The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/09/11 at 07:05 AM ET
By most teams’ standards, the changes the Red Wings are likely to undergo in terms of personnel are pretty much a yearly event. Losing Brian Rafalski to retirement, possibly facing the departure of Jonathan Ericsson via free agency, saying goodbye to Brad McCrimmon and probably Paul MacLean behind the bench, and turning the page on Mike Modano (who may continue playing elsewhere), Ruslan Salei, and possibly Chris Osgood and Kris Draper, all while waiting on Nicklas Lidstrom’s decision…
Well, okay, these changes are pretty darn significant by any standard, but given Detroit’s belief that roster continuity and folding in young players slowly but surely to stay cap compliant and reload instead of rebuilding, having to replace one or two (hopefully not three) significant players on the foundation of the team, the blueline, swapping out one or two assistant coaches and possibly saying goodbye to two players who’ve won three and four Stanley Cups in Detroit, respectively, in Osgood and Kris Draper…
For a team that was hoping to make tweaks, the team’s decision as to whether to retain two company guys and fantastic mentors in Osgood and Draper alone is enough to yield a sea change in terms of the team’s make-up. We already know that Chris Osgood wants to return, and now Kris Draper made it very clear on Wednesday that he would not sail into the sunset on a two-way contract, fighting for a spot in training camp…
Ken Holland and the Wings’ management have very difficult decisions to make during their organizational meetings on June 15th and 16th, even if Nicklas Lidstrom, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller and Paul MacLean return, and a team that wanted to get a little bit younger and a little bit quicker has the salary cap and the fact that both Jan Mursak (who Mike Babcock’s assured will make the team) and Cory Emmerton are amongst a long line of players—from Niklas Kronwall, Joey MacDonald, Brett Lebda, Kyle Quincey, Derek Meech, Ericsson, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Tomas Kopecky, Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula on down—who the Wings have had to decide whether to hold onto or let go because there’s a 23-man roster limit (down from 24) and harsher waiver rules in the cap era.
And in this case, Draper didn’t just show a little sports union solidarity by working out with the locked-out Lions and a very familiar face in Art of Strength gym trainer Mike Knight—Draper made sure to put a very public and very human face on the fact that, as the Detroit Free Press’s Dave Birkett noted, a company man doesn’t want his livelihood to be taken away without a fight:
Draper, 40, reiterated his desire to play another season and said he should learn his fate from general manager Ken Holland in the next week to 10 days. If the Wings decide not to offer him a contract, Draper likely will retire.
“If Kenny could have seen me working out here, I think he would have made a decision right away,” Draper said. “I think (the Lions players) wanted (the media) out. I wanted you guys to stay, I’ll be honest with you. I wanted Kenny to see exactly what I was doing.”
Draper made sure to put the fate that many armchair GM’s have been easily wiping over via Capgeek.com’s roster-creating virtual pen in stark terms, he told the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky:
“I just turned 40 (on May 24) and I felt great this past year,” he said. “That’s why I feel I can still play. That’s why I have been training as hard as I have been. I feel really good. I want to play. I think I can play. But I need Kenny Holland to believe in me.”
Draper, who has met twice with Holland, expects to know his fate in seven to 10 days. One way or another, he said, he plans to be part of the organization — if not on the roster, then in some kind of front-office capacity. The one thing he won’t do is go through what his longtime teammate and friend Kirk Maltby went through last year. Holland offered Maltby a two-way contract and essentially told him he’d have to win a job in camp. Maltby subsequently retired and worked as a scout.
“It was tough for me to watch a good friend, a great player and a great teammate go through something like that,” Draper said. “To me, my decision will be made long before training camp starts.”
Draper won’t play for another team…
“I have played out a lot of different scenarios in my mind,” Draper said. “To be honest, for me to play hockey somewhere else for a year would be pretty selfish. I know my wife and my family would support anything I do, but I know that if you ask my 9-year-old son there’s no way he thinks his dad is finished playing NHL hockey. But it would be a tough decision. I love this organization and I want to play here. I told Kenny that. You never say never, but I don’t see myself wearing another team’s colors. It wouldn’t be right.”
