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Red Wings overnight report: Mitch talks to Nicklas Lidstrom, and more free agency talk

Updated 2x: You can find the Lidstrom paper doll PDF here: This morning, Mitch Albom delivers a column that reads like he actually cares about sports again, and he does so for a reason: Albom spoke to Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom for almost two hours in what he’s calling an “exit interview” before Lidstrom heads back to Sweden, and among the many highlights, this stands out:

Question: When Yzerman retired, was there any part of you that didn’t want to be the captain? That didn’t want the pressure of that C?

Nicklas Lidstrom: Not really. No, I was hoping they were gonna ask me. I wanted the challenge. You can play all the minutes. You can play against the top players. But when you’re a captain, you’re looked upon as being something off the ice, too.

Question: Did you let them know that you wanted it?

Lidstrom: No. I never did. Kenny (Holland) kind of hinted at it, so I was hoping they were gonna ask me.

Question: Who else would it have been if not you?

Lidstrom: Well, Cheli was on the team. Mathieu Schneider was on our team, too. Both of them have been captains before.

Question: When you won the 2008 Stanley Cup—with you as captain—did that one feel like, OK, now I’ve really done everything there is to be done in the NHL?

Lidstrom: Yeah ... in a way. ... People are doubting that Europeans can win as captains, but we accomplished that. ... I felt a bit of relief, but a lot of pride, too.

Lidstrom also talks about the pride he took in playing the way he did, his status as a famous person, a role model for his teammates, and even his future plans—he indicates that he still wants to help coach kids, but he will indeed give Ken Holland’s recruitment speech a good listen—and…

It’s a great read, but it’s also hard to read Lidstrom finally open up while admitting that he should have opened up a lot earlier…When he’s saying goodbye.

The Free Press’s print edition will include a commemorative Lidstrom poster today—you can take a look at it via the Free Press’s photo store, and in all honesty, I’d rather either print out their “preview (still a 2-pager) or spend the $7.95 to get it printed on good paper so that I could frame it—it posted two photo galleries consisting of over 120 images, and at some point today, they’ll post a PDF of a “Lidstrom doll” to print, cut out and make as well.

 


One of Lidstrom’s successors in the leadership department may or may not be heading to Las Vegas on Wednesday for the NHL Awards, but the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan duly notes that Pavel Datsyuk shouldn’t expect to take home the Selke Trophy due to the time he missed recovering from knee surgery:

Selke Trophy (best defensive forward)

Candidates: David Backes, St. Louis; Patrice Bergeron, Boston; Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit. Who’ll win: Backes.

If Datsyuk were to win, he would tie Bob Gainey for most Selkes won (four), but it’s doubtful that will happen. Backes was the best overall forward on the league’s best defensive team, which likely carried a lot of weight with voters. Backes had 72 blocked shots and 50 takeaways, and was plus-15 while going against opposing teams’ best lines.

Don’t discount Bergeron, who had the league’s best plus-minus, plus-36, while playing 18 minutes per game, and with only 20 penalty minutes.

As the Free Press’s sports staff notes, Ted Lindsay will make an appearance on the show, which airs live on Versus at 7 on Wednesday, but is strangely tape-delayed on the CBC. Even in the era of Facebook an Twitter, they won’t air the festivities until 8 PM so that it wraps up in time for the National news.

 


As for Lidstrom’s literal successors, after Saturday’s Ryan Suter scuttlebutt, this surprise comes via a circuitous route:

My pal NHLGossip on Twitter found something that you might think is a bombshell. Someone on HFBoards has stirred up the, “I heard so-and-so on the radio say that the players can’t stand Mike Babcock/have tuned him out” debate for the second time in three summers, claiming that the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis, appearing on Hockey Night in Canada radio on Sirius, made those exact remarks, and given the Wings’ middling playoff runs of late, that’s not a surprising line of thinking…

But I went back and looked at HNIC on Sirius’s Twitter feed, “video” page and iTunes podcast page, and while I can indeed confirm that Eric Francis appeared on Tuesday, June 12th, I can’t confirm a damn thing about whether he spoke about Babcock at all, never mind what he said or didn’t say, so until I get some concrete confirmation of what was said, and whether Francis was simply speaking to disgruntled ex-Wing Mike Commodore, all I can tell you is what I know:

Not every Wing likes Babcock, and yes, he is a hard-ass, but there are no indications whatsoever that players’ love-hate relationship with him is anything more than the usual, and that he continues to speak to his leadership core on a regular basis and that there are semblances of democratic processes and player feedback in the players’ relationship with their head coach.

