The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/05/12 at 05:16 AM ET
The next couple of weeks aren’t going to be comfortable, fellow Red Wings fans, but I didn’t realize how incredibly difficult Wednesday’s news that the Red Wings lost out to the Minnesota Wild in terms of landing a player they desperately hoped to sign (Ryan Suter) and one they were at least particularly interested in (Zach Parise)...
Until I left my computer screen, after what I would guess is somewhere between fifty and sixty hours of work put in between Sunday and this morning, and left to talk to my mother, who spent the Fourth of July at a nursing home. I needed a reality check after a day spent trying to convince fellow Red Wings fans that the team didn’t disqualify themselves for the 2013 playoffs entirely thanks to two players’ less than altruistic decisions in July, having discussed alternate plans and a plain old strange set of evening stories from the MSM online and on Twitter, and I couldn’t believe what I heard in my voice.
In addition to exhaustion and extreme disappointment, I was angry, borderline furious. I practically growled and hissed at my mom, and at one point, nearly left her room because I wanted to get up and storm out after she said something completely innocent. I was mad as hell and I wasn’t going to f***ing take it anymore.
That is until I caught myself, realizing that realized that she was the last person I should be angry at, and that the anger in itself was a useless endeavor. It was just gobbling up energy I didn’t have, and served no purpose but to make an incredibly disappointing day that much more uncomfortable.
On a morning when I can tell you that the out-of-towners’ tones aren’t pleasant at all—whether we’re talking about hearing the Hockey News’s Ken Campbell almost gleefully suggest that this is finally the year when the media’s breathless predictions of the Wings’ demise will be proven right, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector almost equally happily declaring the Wings to be “on the downswing” while gushing about the “story” that is the rise of the Wild (and the media’s absolute joy in being rewarded for a 4-day weight with a great “story,” never mind their sanctimonious, self-righteous poo-poohing of fans who dared express disappointment from their shamefully selfishly subjective perspectives, as if the people who pay the players, teams and even the media’s salaries are somehow plebeians who don’t deserve to have emotions or opinions other than what they’re told to think, my God, does that tell you about their priorities and their absolute disconnect from the game), Yahoo Sports’ Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski lavishing his story about the Tampa Bay Lightning’s signing of Matt Carle with suggestions that Steve Yzerman “winged” Detroit in a masterful way, or even knowing that what a somewhat sympathetic Adam Proteau has to say about a free agent “loser” in his Hockey News column might be the understatement of the summer…
Loser: Detroit Red Wings
Losing legendary blueliner Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement was a massive blow to the NHL’s most successful franchise, but many thought the Wings would soften it by signing prized free agent blueliner Ryan Suter and/or Zach Parise. They failed to add either. If they don’t improve via another signing or the trade market – they’ll have only added Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo (and lost Jiri Hudler). That’s not the type of off-season Wings fans are accustomed to – and it won’t be surprising to see prognosticators project them as a borderline playoff team next year.
I am mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, and especially given that, as TSN’s Darren Dreger suggests, there’s no way in hell that the Wings will pay the kind of premium they’d need to land Rick Nash—we’re talking selling the a full stable and the barn to buy a stud horse here, folks…
While the New York Rangers have been widely considered the frontrunners for Nash, the fact that both the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins failed to land Parise means these two powerhouse teams will now focus on Columbus and perhaps, engage in a bidding war that Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson predicted would happen once Zach Parise made his move.
Philadelphia and San Jose are also on Nash’s trade list, while the Carolina Hurricanes have campaigned for days, but have yet to earn an official invite to the party.
There is no question the Red Wings would love to add Nash, however, Detroit will have to grossly overpay for Columbus to live with the reality of facing its former superstar captain multiple times a season for the next decade.
And knowing that, among MLive’s Ansar Khan’s late night Tweets, he points out that the Coyotes would definitely want Valtteri Filppula, who is more or less an untouchable at this point, likely to sign an extension and wear an “A” on a rotating basis this year instead, for Keith Yandle, and, well, I’ll let him take it away for a bit…
@BrianHedger No, Wings won’t trade Filppula for Yandle. Hard to even speculate on what it would take. Your thoughts?
