contract situation with unrestricted free agent Ryan Suter — CEO Jeff Cogen likes to take the positive approach.
“It’s ironic from my perspective,” Cogen said. “The problems we have today are ‘how can we get these guys to take our money’ as opposed to, ‘who we’re going to get for the guy because we can’t afford him.’”
In terms of acquisitions that the Wings have a little more control over, Red Wings VP Jimmy Devellano spoke to the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons about the fact that scouting remains an inexact science, and that sometimes you have to be lucky to be good at drafting. Devellano chose to draft Mike Bossy over Dwight Foster when he was with the New York Islanders, and with the Wings…
In 1983, Devellano’s first season with the Red Wings, Detroit had fourth pick in the draft. The Minnesota North Stars had first pick.
“We had three players we really liked, Pat LaFontaine, Steve Yzerman and Sylvain Turgeon. Our worry was, picking fourth, we might not get any of them,” Devellano said.
The North Stars had rated LaFontaine, Yzerman and Brian Lawton among their top three and administered trend-setting psychological tests to all three teenagers. Lawton’s score blew the other two away. With the first pick in the ’83 draft, the North Stars chose Lawton.
“We knew then we were going to get one of the three players we liked,” said Devellano.
But the player he coveted most was LaFontaine.
“Pat LaFontaine grew up in Detroit, played minor hockey in Detroit and when I arrived in Detroit we only had 2,100 season ticket holders,” he explained. “We were in worse shape than the Phoenix Coyotes at the gate, We needed Pat. He would have been a real marquee guy for our franchise. When the Islanders picked LaFontaine third (Sylvain Turgeon had gone second to Hartford), we were disappointed, I mean really disappointed. We thought we needed LaFontaine for so many reasons.
“We knew Steve Yzerman was a pretty good player.” They didn’t know, like Bossy and Bourque, he too, was generational. We’ve had lots of luck over the years. Ken Holland would the first to tell you that. Getting Pavel Datsyuk where we got him (171st overall, 1998) oh boy were we lucky. Getting Henrik Zetterberg where we got him (210th pick, 1999) boy were we lucky. Getting a top four defenceman like Jonathan Eriksson with the last pick of the draft (291st in 2002), boy were we lucky.”
DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose also looked back at the Wings’ drafting between 1983 and 1992, and the Wings’ record in the 80’s was…stellar:
With new ownership in place and newly appointed general manager Jim Devellano, the Red Wings went to work in building an incredible foundation that helped turn a once-proud franchise into a consistent contender every single season.
Obviously, the first pick under the Ilitch ownership has been documented; after all, it is the single biggest reason for the tremendous success that followed for three decades. Besides the first-round pick of Steve Yzerman, who became the face of the franchise that won three Stanley Cups, the Wings drafted 119 prospects in the drafts held between 1983 and ’92 with eight of them eventually becoming 1,000-game players in the NHL. Together, 50 of the decades picks reached the NHL and played in a combined 26,600 games, including 1,000-game guys like Adam Graves, Mike Sillinger, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Dallas Drake, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Mike Knuble.
You might have heard of the team’s 53rd overall pick in that famous 1989 draft:
• 1,564 Games
• 264 Goals, 1,142 Points
• Four-time Stanley Cup winner
• Seven-time Norris Trophy recipient
• 11-time NHL All-Star
• 2002 Conn Smythe Trophy winner
For someone who wasn’t the first Swedish defenseman ever drafted by the Red Wings, Lidstrom turned out to have a pretty good NHL career. Over the course of his Hall of Fame career, Lidstrom became the first European-born NHL team captain to win the Stanley Cup, as well as the first European player to earn the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He is also the all-time leader in games played with only one NHL team, and he never missed the postseason in any of his 20 seasons with the Wings.
So, if Lidstrom wasn’t the first Swedish defenseman selected by Detroit, who was? That distinction goes to Robert Nordmark, who was 10th round pick in 1981. The Wings allowed his draft rights to lapse after the 1983-84 season. He later played in the NHL – for the Blues and Canucks – but never matched Lidstrom’s accomplishments.