Moreover, if there were serious concerns about Babcock’s relationship with the team, if he wasn’t addressing them himself or through assistant coaches Jeff Blashill or Bill Peters, given that the players can go to Chris Chelios, Kris Draper, Jiri Fischer, Kirk Maltby and especially Jim Nill, Ryan Martin and Ken Holland with their concerns, never mind Chris and Mike Ilitch, the team would most certainly have tackled this issue in earnest by now.

The Wings are a team from top to bottom, separated into sub-sets of ownership, management, coaches, trainers and players, and if there is a problem with any link in the chain, it is absolutely essential that any sore spots are not allowed to go untreated.

Anyway...

What I did find that surprised the hell out of me came from a 10:31 interview Brad Stuart gave to HNIC radio.

As it turns out, yes, Stuart plans on signing with the Sharks, but if he and his agent are unable to hammer out a deal between himself and the Sharks between now and July 1st, Stuart says that his first choice would be to return to Detroit.

In terms of the other “alternates” to replace Lidstrom should Suter not land with the Wings, MLive’s Ansar Khan has already profiled Jay Garrison, Matt Carle and Dennis Wideman, and the Free Press’s Helene St. James has spoken about Garrison as well.

St. James offers her take on Wideman this morning:

Wideman certainly will receive considerable interest across the league come July 1. At 29, Wideman is in the prime of his career, and he brings decent size at 6 feet, 200 pounds. His biggest upside is his offense, which is something the Wings will be seeking after losing Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement.

Wideman finished in the top 10 among defensemen with 46 points, including 11 goals. He led his fellow Washington defensemen with 113 hits, and he blocked 132 shots.

The Capitals are Wideman’s fourth team. He began his career with the St. Louis Blues, then joined Boston, where he had 50 points and a plus-32 in 2008-09. He then joined Florida, where he played most of 2010-11 before relocating to Washington. This past season, he had 34 points in the first 48 games, earning his first All-Star appearance.

His prominence was more remarkable considering that in March 2011, Wideman suffered acute compartment syndrome in his right thigh. The extremely rare injury led to six surgeries.

Now he’s two weeks from finding out how many teams would like to be his next stop. Wideman—whom the Capitals would like to re-sign—just finished a four-year deal worth $15.75 million. It’s hard to imagine he’ll sign for less than $5 million on the open market given the prime value teams put on defensemen. In Detroit, that would put Wideman slightly ahead of Niklas Kronwall, who has a cap hit of $4.75 million for each of the coming seven seasons.

In addition to being gifted offensively, Wideman is attractive because he shoots right-handed, something the Wings miss—especially on the point on power plays. On the downside, he isn’t as impressive in his zone, where he’s prone to turnovers, and his value tarnished a tad after he played 14 playoff games with only three assists and was a team-worst minus-seven. He’d need to be partnered with a stay-at-home type.

Wideman had a worse playoff run than Stuart did, frankly.

Here’s the Sports Forecaster’s take on Wideman’s pluses and minuses:

Assets: Owns excellent puck skills and is a quality asset at the point with the man advantage. Can log a lot of minutes and is a solid puck-moving D-man.

Flaws: Doesn’t play the body nearly enough, and struggles in defensive-zone coverage. Will cough up the puck at the wrong time. Lacks consistency.

Career Potential: Offensive defenseman.

Technically speaking, he’s a slightly more offensively talented version of Ian White. White’s a 35-point guy who can also be employed on the penalty-kill and as a shot-blocker, and while Wideman isn’t the kind of player you want to use on the PK, he makes up for it in maxing out at 45-50 points.

Again, I’m less than a fan of speculation and playing favorites, but if the Wings don’t land the big fish in the pond, I’d personally lean toward Carle.