@CVanV8 don’t worry about Quincey and Abdelkader. They will sign soon enough. Restricted free agents rarely move. And these two won’t.
@Cam_Rudolph agree that I don’t see Filppula being traded. I would expect him to sign long term here during the season (before maybe?)
@Cam_Rudolph Suter is real good, no question. But consider this: He has 7.5 M cap hit for 13 years and will probably never win the Norris
@RedWingChris14 Yandle possible; Ryan unlikely; Kane highly unlikely. Hawks and Wings won’t deal. Chelios trade rare exception.
@NFLDraftGeek I don’t think Winnipeg is looking to move E Kane. If they do, I’m sure lots of teams would be interested, inc. Wings.
@c_mettler I think they’ll sign a 2nd/3rd pair D. Maybe someone like Colaiacovo, Hannan, Kubina, etc. Not much left in FA.
@Rwade83 I think they’ll sign a bottom 4 D (that’s all that’s left), pursue Doan and try to trade for a top pair D or goal scorer.
@abs0lut0 yes. But I don’t why Semin would agree to short term deal at that price. Someone will give him more I’m sure.
@FHilding @redwingchris14 JBouw wood have the highest cap hit on Wings. Might be too high, but ... not a lot of options out there.
Let’s just say that whether you look at Capgeek’s list of free agent forwards or defensemen still available, or whether you read a solid rundown from NHL.com’s John Kreiser, there is simply no way that the Red Wings can make any sort of signing that’s going to satisfy you or me from a name or star power perspective:
Defensemen: With Suter and Carle now off the market, teams looking for a puck-moving defenseman are left riskier choices such as Carlo Colaiacovo, who went 2-17-19 in 64 games for St. Louis this past season, down from 32 points a year ago. He’s 29 and has missed 50 games with injuries during the past three seasons, but could be a solid second-pair if he stays healthy.
The best of the rest of the field includes some 30-plus stay-at-home veterans (Michal Rozsival and Scott Hannan), some 20-somethings still looking for a breakout year (Matt Gilroy and Bruno Gervais) and third-pair guys (Steve Eminger, Kurtis Foster, Milan Jurcina).
Forwards: With Parise gone, the best free-agent forward is easily Teemu Selanne—but he comes with an asterisk. The future Hall of Famer hasn’t decided if he’ll play this season; if he does, it will be with the Anaheim Ducks.
Parise’s departure opens the market for players like Alexander Semin and Shane Doan, among others. Semin, who has spent his career with the Washington Capitals, is coming off a disappointing 21-goal, 54-point season that is well below his capabilities. His talent ensures that he’ll receive interest from teams that missed out on Parise—he’s the only generally available forward capable of being a 40-goal scorer.
Doan, the longtime captain of the Phoenix Coyotes, has put off a decision while waiting to see what happens with a potential sale of the franchise. If the 35-year-old opts for a change of scenery, the line will form to the right. The Coyotes are doing everything they can to persuade him to stay.
Beyond that, there are lots of veteran role players who can be valuable contributors if put into the right circumstances—but not a lot of guys who can make a difference.
I’m running short on inspirational words here, folks, so I’ll re-post Ken Holland’s words to the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell, because they’re the truth, from the fact that we’re going to have to wait for the front office to make its next move to where the Wings really stand right now, despite their superb core:
“I don’t know if I have a priority,” said Holland of his next move. “We tried to get into the market for the top two free agents and it didn’t work out. There were only two of those guys available.”
In assessing what’s left in the free-agent market, Holland wants to avoid paying a lot more money for players that aren’t appreciably better than what the Wings have.
“If you look at the players we have, other than just paying more . . . . ,” Holland said before cutting himself off. “There’s also got to be an opportunity for some of our kids and the guys we’ve just signed to play. It’s not a high profile, big-star team that we’ve had in the past. We made our pitch the last three days and it didn’t fall in our favour.”