And in the alumni department, DetroitRedWings.com’s Andrea Nelson had a chat with Wings draft pick Dave Hanson—yes, the “Hanson Brothers” one—and Bill Roose engaged in a Q and A with 1983 draft pick and famous Czech defector Petr Klima:
Question: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
Klima: “I keep in touch with Eddie Mio, Joey Kocur and Dino Ciccarelli, who I didn’t play with in Detroit, but I got to know him after playing against him for 13 seasons.”
Question: Which of the current Red Wings is your favorite? And why?
Klima: “Obviously everybody’s favorites are (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg, the best players and the guys who put out their 150 percent every night. I like Jakub Kindl, a young guy from the Czech Republic, but the Red Wings have a good team and a lot of good players.”
Question: What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?
Klima: “Probably the playoffs in ’88 when we went to the semifinals, but got beat-up by Edmonton, but we played really well in the first rounds – me and Bob Probert and John Chabot – we put a good line together and scored a lot of goals with a lot of points. That was probably the biggest thrill because that’s when we went the farthest in the playoffs.”
Also of Red Wings-related note this morning:
Detroit Red Wings: Renewals at more than 90 percent for the first time since 2006-07.
• With the draft coming up on Friday, via RedWingsFeed, the Free Press is hosting a chat with Plymouth Whalers coach Mike Vellucci at 11 AM EDT, and Michigan Hockey Now’s Stefan Kubus and Ryan Zuke play up Michigan’s most probable draftees;
• Somewhat ironically, the Moose Jaw Times posted a picture of Wings prospect Logan Pyett as a participant in a charity golf tournament. The Wings have two other restricted free agents in Pyett and Travis Ehrhardt (per Capgeek.com and a Twitter heads-up from Tomasz Kaszczuk), and I’m guessing that the Wings will want to keep Ehrhardt in the fold, but as Pyett already had to clear waivers last year, he may end up finding employment elsewhere;
• This exchange from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Shelly Anderson made me smile:
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin gets it. He understands that this is a trip to a city where hockey folks come in June to let loose a little and, oh yeah, stage an awards gala.
“We’ll see [other players later Tuesday night], go out, just have fun,” he said Tuesday at a large gathering of NHL awards nominees and reporters.
Malkin looked around a crowded room at the Wynn hotel for Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, his teammate on Russia’s gold-medal squad at the world championships a month ago. Datsyuk had come and gone.
“I don’t know where he is,” Malkin said, then cracked, “He’s quick. Always quick.”
• And finally, aside from requesting a little civility, here’s the button. As you know, I’m trying to raise funds to defer the cost of staying in Traverse City from July 7-14, and I’m about halfway there. If you can lend a hand, it would be greatly appreciated:
You’ll have to use my personal email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, to donate, and if you want to aid the cause by some other manner or means, fire me an email at that address or at georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
Update: And here’s why this is a 24/7 job. Drew Miller spoke to the Lansing State Journal’s Brian Calloway about the Spartans and, mostly, Nicklas Lidstrom’s departure:
Question: Were you surprised that Nicklas Lidstrom decided to retire instead of come back for another season?
Drew Miller: I wouldn’t say I was surprised, but you always hoped he wouldn’t. It’s going to be a hole you can’t fill. It’s inevitable that it was going to happen sooner or later. Personally, I’m privileged I got to play three years with him. Just to watch him and learn from him was something that I’ll definitely cherish and try to use for the rest of my career.
Question: And Lidstrom was someone you learned a lot from off the ice as well?
Miller: Yeah. He’s a true professional on the ice and off the ice. How he conducts himself with the media, with charities and just the way he’s a leader in the locker room, there’s something you can learn from him in all different aspects.
Question: How do you replace a guy like Lidstrom?
Miller: Hopefully our management gets some good players in that can try to live up to him, but I don’t think you can fill that void fully. Hopefully we get some guys in through free agency that can come in and step up and be big players for us.
Question: What do you think was missing last season for the Red Wings?
Miller: I thought we had a good season. The playoffs didn’t go the way we wanted it to, and injures kind of affected us at a tough time. I think it’s kind of motivation for us to come in next year and be hungry to get back to the playoffs and do well.
Update #2: According to the Detroit Free Press’s Todd Spangler and Matt Helms, the M-1 Rail line backed by Mike Ilitch and other Detroit business titans has received a letter from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood suggesting that the proposed Woodward light rail project needs to raise much more funding to cover its long-term costs before it receives the Feds’ OK.
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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.