Garrison’s the biggest and most physical of the three at 6’2” and nearly 220 pounds, but Carle’s the youngest at 27, he’s a very consistent 35-to-40-point scorer, and while he’s not overly physical, I think he’s the most well-rounded of the three, especially given that people like you and me saw quite a bit of him playing from the San Jose Sharks from 2005-2008. Here’s TSF’s take on Carle:

Assets: Skates very well and is usually in good position. Makes a very good first pass out of his own end. Has solid offensive instincts. Can jump up into the play well.

Flaws: Isn’t as effective in physical contests as he is when the game is more passive. Can occasionally make a critical blunder in the defensive zone when pressured. Lacks consistency.

Career Potential: Mobile big-minute defenseman.

He skates the best out of the three, laterally and backwards as well as forwards, and in that sense, Carle plays the most like Suter does.

 


Also of Red Wings-related note this morning:

• Wings goalie Jimmy Howard will serve as the co-grand marshal of the “Quicken Loans 400” at the Michigan International Speedway, telling drivers to, according to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose, start their engines;

• Also in the personal appearance category, the Chicago Tribune posted a picture of Chris Chelios imploring the crowd at Wrigley Field to help him sing, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during Friday’s Tigers-Cubs game;

• The Free Press is going into chat overdrive this week, offering chats with Evil Drew Sharp at 11 AM on Monday, University of Michigan hockey recruit Jacob Trouba at 11 AM on Tuesday, Plymouth Whalers coach Mike Velucci, as both a coach and expert regarding Friday and Saturday’s NHL Draft at 11 AM on Wednesday, and George Sipple in his guise as a Wings scribe at 11 Am on Friday;

• And finally, if you’re totally bummed about the Wings not having a 1st-round pick (the Tampa Bay Lightning own the 19th overall pick thanks to the Kyle Quincey trade) and drafting 49th in the 2nd round, and then 20th overall in rounds 3-7 (so that’s picks 80, 110, 140, 170 and 200), RedWingsFeed noted that USA Today/Red Line Report’s Kyle Woodlief believes that several teams with multiple first-round picks would be more than willing to “trade down,” including, in his belief, a team which currently owns the rights to someone the Wings might covet:

n Washington, Alexander Semin is definitely on the way out, and it might be time to blow up the core. The Capitals have picks 11 and 16, which would both make attractive trade bait for interested parties.

 

And here comes the button: Halfway through the month, a little under halfway to Traverse City. If you can lend a hand in helping me to defer the costs of staying up in TC from July 7-14 so that I can attend the Wings’ summer prospect camp, I’d appreciate it.




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.

Thanks again.


Update: Where’s Babcock these days, anyway? Global Saskatoon posted a video of the coach speaking to Saskatoon TV about his book, Leave No Doubt...

 

• And, via Paul, here’s a welcome bit of Sunday bluster from the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons:

Yes, the Kings won the Stanley Cup as an eighth seed, but they were an eighth seed that happened to be second in the NHL in goals-against. A year ago, Boston, second in the NHL in goals-against, won the Stanley Cup. A few years earlier, the Red Wings, first in goals-against, won the Cup. Over that same five-year period, the Leafs were 27th, 30th, 29th, 24th and 29th in goals against. The only team not in the top 10 to win the Cup in the last six years: Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal at centre.
...
Lou Lamoriello told me in February that Zach Parise wasn’t going anywhere “because he’s a Devil.” Now, with free agency approaching, it appears Parise is leaning toward staying in New Jersey. That said, Parise will get across-the-board interest if he’s still available on July 1 and serious Stanley Cup pitches from the champion Kings and the forever relevant Red Wings

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Comments

Avatar

Did Mitch Albomb actually talk to Lidstrom or did he just make up a column like before? Isn’t he the reporter the Wings named their internal award for just showing up in the playoffs after? Not even a question on the alumni Winter classic? Nice thorough job there Mitch.

