The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/24/12 at 07:12 AM ET
Perhaps it got lost amidst the leak‘s worth of news regarding the Red Wings’ hiring of an architectural firm to help design their Joe Louis Arena follow-on rink and whatever will be built around it: my eyebrow, at least, rose half a foot when I read that the Wings are looking at an 18,000-seat arena, which would fit in nearly 2,000 fewer fans per night.
The Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell allows Wings VP Jimmy Devellano to explain why that is while surveying the various comments Mike Ilitch, Mike Babcock and Devellano have made to the media over the past year—especially regarding the Joe’s status as a building whose amenities for its players aren’t exactly spectacular:
“The challenging thing about the Joe is it’s a building that has one foot in the past and one in the present,” Wings senior vice-president Jimmy Devellano said at the time of the [renovation] studies. “It doesn’t have many of the amenities you’d get in a new building, but for an arena of its age, it has enough suites.”
The JLA, which cost $57 million and opened in 1979, contains 86 suites plus the 181-person Comerica Bank Legends Club. Its seating capacity is 20,066 for hockey. Devellano said any new building wouldn’t have any more than 18,500 seats.
“You want to have it so there’s a demand to buy tickets,” Devellano said. “If you have too many seats, people think it’s easy to get a ticket and they wait. You don’t want to rely on too much walk-up business.”
In addition to lacking the extra creature comforts for fans, despite a renovation last summer that is estimated to have cost the Wings US$10-15-million, the facility is also limiting for the players. The dressing room and small workout area is hardly luxurious. In fact, both pale in comparison in terms of comfort and size to the facilities the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires enjoy at the WFCU Centre.
“We’ve done the best we can for the players with the limitations of an old building,” a Wings official said. “We’ve redone the dressing room and expanded the workout area. When college players come here, they’re surprised because quite frankly they’re coming from big schools with better and more modern facilities.”
The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan penned a pair of columns which discuss both the potential of a looming lockout and the identities of two players which might end up inhabiting the Wings’ slightly cramped locker room. Kulfan suggests that Parise and Suter, who played together on the Ann Arbor-based U.S. National Team Development program, want to play on the same team, and his conversations with various “sources” lead Kulfan to believe that the pair are indeed thinking of coming to Detroit as, well..
“Lots of us were at an event last year, and they were taking quite a bit of ribbing about it,” said one hockey official, who asked not to be named for fear of offending the players. “I recall specifically someone walking up to them in the parking lot and saying, ‘Hey, I hear you guys are both with the Red Wings next year!’ They were pretty sheepish about it. You know, smiling, but not saying much at all.”
The Red Wings intend to make a substantial splash in free agency this summer. Parise is the top forward available, and Suter the top defenseman. Amid an increasing sense the Red Wings are among the few teams that have what both players seek, another enticing prospect emerges: Parise and Suter may want the Red Wings as much as the Red Wings want Parise and Suter.
“I am assuming that, at least as of right now, they are a package deal,” said one NHL team official, who is aware of the circumstances. “They certainly seem to have set it up that way, themselves.”
Cue the dissenting voice!
“Despite all of the talk, Suter and Parise are not close friends at all, really,” said one official of that U.S. team, which lost the gold medal to Canada in overtime. “It’s not like they spend time together in the offseasons, or their families hang out. My sense of what they shared when the team was together is a vision of how the game should be played, how they play their game given their talents and ability and how teams should play. I think that is what a lot of this hot stove, rumor-mill stuff is about: They know the kind of hockey they want to play, and they want to play it together, on a team they will help lead. Now, whether that desire ultimately rules the day is something that will be seen, in time.”
And cue the players’ agents, after Kulfan reminds us that they can’t, wink wink nudge nudge, speak to other teams until July 1st (this is not necessarily the case):
“Ryan has not said that he’s not going to sign in Nashville,” [Suter’s agent, Neil] Sheehy said. “He’s never told me that. And he’s with Nashville, so that’s the only thing that’s entertained at this point. Until there is more news, that’s really the only thing to say.”
Parise is still playing, leading the Devils against the Rangers. In the Eastern Conference finals.
His agent, Wade Arnott, said, “Prior to the start of the playoff run, Zach said he wanted to switch off all of this talk and just concentrate on hockey, and that he could resume all of this talk once that is over with. That is where we are still.”
In the participatory news category, the Red Wings’ Twitter account went into overdrive trying to encourage fans to vote for Pavel Datsyuk as EA Sports’ NHL 2013 cover athlete, but given the quips from EA Sports’ Twitter account, it sounds like Datsyuk’s semifinal opponent, New York Islanders forward John Tavares, probably won the race.
Nevertheless, the Wings got both Nicklas Lidstrom and a gentleman who probably met with the captain on Wednesday to endorse Datsyuk’s candidacy:
Jurco isn’t mentioned in the Canadian Press, Sea Dogs’ website, the London Free Press’s Ryan Pyette, Sportsnet’s Patrick King or Yahoo Sports Neate Sager’s recaps, but Sager reports that the Sea Dogs experienced a “Dan O’Halloran moment” as they had an obvious goal waived off, and while Sportsnet’s highlights of the game don’t work in the U.S., I found that highlights from the Memorial Cup’s website aren’t “geo-blocked.”
The Sea Dogs’ win allows them to advance to the tournament’s semifinals on Friday. They’ll play the winner of today’s tiebreaker game between the Cataractes and Edmonton Oil Kings, and again, all Memorial Cup games are airing on Sportsnet in Canada and the NHL Network in the U.S.