And as McCosky points out, with Mursak and Emmerton not waiver-exempt for the 2011-2012 season and Tomas Tatar knocking on the door, never mind Nicklas Lidstrom’s future slightly uncertain, an era may very well be ending:
“I knew this day was going to come,” he said. “It hit home last year with Malts and everything he went through. You realize the end is coming. I saw Brian Rafalski walk away from the game two weeks ago. Doug Weight retired. Guys I’ve played 18-20 years against are walking away. I get it. But for me, I love the game. I love all the preparation and everything about it and I still feel there’s good hockey left in me.”
“When I got traded for a dollar (from Winnipeg) and somebody said that you would win four Stanley Cups and play over a thousand games with the Detroit Red Wings, I mean, come on,” Draper said, his voice breaking. “This game has been really good to me. You can tell by my voice how much it means to me. Every athlete goes through what I am going through now. It’s just inevitable.”
For the Red Wings and their fans, however, these kinds of changes are anything but normal. Without Draper’s guidance, Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm wouldn’t be the players they are, and the ultimate “glue guy’s” given so much to the team and still runs their warm-ups when he’s not dressing for games, and without Osgood, Jimmy Howard wouldn’t be as even-keeled.
The salary cap and the fact that the Wings have lost players like Quincey and MacDonald (who ended up returning) to waivers, Kopecky and Lebda to free agency, and now face the same hard decisions about Mursak and Emmerton as the team has to decide how much money they’re willing to dole out to retain Ericsson, determine their spending limit for Rafalski’s replacement and Babcock’s demand for a top-six forward (which might mean trading Jiri Hudler or Valtteri Filppula) mean that Osgood and Draper’s tenures with the team are over despite the fact that both players have hockey left to give.
In today’s NHL, that’s the new normal, but it’s simply not the Red Wings’ way unless their hands are forced, and the cap is forcing the Wings to choose to let players like Chris Chelios, Maltby and Modano go because there’s no 24-man roster limit and because younger players are no longer waiver-exempt one to two years earlier than they were before the lockout. It’s an easy decision to make if you’re doing it in theory, but very hard if you’re doing it for real, and I really wish that the Wings didn’t have to make it this summer, but reality sucks sometimes.
As for Nicklas Lidstrom, Holland was at the general managers’ meetings in Boston, and he offered this update to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:
The Red Wings still await word from veteran defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom on his playing future.
“I haven’t talked to Nick in about 10 days,” Holland told us. “I know he went on a family vacation and he just got back. I’m hoping no news is good news, that’s what I’m hoping.”
Holland also revealed that he wasn’t the only one ticked off by the San Jose Sharks’ un-penalized “snow showers” on Jimmy Howard:
There were potential rule changes discussed, but only one got any traction. The GMs like the idea of enforcing an unsportsmanlike penalty for players delivering snow showers on goalies, which was an issue in the Detroit-San Jose series.
“I wasn’t the first to bring it up, but somebody else did and I agree with it,” Wings GM Ken Holland told ESPN.com. “I think in a playoff series, it can be a bit of a tactic that, if another team has a good goalie, to do it and try to get him off his groove. When it’s pretty obvious, it’s a tactic. We want to nip it.”
As for the GM’s collective decision to expand the blind-side hit penalty, a.k.a. Rule 48, to any intentional contact with a player’s head for the sake of hitting him in the head, Holland had this to say to LeBrun and Scott Burnisde:
“The biggest thing is that it’s the evolution of the game,” Wings GM Ken Holland, also an NHL governor, told ESPN.com. “Fifty years ago you couldn’t pass forward. Now the red line is out. So as the rules of the game evolve, coaches evolve, the players evolve and the size and speed, I think this is going to be an ongoing evolution. We’re going to talk every March (GMs meetings) and summer. We came up with Rule 48 and now we’re broadening it.