And it’s about time for the whiners to complain about Holland trading a draft pick for Quincey. But refusing to acknowledge that it was a smart move. The Wings were hedging against Lidstrom retiring and Stuart leaving. The Wings were expecting a longer playoff run at the time of the trade making the expected cost a bottom five pick. Add in the fact this years draft class is considered weak by experts—it was a good trade. And that’s not even bringing up the Alexander Diagle? Example of the difference between an NHL player and a prospect…

Posted by dca from in MI on 06/17/12 at 06:06 AM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Holland did with the Quincey trade the same thing he did with signing Ericsson to a ridiculous contract: he panicked.  Regardless of any reasoning behind the trade, Quincey’s play before and after being moved show that this was a bad deal.  He was a liability in Colorado on a team full of defensive liabilities, and after his first game with Detroit, he was more of the same.  And to continue the theme, he went on to be a detriment to Team Canada as well at the Worlds.

Posted by Hootinani on 06/17/12 at 12:10 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

drafting 49th in the 2nd round, and then 20th overall in rounds 3-7

I’ve noticed this verbiage several times and passed because, well, nitpicking on a blog is Douchebaggery. So here I go anyway.

My feeble interpretation would be the opposite of yours.  Their pick isn’t 49th in the second round, it’s 49th overall, and 19th (or thereabouts) in the 2nd round.

Then they do have the 20th pick in rounds 3-7, not 20th overall in rounds 3-7, which will be overall  picks 80, 110, 140, 170 etc.

See, it’s Douchebaggery, but I interpret those meanings just opposite from you, which probably makes yours more correct.

Thanks for the notice about the Lidstrom items.

Posted by RWBill from Brush Street cruising with Super Creepy Rob Lowe. on 06/17/12 at 12:12 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

Quincey was a reasonably prudent move facing the likelihood of losing Stuart and Lidstrom.  He has been, or nearly, the team leader in minutes played on each team since the Red Wings let him go.  Teams do that with gross defensive liabilities, you know.

We certainly need two more top 6 defensemen at this point though.  Possibly Smith jumps up to a lot of playing time, typically “learning the hard way” runs against the Wings methodology, but this is not a normal year.

Posted by RWBill from Brush Street cruising with Super Creepy Rob Lowe. on 06/17/12 at 12:22 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

George,
Significant topic,
Any news on the signing of RFAs Helm and Abdelkader?  My daughter needs to know.

These are two cornerstones of the Wings future.

Posted by RWBill from Brush Street cruising with Super Creepy Rob Lowe. on 06/17/12 at 12:26 PM ET

shanetx's avatar

. Quincey was a reasonably prudent move facing the likelihood of losing Stuart and Lidstrom.  He has been, or nearly, the team leader in minutes played on each team since the Red Wings let him go.  Teams do that with gross defensive liabilities, you know.

Agree with your sentiments here.  Quincey was not a liability at all on either stop.  His value steadily increased in LA and then in Colorado- right up until the Avs invested too much in other guys to keep Quincey as a top pairing player.  He didn’t act real well so he fell out of favor, but it was in no way because he was a defensive liability on those bad Avs teams.

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 06/17/12 at 01:09 PM ET

Avatar

Keep in mind that Stuart did say earlier in the month that Detroit was a backup plan, it’s just a bit surprising that Detroit is the first backup plan. So, if I trace the logic out, he’s not thinking of Anaheim or LA because of location? If it’s the “winnning team” requirement he put out before, LA certainly would fit that. Hmmmmmmmm….

Posted by Bugsy on 06/17/12 at 02:05 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Does LA have the want, need, or cap space for Stuart (regardless of what some of the MSM claim in regards to them wanting Suter, too)?

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 06/17/12 at 02:52 PM ET

Avatar

@Bugsy

As I understand it, the Wings are Stuart’s back-up plan IF all the teams in Calif. don’t offer him a fair long-term contract (the kind that ends his career in the city he signs with) with NTC’s—that’s not going to happen. He’s going to sign with SJ just look at that organizations management—it’s not Brian Burke refusing to offer a long-term deal there.


as for the others…I don’t see the Wings going out and getting two top UFA d-men…

Unless one is Justin Schultz: and I think it will come down to Detroit or Edmonton for him.  And to those saying, “the Oilers?” The Oilers have a young talented team (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and next weekend they get Nail Yakupov) that can offer him a guaranteed top-4 position.

