The Malik Report
Red Wings overnight report: on accountability, the Wings’ future, lockout talk, Shanny and Iron Hook
by George Malik on 06/06/12 at 02:05 AM ET
Updated 3x at 9:04 AM: On a strange day of radical ups and downs, from the Red Wings’ release of its Winter Classic lead-up events’ schedule to discussions of Todd Bertuzzi’s legal woes and a story I plain old refuse to cover because it’s far too bizarre (click at your own risk, my friends, click at your own risk), and then Bryan Rufenach‘s passing…
Here, I’ll tell you this: You know how the Sacramento Bee tossed out an early version of an incredibly important story from the Free Press’s Helene St. James, reporting that Ken Holland and the Wings’ front office wants to be so very thorough in terms of adequately patching the hole in the Wings’ defense left by the departures of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, to upgrade their goal-scoring and plain old ensure that the Red Wings remain an elite team that they will meet at least once again before the draft on the 22nd and 23rd in Pittsburgh, probably at the draft, and maybe even after the draft and prior to the end of June to ensure that the team knows which free agents ad/or their signing rights are available, which free agents sign with their teams, which players might be available via trades and how the early CBA negotiations might affect his team’s plans?
That popped up on my search engine monkeys’ radar screen, which they just cleaned the bananas off of, at 9:55 PM. Some of you are usually offline for the evening by 10 PM, some of you go to bed early and the vast majority of bloggers know that web traffic from about 10 till 6 or 7 AM, especially when it’s your team’s “off-season,” is more or less a dead zone where it doesn’t necessarily make sense to post a story that might get lost in tomorrow morning’s shuffle, and so when the news isn’t of an earth-shattering nature, it’s not a bad idea to save it up for your morning post.
I’ve been moving away from that even though it kinda takes the oomph out of my “overnight reports” simply because this stuff is far too important for Wings fans to know as soon as possible, and because I don’t necessarily buy the concept that waiting pays off.
With that in mind, however, it is highly likely that St. James’ story will be the last major piece of Wings news until MLive posts a morning story of their own, and if I’d waited until 2 AM, when the Free Press begins to update its website to include its morning edition’s stories, it would have been much easier to pen an “overnight report” given that so few Wings have moved on to their summer homes, especially the overseas ones, and as such, the international news pipeline is more or less barren right now. So this might end up serving as the “overnight report” if that’s okay with you.
For the sake of blatantly milking the story, however, again, from St. James, Holland told St. James that the 3-day organizational powwow was merely the beginning of an ongoing discussion that the front office will continue via phone calls, emails and text messages until July 1st:
“I would categorize it as a whole lot of philosophical conversation,” Holland said. “We talked about what the rules are going to be, our team, and what direction are we going to go in? “
Every player eligible to become an unrestricted free agent was rated and ranked, but that’ll be revisited later in June, because several of those players are expected to re-sign with their current teams.
The front office brass has these meetings every year, but this version was a little different. First and foremost, the Wings are faced with a future that, for the first time in 20 seasons, does not include elite defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who retired last week. Secondly, defenseman Brad Stuart is intent on playing closer to his family in California, so there’s another departure from the defense’s top four. Thirdly, with the collective bargaining agreement expiring, the Wings want to be careful that whatever they do, it will fit in under the new rules that will be in place when the next season begins.
“It was a good start,” Holland said. “We talked about a lot of players, including our own in Grand Rapids, and where some of those guys fit in. We talked about some players that we’ve heard might be available, through the rumor mill, and we looked at teams that might have cap issues.”
The Wings are willing to be aggressive, but this summer isn’t a buyer’s market for free agents - beyond defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise, there’s a quick drop-off in quality. Furthermore, a lot of teams are looking to make changes after disappointing playoffs, including San Jose, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago and Nashville. That adds up to a competitive field for few available assets.