And in an article remembering a fallen member of the Wings’ organization, Sportsnet’s Mike Brophy recalls a Memorial Cup performance for the ages, in which one Brad McCrimmon played a staggeringly long shift in a losing effort for the Brandon Wheat Kings:
It was May 13, in fact, the day that McCrimmon—known as ‘Beast’ to his pals—played the entire game. Well, with the exception of one two-minute penalty. Not only that, the game went into overtime. He played 60 minutes and 38 seconds.
Although the Wheat Kings lost the game 2-1 to the Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough Petes, McCrimmon’s performance that Sunday afternoon in Verdun, was definitely one for the ages.
This being MasterCard Memorial Cup week, with all the games from the tournament being broadcast on Rogers Sportsnet, I couldn’t help but recall McCrimmon’s unbelievable individual effort that afternoon. McCrimmon’s younger brother Kelly, who is currently GM of the Wheat Kings and was on the team back in 1979, but missed the tournament with a broken arm, fondly remembered Brad’s big afternoon.
“Brad had a successful pro career and did win the Stanley Cup (1988-89 with the Calgary Flames), but I think what he did his final year of junior was made more remarkable by how uncommon it was for a player to play as much as he did,” Kelly said. “It didn’t start with the Memorial Cup final. He had a great relationship with our coach, Dunc McCallum, and Dunc had a lot of trust in Brad. Brad loved playing for him. We played primarily four defencemen on that team and on Feb. 1 Mike Perovich broke his arm and from that point on, Brad played 50 minutes a night right through the rest of the league games, in the playoffs and through the Memorial Cup tournament.”
“Brad always had tremendous capacity,” Kelly said. “He always was the hardest working guy at practice; he always had the most stamina. Genetically he was really blessed that way. He was a very good backwards skater and forward skater and I think that, combined with how well he understood the game, allowed him to know how he needed to play. As important as it was for him to play that way for our team, as a young pro it took him some time to get some more pace in his game. I think it was Mike Keenan in Philadelphia who got him playing with more urgency.”
Sadly Brad McCrimmon is not around to watch this week’s MasterCard Memorial Cup tourney. The head coach of Lokomotiv Yaroslaval of the KHL perished in the plane crash that took the lives of 43 people last September. I, for one, will never forget his game that day in 1979. His team lost, but he was a champion.
Also of Red Wings-related note this morning: Regarding a free agent of a different kind, the St. Petersburg Times’ Damian Cristodero reports that the Lightining are probably the front-runners in the Damien Brunner sweepstakes:
The Lightning is a “serious contender” for the services of Swiss star Damien Brunner, his agent said.
“I would say Tampa is serious about Damien. I would say Damien is serious about Tampa,” Neil Sheehy said.
That Brunner, 26, a highly skilled, fleet-skating right wing, has been released from his contract with Zug of Switzerland’s elite league should accelerate negotiations. Brunner likely will sign before the June 22-23 draft, Sheehy said, adding that several teams are interested. The Penguins have been reported to be keeping an eye on Brunner, too.
“We have a lot of work to do between now and his decision,” Sheehy said. “But I know Damien was very, very impressed with (Tampa Bay general manager) Steve Yzerman. … They have met, and there’s interest on both sides.”
Yzerman did not respond to several text messages seeking comment.
Brunner had team bests this season of 24 goals, 36 assists and 60 points in 45 games. He also had three goals, seven points in seven games for Switzerland at the world championship this month.
• Habs World’s Michael Tierney looked at the Wings’ successful franchise model over the past twenty seasons, offering this take on the team’s future:
What can we expect from this team in the future?
It could become very interesting the next couple of years for the Detroit organization. The core of this team is growing older every year and it is about the time that they will begin to retire. The heartbeat of the entire back line and possibly the entire team looks set to retire either this season or next in D Nicklas Lidstrom. Meanwhile Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and Holmstrom are not getting any younger. When the current roster begins to transform it will be interesting to see where the Red Wings get their reinforcements. Will they stick with finding diamonds in the rough on draft day or will they attempt to sign some premier free agent talents. While rumours continue about possible players who are on the teams wish list this summer it is becoming increasingly clear that soon could be the end of this dynasty, at least temporarily. With key players who look to be leaving fast and furious and no immediate clues as to what talent will replace them the Red Wings’ situation will be fascinating over the next couple of years.
Put bluntly: I know that the Wings’ detractors tend to argue that the Wings’ somewhat middling percentage of success in terms of drafting players will catch up with them, but the Wings might offer a simple counter-argument: while fewer Wings prospects pan out because the team tends to shoot for home runs instead of taking “safe bets” to make the team as grinders, the Wings over-invest in skill over size and strength because they believe that finding one Pavel Datsyuk, or perhaps looking at the 2000-2006 drafts, a Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler, Tomas Kopecky, Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard out of sixty prospects is better than snagging a dozen grinders. Just as importantly, when the Wings’ skilled picks tend to end up playing those fourth-line roles, the Wings would rather have Cory Emmerton or Jan Mursak contributing to the cause as players who were dominant scorers at the junior hockey level because good workout skills and approaches can be taught, but work ethic and naturally-based skill aren’t as easy to learn.
• I know very little about yacht racing, but DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose penned an article stating that the Wings will be sponsoring/backing “Notso EZ Money” at the Bayview Mackinac Race this July, and there’s a video accompanying the story;
• For the record, part 1: MLive held a poll asking readers where they’d like to see the Wings’ next arena be built, and the majority picked the area behind the Fox Theatre as their preferred location;
• For the record, part 2: According to the Brooks (Alberta) Bulletin, Wings assistant GM Jim Nill once visited his major junior hockey billets to take flying lessons (just an interesting tidbit here, nothing exciting otherwise);
• And finally, for the record, part 3: the Russian sports website F-Sport is reporting that the Russian national team will be feted for their World Championship title with a parade in Moscow on May 29th.
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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.