Schultz could see the Wings with Kronwall, White, Kindl and, assuming he re-signs as a restricted free agent, Quincey, Ericsson and Smith. If they signed an UFA d-man that has NHL seasoning and say I don’t want to be the healthy scratch: Holland would have to move a d-man—probably White—to get Schultz into the lineup. Detroit does go after those Wisc. d-men (Suter, Smith, Chelios, and Rafalski). And having an in with the head coach (such as the ability to have someone in the organization call him at anytime of the day or night)  there probably makes scouting him easier.

Schultz isn’t staying with the Ducks: they’ve offered him just about everything from playing with the organization after his college season and burning a year on his entry level contract for a few days play (eg Radalov). To an all-but guaranteed NHL roster spot by making it a one-way deal. So if Holland wants him go for his negotiating rights at the draft.

Brendan Smith is not going to be a top 4 d-man this year. He is behind Kindl in term of being NHL ready.  However just like Kindl a few years ago, Smith is too good to further develop in the AHL. Look for the Wings to give him a chance early as it’s a contract year (he will be a RFA) for him. Especially with Lidstrom, Stuart, or even Hudler available for point spots on the power-play.

Posted by dca from in Mich on 06/17/12 at 03:12 PM ET

Avatar

I don’t see the Wings going out and getting two top UFA d-men…

Unless one is Justin Schultz\

If they sign Schultz, they won’t have signed a top UFA d-man.  They’ll have overpaid for a guy who’s less proven than Brendan Smith is.  He’s not a top-four defenseman and he’s not a replacement for Stuart.

Posted by Garth on 06/17/12 at 04:00 PM ET

Avatar

I might be wrong, but see George’s entry about the Stuart interview saying Detroit was the backup plan now. I’m just trying to reconcile all of this, dca.

Posted by bugsy on 06/17/12 at 04:17 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

I think Stu will sign with SJ.  He said he doesn’t want to “hit an home run.”  Just wants something that’s fair.  And why wouldn’t SJ want him?  They will work out a deal.

We know he feels he has to do this for his family. I think he said that about Detroit because he really did love it here, appreciated what Ken Holland did for him, and wanted to sort of say that publicly.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 06/17/12 at 06:28 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Jeebus, I’m late here…

1. You’re right. 49th overall. I *like* constructive criticism.

2. No word on Helm or Abdelkader, but their signings should be relatively painless. The Wings will make their big signings and say, “This is how much of the pie is left for you, you guys cool with $1.25-1.5 mil to start?” and things should happen relatively quickly.

3. My take on Quincey remains what it was at the get-go: he may be no Stuart, but he’s already going to be cheaper to re-sign than anyone who the Wings would want to go after to replace Stuart (see: Salvador, Jackman, etc.) given the fact that the high floor is going to make teams spend even more crazily than usual.

I would like to see the Wings sign two top-six defensemen, too, but that depends on whether they can land Suter, who they sign up front, etc. It’s gonna be an in-flux situation, and my gut tells me that they may make one signing and decide to fill whatever holes they need to fill at the trade deadline as next year’s free agent class is pretty deep—but will be limited by the new CBA…

4. The whole issue with LA is that, as Fox Sports West’s Joe Rosen pointed out, it’s not going to be easy for them to throw some of their $16 million in cap space at some big name, but if you look at their Capgeek roster chart, they’ve got to re-sign Pancakes and some role players this summer, and Quick and Scuderi are UFA’s next year and Voynov, Martinez and some key role players are RFA’s next year as well, so they’ve got to make sure that they don’t shoot their wad on more than, say, maybe one elite free agent…

And even having won the Cup, their record of attracting star players isn’t fantastic, so we’ll see whether things rebound…

5. Stuart probably will sign with SJ, but he’s been clear since the get-go. If he doesn’t sign with SJ, his top choice is indeed Detroit, at least for one more year.

6. Regarding Schultz, I can only go by what his agent, Bryan Lawton, suggested. Lawton said that the coach/GM of the team that signs his client will have to meet with Schultz and promise him regular playing time as well as all the financial trappings, and that means dropping $3.8 million and one of your six defenseman’s spots on a player that’s never played a professional game.

The Wings don’t make those kinds of promises or gambles.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/18/12 at 12:53 AM ET

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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.