As for improving via trades, it’s tricky. The Predators made a big splash at the trade deadline in February only to come away from the playoffs with all of five victories. Though superstar forward Rick Nash wants out of Columbus, it would cost the suitor four or five prime assets - losses that would then have to be addressed.
“We’re trying to rebuild our team, get back into the game,” Holland said. “We’ve had some very good discussions. We’re going to meet again, talk some more, see what we can do.”
As I’ve said before, Holland is so thorough that he all but literally “kicks every tire” in attempting to inquire with agents and GM’s as to the availability of every single player the team’s interested in and some players the teams aren’t interested in, and he will continue to busy himself ensuring that the Wings have a dozen or more contingency plans as trades happen and players either re-sign with their rights-holders, sign with the teams who their rights are traded to, or declare that they’re testing the market.
Why am I mentioning the “behind the curtain” stuff? This is essentially an early overnight report, and I’m tossing off “behind the curtain” stuff for a reason—and you don’t have to like that I’m leading off with personal stuff, because I sure as hell don’t like it:
The mid-day report received the usual, “WTF are you asking for money for, you go AWOL?” post, and I want to address this bluntly, as unf***ingbelievably uncomfortable as it is for me to do so:
Yes, I am asking you to help me get to Traverse City to attend the Wings’ summer prospect camp, and yes, my battles with major depression and a severe anxiety disorder are why I missed training camp. From what Paul tells me, a significant chunk of that money was refunded, and I’m going with a simpler policy this time around. If I am unable to go for any reason, I’ll just refund everything.
Doing what I do is pretty much all I can do given the difficulties which my illnesses present in terms of daily life, and that presents financial complications in terms of being able to say, drop two or three grand a year on hotel and travel bills to go to Traverse City for the summer prospect camp, prospect tournament and the main camp. If I could afford to do so on my own, you’d sure as hell better believe that I would. I just don’t have that kind of disposable income, so I have to ask for help.
I’m not crazy, despite my jokes to the contrary, but I do live with a level of discomfort and difficulties that the vast majority of people would deem as a disabling illness. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to attempt to write about hockey for a living, and I’m taking it, but it is one of the only outlets I have. That’s that.
So if I don’t get to go to camp because my depression flares up and I have a depressive episode (dear God, do I ever wish I could control those, but despite tons of therapy and assistance and taking medication, I have yet to conquer them), I will refund your money. The same will hold true for the prospect tournament and main camp.
And if these complicating factors are reason enough for you to not to contribute, or to make fun of me or insult me, that’s your option. Doing this job involves expecting to be disagreed with, disliked and disparaged. That much I can deal with without becoming depressed or anxious because I have a damn degree in English that was forged through writing classes, not just reading books, and my best writing teachers and writing class peers taught me that you have to have a thick skin and accept both constructive criticism, if not getting your work torn up and told it’s trash, if you’re gonna even dare to put a single word out on the line for people to read.
So don’t donate if you don’t want to, call me a weirdo or nutcase, whatever. Or plain old dislike every word I say because you think I’m a jerk. That’s fine. But the whole point of putting out the content I do is to generate discussion and polite disagreement, and yes, constructive criticism of the statements I make and the structures thereof.
Otherwise, I’m simply not going to hide who I am or what I deal with because I don’t want anyone who ever has to deal with a mental illness to think that it’s somehow “bad” or something that you’re not supposed to talk about or seek help for—and if you ever feel like you need to talk, by all means, I’m always available at my email address, georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
Mostly I don’t talk about it because this damn blog is supposed to be about hockey and supposed to be about starting discussion for you to take from the blog entry’s posting on, not the author thereof.
That’s all I have to say about that.
Shifting focus back to where it should be, as the New York Times’ Lynn Zinser notes, only the 1942 Detroit Red Wings have blown a 3-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Finals, so it is highly likely that we will witness the conclusion of the NHL’s 2011-2012 season on Wednesday evening, if not Friday. I had to smile when reading what Los Angeles Kings president of business operations Luc Robitaille had to say about the only Stanley Cup he won as a player while speaking to the Ottawa Sun’s Chris Stevenson:
Robitaille got his Cup as a player with the Red Wings, but said this has a completely different vibe to it.