Holland said he’s not going to panic into rash moves and believes the Wings still are a playoff contender as is. He said he’ll use all summer to build his team if need be. Regardless of whatever signings or trades he makes, Holland said part of the solution has to be internal growth.
“We’re looking at Quincey, Ericsson, Smith, Nyquist developing,” Holland said. “We have to have internal growth and development. That has to be part of the solution. Any team that has Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Filppula, Franzen, Kronwall, Howard, Helm on it isn’t a bad team. We have also added Tootoo, Samuelsson, Brunner and Gustavsson. They’re not sexy signings, but they’re good fits for our team.”
However, on a day of disappointing news for Detroit, Holland is hardly going to tip his hand on Plan B. Hknows he’s working in a market used to having stars. Spoiled as Wings’ fans have been, they aren’t nearly as demanding in terms of expectations as owner Mike Ilitch. Knowing that, it would be surprising if the Wings entered training camp with just the 14 forwards, six defencemen and two goalies currently listed on their NHL roster knowing they had immense salary cap space sitting unused. It would also go against Holland’s own philosophy of doing the bulk of your team building in the summer, especially these next few weeks.
“We’re going a little younger,” Holland said. “Will we be younger in October, I don’t know. I’ll work the phone and see where it goes. We have the makings of a good team. I’d like to improve it. We need one defenceman, we’d like to have a veteran. Up front, we’ll have be offence by committee.”
“I think regardless of what happens here the next couple of weeks, we’ll go into camp as a work in progress,” Holland said. “That’s a lot different than the past 15 years around here.”
Our faith is going to be severely tested over the next couple of weeks, and the next few months, until we find out which defenseman or defensemen the Wings choose to add, whether they’re going to pursue a goal-scoring forward at all, and whether this team, which was never really going to be able to address Nicklas Lidstrom’s departure via free agency, can have the internal “push” from both its younger, core and even role players, or whether a new voice alongside one of Mike Babcock’s shoulders might give the coaching staff a needed veteran voice of its own…
And part of having faith in the Big Red Machine not falling to pieces—I simply refuse to believe the stupid suggestions that the team should tank for a couple of years, not only because once you take a machine apart, you never know if you might strike out with high draft picks and not be able to put it back together, but also because, put simply, there’s no way in hell that fans like you or me are going to pay the prices the Wings are asking us to pay to watch a team that’s made the playoffs for the past 21 years will pay to watch the team intentionally stink on ice—but instead healing itself over time from within as well as without..Part of faith is having doubts, and withstanding those doubts, accepting that those doubts are natural and normal, stating ‘em, getting ‘em out in the open and then not allowing those doubts to spurn you or I to lose hope.
In sports fandom as well as life, without hope, and without faith in something bigger than ourselves that we feel part of, even if it’s something as silly as a professional sports team full of people paid disproportionately to the general public to play a kid’s game, without having hope and faith, life is pretty *#$%@& bleak. And life is hash and futile and dark enough on its own.
Where do the Wings go from here? I don’t know.
How are we going to deal with it as a fan base, given that I am simply a fan like you are, and am honestly scared shitless about a future that doesn’t exactly look bright?
A minute and an hour and a day at a time. Because the rest of the summer’s going to involve long periods of waiting for the Wings to make what we will obviously see as lateral moves for players who don’t exactly sell jerseys, especially if the Wings are as interested in Semin as the beat writers suggest (that is to say not at all); the summer’s going to involve a retirement press conference for the gentleman who spent the 4th hugging Alpacas in one Tomas Holmstrom; this summer’s going to involve reading innumerable amounts of media members who are loyal to “the story” as opposed to a team insisting that, finally, after all these years, they can proclaim the Red Wings as dead, dead, dead (and they will say so with glee)...
And given what Ken Holland told the Free Press’s Helene St. James, we’re going to have to spend our time pondering the long silences after sparse statements made by the Red Wings’ front office to the press, statements that aren’t going to generate a whole bunch of enthusiasm given that even Holland sounds distraught right now.