“We’re trying to stay in tune with where the game is at and where the game is going. The players are bigger, faster, stronger. The game is more physical. We’ve obviously had a number of injuries with regards to concussions. And now we’re trying to broaden Rule 48 to make it a safer workplace.’‘
Regarding MacLean, Sportsnet’s Ian Mendes spoke to Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray about his search for the team’s new head coach…
Murray will be busy working the phone on another front on Thursday, as he will schedule an interview with Kurt Kleinendorst, who just guided the Binghamton squad to the Calder Cup.
“Yes, I’m going to call Kurt tomorrow and see what his schedule is,” added Murray. “Any time a guy wins a championship at any level, it’s a real accomplishment. He’s a real legitimate candidate.”
Murray indicated that he has narrowed his choices down to Kleinendorst and two other candidates, from an original pool of six or seven that is believed to include Paul MacLean, Dave Cameron, Kirk Muller and Gerard Gallant. The Senators general manager intends to contact the candidates who won’t get the job in the next day or two so they can start pursuing other opportunities.
And the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe duly noted that the would-be Winnipeg team probably doesn’t have a chance of landing MacLean:
Paul MacLean ([odds of becoming Winnipeg’s coach] 5-1) — The former Winnipeg Jets sniper is considered a front-runner for the Senators vacancy, after spending the past six seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and two seasons with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
Also of Red Wings-related note: If you missed it, Mike Modano did tell the Free Press’s Helene St. James that he’s at least considering playing for another season. It won’t be with Detroit;
• Also in the charitable department, the Grand Rapids Griffins are giving 100 bike helmets to kids in the Grand Rapids area today:
One hundred local children will receive a new bike helmet at no cost when the Grand Rapids Griffins and Safe Kids Greater Grand Rapids host the fourth annual “Lids at the Library.”
The event will take place on two separate days at branches of the Grand Rapids Public Library and the Kent District Library. GRPL’s Ottawa Hills Branch (1150 Giddings Ave. SE) will be the site on Thursday, June 16 at 2 p.m., while KDL’s Wyoming Branch (3350 Michael Ave. SW) will host the event on Friday, June 17 at 2 p.m.
Volunteers from the Griffins, Safe Kids, Centennial Securities and Delta Subaru will be on hand to properly fit these free helmets for the first 50 kids at each location. Helmets for kids ages 1-12 will be distributed (subject to availability), and a parent or legal guardian must be present for a child to receive a helmet. A Griffins mascot will entertain patrons and a variety of information from the Griffins and Safe Kids will be available for pickup.
Lids at the Library represents the start of the eighth summer of the Griffins’ award-winning “Put A Lid On It!” (PALOI) helmet safety program, which is presented by Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Since the program’s founding in 2004, the Griffins have worked with countless local organizations – including Safe Kids, police departments, pediatricians, schools, libraries, bike shops and sporting goods stores – to encourage helmet usage during wheeled sports, prevent head injuries, and reward kids who wear their helmets.
• If you missed it, the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff revealed that several Red Wings have significant brand name identity in the Nielsen ratings system;
• In the multimedia-to-come department, the Detroit Free Press and AP report that the Renaissance Center is trying to get approval from the City of Detroit to plaster logos of the city’s sports teams on the complex;
• If you’re interested, the Free Press’s sports staff offered some potential Lions roles for several current Red Wings;
• And guess who showed up in Plymouth yesterday, via the Plymouth Patch’s Peg McNichol? Gordie Howe:
Third graders at Tonda Elementary School dressed in character Wednesday and performed short speeches about historic people. The project, which could be compared to a living wax museum, drew one real-life legend: Gordie Howe. Howe visited for two reasons: He came to see his son Murray Howe’s nephew, Connor Moore, portray Ludwig van Beethoven. He also came face-to-face with Joey Tavian, who chose to portray the Detroit Red Wings’ iconic No. 9.
Canton Patch arrived just as Howe was leaving but he kindly agreed to pose with his pup, Rocket.
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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.