“This is totally different. It was a very old team in Detroit. The one thing that is probably the same is the sacrifice of each player. Each player knew his role, each player knew exactly what needed to be done to help the team win. You kind of feel this about this team.
“That’s what Mike Richards really brought into our team. It doesn’t matter if Mike Richards scores. it’s what he does on the ice that’s special every shift. You look at Anze, Anze might not get a scoring chance or might not get a goal, but he’s one of our best players defensively. He even has a lot of grit into his game now. That’s one thing we were missing in the past.”
• Down Goes Brown also brought a smile to my face given that a certain Hockey Night in Canada commentator has probably intentionally ignored the retirement of one of Robitaille’s teammates, offering a humorous look at Stanley Cup-receiving captains…
2008 - The historic moment of the first European captain receiving the Cup is ruined when a confused Nicklas Lidstrom asks if the big silver thing is some sort of fancy ashtray for his unfiltered cigarettes, Don Cherry imagines.
And Brown, a.k.a. Sean McIndoe, mentioned what’s-his-name, whoever that captain that Lidstrom said was a shining example of leadership for 15 of his 20 years as a player and served as the player he tried to model himself after, too:
1997 - After the Red Wings win their first title in over 40 years, Steve Yzerman hands the Cup to owner Mike Illitch instead of to a fellow veteran player like Brendan Shanahan, according to the weird prologue in the video explaining why Steven Stamkos was just suspended for the entire 2012-13 season for a tripping minor.
• And the Kings are indeed bigger and heavier than their opponent, but in a “Moneypuck” article, Grantland’s Bill Partnwell points out that the Red Wings’ four Stanley Cups over the past 15 years represent exceptions to the, “If your team can out-muscle its opponent, it will go farther in the playoffs” rule—which, as it turns out, isn’t a rule at all if you look at the last 20 Stanley Cup winners, where the “bigger” teams involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs only won half the time:
Meanwhile, the 20 lightest teams enjoyed plenty of success. 11 of those 20 teams advanced past the first round of the playoffs, with six advancing to the Conference finals and two winning the Stanley Cup. Those wins came in the 2001-02 and 2007-08 seasons, both courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings. In fact, different versions of the Red Wings make up eight of these 20 teams.
It raises a fair question about the possible bias represented with this study; instead of measuring the success of light teams or heavy teams, it could really just be measuring how good the Red Wings are while mis-attributing it to their small size. That’s entirely possible. On the other hand, isn’t it also possible that the Red Wings could be exploiting a market inefficiency and succeeding because they’re smaller?
Think about it for a minute. During most of their run on or near the top of the NHL, the Red Wings have succeeded with superior puck possession and a roster built around European players, many of whom were selected later than their eventual performance record would indicate. Sergei Fedorov was a fourth-round pick. Tomas Holmstrom came over as a 10th-rounder. Pavel Datsyuk came off the board in the sixth round. Henrik Zetterberg was a seventh-rounder. Those players were all relatively undersize; only Fedorov was listed above 200 pounds during his NHL career. Had they possessed elite size to go with their skills, it’s entirely possible that the rest of the league would have noticed their talents and drafted them before the Red Wings had a chance to.
The perfect example of this philosophy is Nicklas Lidstrom, the Hall of Famer-to-be who claimed seven Norris Trophies as the league’s best defenseman during our 12-season time frame. In one of the great draft picks in the history of American sports, the Red Wings somehow nabbed Lidstrom with the 53rd pick in the third round of the 1989 NHL draft. Nobody would ever dream to doubt Lidstrom’s ability as a two-way defenseman or see him as a physical liability, but at 190 pounds, Lidstrom’s significantly smaller than other elite defensemen. Lidstrom’s made the All-NHL First Team seven times and been paired with six other defensemen across them, with Scott Niedermayer joining Lidstrom twice. Those six other defensemen outweighed Lidstrom by an average of more than 19 pounds.