Holland told St. James that he simply did the best he could to recruit both Suter and Parise, and Suter in particular:
“Personally, I feel real disappointment that we weren’t able to land either or both,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “But I feel in looking back, in Suter’s case, we sweetened our offer. I feel good about our presentation. Ryan made a decision that he felt was best for him and his family. We were down to the short strokes. We lost out to family. Can’t beat family.”
Having received feedback from Suter’s camp that the Wings were among his top choices, Holland, team owner Mike Ilitch, coach Mike Babcock and executive advisor Chris Chelios met with Suter at his off-season home in Madison, Wis., on Tuesday. By that time, they had already increased their offer to $90 million over 13 years.
“Detroit is a great franchise. They came in yesterday, and I met with them,” Suter said. “They’ve got a great thing going there, obviously. Everyone knows how much success they’ve had. They were right there till the end.”
The Wings were among numerous teams, including Philadelphia, Chicago, New Jersey and Nashville that sought the services of either or both players. After offering $80 million and 13 years to Suter on Sunday, the Wings heard back, and upped the pot.
“With Suter, we heard back on July 2, sweetened the deal,” Holland said. “We didn’t have a lot of communication with Parise’s camp, but were told Zach was having a difficult time making a decision. We feel good about our offers to both. We were on the short list, but if you’re not the one team, of course you’re disappointed.”
At this point, St. James believes that the Wings will at least look into trading for Nash, but she thinks that Carlo Colaiacovo or Chris Campoli are more likely additions on defense, and that the Wings may very well swallow hard and grab Jay Bouwmeester if the Flames are willing to dump his salary for a modest return. Otherwise, for the moment, the Wings’ outlook isn’t going to be as bleak as some will attempt to lead us to believe, but it’s not going to be fantastic, either:
“Our focus going back to last year was to be positioned for this summer,” he said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to add a high-profile player or two. But I think we have a lot of good pieces in place, and we have some players ready to take bigger roles. We’ll explore the marketplace. We’ll explore trading. We’ll move on.”
That’s why waiting for next summer is such a dangerous game. As we saw this past season, so many of the top UFA targets re-signed with their teams that the market was picked bare before the trade deadline, and as such, the Wings swung for only one fence and missed.
The Wings stood out for so long as one of the most successful clubs in the NHL that it’s all the more notable when things don’t go their way. Right now, the Wild probably would top a lot of polls for early Stanley Cup favorite, but the team has $35 million, or half of the salary cap, tied up in five players. Last fall, the San Jose Sharks were many a pundit’s preseason darling to win the 2012 Stanley Cup, and they were bounced in the first round—just like the Canucks, who sat at the top of the standings when the regular season ended.
There are no clear favorites anymore, and as the Western Conference eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings so swiftly proved this spring, a regular-season bubble team can be the one soaked in champagne bubbles when the playoffs end. That’s what the Wings bear in mind, post-Suter. There are a couple of players they’re still interested in on the market, but they’re not going to overpay for the sake of signing someone.
“I’d rather go with our kids,” Holland said. “I think we can compete. Are we going to win the Presidents’ Trophy? No, but you don’t have to anymore.”
It is pretty hard to be excited about the Wings’ defense as it is right now, but a dark horse who could make it look better is Brendan Smith. He played just 14 games last season, but he’s smart, swift, moves the puck well, likes to shoot and has an edge to his game. Niklas Kronwall is a bona fide top-four guy. Holland echoed coach Mike Babcock in talking up the strides Jonathan Ericsson made the second half of last season in developing into a shutdown defenseman. Ian White didn’t look as good last season after losing Lidstrom as a partner, but at $2.875 million, White’s a bargain considering the money defensemen are getting today.
Besides Smith, the other big question-mark on defense is Kyle Quincey, a restricted free agent the team is working to re-sign: Can he bounce back after struggling upon joining the team in late February?
There was so much focus on adding Suter it’s easy to forget the Wings already have gotten better since free agency began five days ago. They added Jonas Gustavsson, a 6-foot-3 goaltender who provides safety as Jimmy Howard enters the final year of his contract. They added Mikael Samuelsson, who at $3 million a season was a better option than spending $4 million to keep Jiri Hudler: Samuelsson is much bigger, and a better skater. For $1 million, they added Damien Brunner, who’s fast and skilled. And they added Jordin Tootoo, an aggravator who can help out offensively.