It’s not just a European thing for the Wings, either. They’ve had a number of North American players with well-deserved reputations as the sort of gutsy players you need to win playoff games; it just so happens that they’re not very big, either. Kris Draper, who was taken nine picks after Lidstrom in that 1989 draft (by the Jets), was listed at 188 pounds. Kirk Maltby was at 195. Even Darren McCarty, a giant by Red Wings standards, was listed at just 210. Oh, and that Yzerman guy was 185 pounds. If size was really a prerequisite for playoff success, how could the Red Wings have been so great in the playoffs? It might very well be the case that you need some world-class grinders on your checking line to win a Stanley Cup, but Detroit’s proven that those grinders don’t necessarily need to be big.
I think that last part is a key…In the playoffs, your third and fourth lines are sometimes the ones that win you playoff rounds, and, quite frankly, that’s a big reason why Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader will receive raises as restricted free agents pretty confident in the knowledge that, if Holland and the Wings have a say, the pair will spend their entire careers in Detroit.
Regarding Lidstrom, it took a couple of days, but Yahoo Sports joined Sports Illustrated in posting a photo retrospective of Lidstrom’s career, and the Red Wings’ Facebook page is asking fans whether Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall or another Wings player should be the team’s captain.
• MLive’s Ansar Khan also weighed in on Lidstrom’s departure, speaking to The Fan 960’s Pat Steinberg while stating that, especially after Lidstrom suffered that broken ankle, he was not surprised that Lidstrom chose to call it quits (maybe the broken ankle gave Lidstrom too much of a glimpse into what it would be like to play as a “human?”):
Shifting focus toward the Wings’ future, in the “free agency” sense of the term, if you’re interested, the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan assessed no less than 26 free agents which the Wings might target via a photo gallery;
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Mike Halford also noted that Alex Semin’s kind of waffled as to whether testing the open market might involve going back to Russia, and specifically playing for SKA St. Petersburg, and…
I don’t know what to say about this. So much of the talk in the Russian press is either in the form of unsubstantiated rumors or general managers and executives engaging in the kind of power plays that NHL GM’s can’t—there’s no “collusion” in the sense of saying, “Hey, yeah, I want to sign so and so who plays for another team right now”—so yes, Alexei Kasatonov, SKA’s GM, has been telling the press that he’s going after Semin on July 1st.
He told Sport-Express’s Ilya Yeliseyev that SKA will “fight” for Semin on Tuesday morning, and this chatter’s been very persistent since…Hell, since World Championships, when Semin and the Capitals were still playing and the Russian press was rooting against Washington just after I started reading the Russian papers to follow Pavel Datsyuk’s status.
Does Kasatonov’s almost daily verbal power play count if it’s been, “Same s***, different day” for two months?
Hell, speaking of Brooks, this just posted from the New York Post, right before I was about to hit “submit” and wrap this up after three hours of work. Brooks talks about one Zach Parise being as few as sixty minutes of play from the most important summer, money-wise, of his career. If the Devils lose…
[T]he focus will shift immediately from all of this season’s unanticipated accomplishments on the ice to the bottom-line reality of Parise’s July 1 entry into the open market, where he is likely to become the most sought after upper-echelon free agent in memory.
“I’m not thinking about the end right now,” Parise said yesterday when asked if he’d considered there would be inevitable changes to the team at the conclusion of the series. “Hopefully we have a few more games.”
Whenever the end comes, it will mark the first day of the rest of Parise’s professional life, and unless Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek finds a benefactor by July 1 willing to immediately invest millions into a dramatically front-loaded deal to keep the captain, it’s all but impossible to imagine No. 9 will stay, even if the notion of being a career Devil appeals to him.