Landing Suter would have been a huge boost. Losing him may render the Wings a bubble team—but it’s not like their fortunes have burst.
I don’t know if I buy the concept of the Wings being a “bubble” team, but we may be looking at a team that tries to stabilize its defense by adding a veteran this summer and then explores the trade market to further its defensive cause over the course of the 2013-2014 season, and that we may indeed see the team shift toward a more chip-and-chase-oriented game, at least over the short term, as even Suter wasn’t going to completely fill the crater-sized hole caused by Lidstrom’s retirement and Brad Stuart’s departure.
We’re going to have to wait, we’re going to have to hope, and if you’re religious, you might want to pray. We’ll see how the Wings’ front office responds to their disappointment over the course of the next month or two, and then we’ll have to wait until September to see how the team takes shape and October—assuming that CBA negotiations go smoothly—to see whether this team can prove its legions of doubters and detractors wrong for the umpteenth time based upon how it performs on the ice.
Personally speaking, after taking part in the free agency siege for the past four days, I’ve absolutely positively, no doubt about it, got, got, got to cut my coverage back for today and tomorrow at least.
Your generosity will allow me to head up to Traverse City to cover the Red Wings’ summer development camp starting on Saturday, but to simply have the energy to get up there tomorrow, I can’t keep pulling these hours and I’m gonna have to leave the computer screen to at least a) get errands done today (I’ve got to go to the bank, get my dry cleaning and go to the doctor’s office to pick up prescriptions, all in the afternoon) and b) plain old rest before packing up late tonight, going on a last-minute shopping trip tomorrow morning and embarking on the 4-and-a-half hour trip to Traverse City sometime early on Friday afternoon.
I don’t want to sound as whiny as I think I sound right now, but I’m wonked, folks, emotionally, mentally and especially physically. I’ve literally broken out like a teenager from the stress and I feel about as good as I look with multicolored dark circles around and bags under my eyeballs. I’m going to get my errands done today and be online here and there to update news when I am able, but I plain old need to rest up and get prepared for tomorrow’s journey and the events to come.
For that matter, even if I’d been laying around for the last two weeks instead of covering what’s been a no-off-season, the coverage you’re going to get from the 7th to 13th will hopefully be worth your money, but it can’t be as self-consuming as it was last year or the year before. I need to know from you what exactly you want to see, who you want me to focus on and whether you really want that every-player-analysis on an every-day basis or you want me to focus on a certain group of players one day and a certain group the next. The hours last year—up at 6, at the rink at 7, back to the hotel at 5, and not in bed till 12 or 1 AM—may be repeated, but in between, I can’t grind myself down quite as much as I did last year.
The last four days’ worth of trying to be everywhere at the same time and cover everything in as many formats as possible at the same time’s got me wrecked and continuing that, as much as it comes naturally, just isn’t going to lead to anything good, including the substantive nature of what I write.
But I’m asking you to let me know exactly what you want in the coverage department when I go up there via your comments and emails (georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com) over the next couple of days and throughout camp as your ideas and constructive criticism will drive the form of the work I produce, and for today, I’m asking for your pardon and forgiveness for dialing things back in a big way so that I can find the energy to get up to Traverse City to begin with.
In terms of expenses, I do have a spreadsheet going and will be gathering together my receipts as well so that I do things on a budget, and that what doesn’t get spent up there gets spent to get my ass up to Traverse City for training camp, because that is, CBA gods willing, only two months away.
And with that, I rather desperately want to stop talking about myself. If you can lend a hand to continue helping me deffer the cost of heading to this summer camp, I’d appreciate it, and between now and training camp, we’ve got to keep a little faith, doubts included, in our favorite team.
Cross your fingers, folks, and goodnight. I’ve got to get offline because there’s a line of severe thunderstorms making a beeline for South Lyon, and gauging by the NWS radar, the little line preceding the severe cells will be here in 40 or 50 minutes.
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.
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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.