There is no other forward on the market comparable to Parise, who has steadfastly refused to engage in discussion about his future. One can expect up to a dozen teams to make serious inquiries on the left wing, who has spent his seven-year NHL career as a Devil. This all but certainly will be the final summer in which, a) players will be allowed to sign front-loaded contracts with huge signing bonuses that this year will also serve as lockout-protection; and b) players will be permitted to sign contracts without term limits.
Indeed, Parise can expect offers modeled after the nine-year, $60 million contract Brad Richards signed last summer with the Rangers, under which the center is receiving $24 million the first two years, including a $10 million signing bonus last July and an $8 million signing bonus due next month.
Parise, who will turn 28 next month, could attract offers of up to 12 years. He will certainly receive front-loaded, bonus-laden offers from the Rangers and Red Wings, who have millions to spend and the inclination to do so. The Wild will be in, though Parise might want to think more than twice about going home to join a team in which he would be the best player by leaps and bounds. The Sharks could be in. The Maple Leafs will be, though current general manager Brian Burke doesn’t believe in front-loaded deals. The Bruins could become a serious contender. There will be others.
Given the financial realities in New Jersey, it’s almost impossible to conjure the scenario in which ownership could cut Parise a $10 million check on July 2. And again, that’s even assuming Parise’s first choice is to remain a Devil. He is one today and will be one tonight. But once the puck is dropped, the clock will be ticking on the Devils’ season and on the captain’s career in New Jersey.
Take that for what you will.
Also regarding the Wings’ future, but in a much less cheery vein, SportsBusiness Journal’s Christopher Botta and Liz Mullen believe that the NHL may be positioning itself for a lockout for several reasons, including one which may result in me making some refunds to you:
Some hockey sources see the 120-day notice, and the fact that the NHL in March canceled plans to open the 2012-13 season with the “Premier Games” in Europe, as the league has done for the past five years, as signs the NHL is preparing for a lockout.
A few teams were said to be considering the cancellation of their summer training camps for prospects. The Young Stars Tournament, which has been held in Penticton, British Columbia, for the last few years as a rookie showcase for the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and host Vancouver Canucks, was canceled last month because of labor uncertainty.
And there has been speculation that the Traverse City tournament, a rookie camp and round-robin in Michigan for eight of the NHL’s clubs which is held in early September, would be canceled as well.
“For now, we’re proceeding like it’s going to happen,” said one hockey operations executive whose team is a perennial participant at Traverse City. “Ultimately, the Red Wings will make that call.”
Rick Bowness, public relations coordinator for the Detroit Red Wings, who run the annual event, said the tournament is going ahead as planned. He did not say whether the tournament would go forward regardless of labor developments.
Daly told SportsBusiness Journal last month that the clubs, not the league, make the decisions on whether to hold rookie camps and tournaments.
Although league and union executives will not speak on the record about what they want in a new CBA, some expressed optimism about the process. Some agents were not as optimistic.
“There have been a series of events, including the cancellation of one rookie tournament, that leads one to believe the league is preparing for a lockout,” said Ian Pulver, an NHL agent and former associate counsel of the NHLPA. “The league’s actions do not make sense, especially against the backdrop of record-setting revenues and magnificent coverage of the game from New York to Los Angeles. I am certain that Don Fehr will prepare the players accordingly.”
There’s still one rather big hitch to the London Knights facing the Plymouth Whalers on Dec. 29 at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit.
If there’s no NHL season, that means no Winter Classic game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich. – and little need for the two-week Hockeytown Winter Festival leading up to it at the baseball home of the Detroit Tigers.
“It’s still tentative at this point,” said London GM and head coach Mark Hunter of the OHL doubleheader, which will also include Windsor and Saginaw “There’s a date, but we’ll have to see what happens.”
The OHL schedule will be released this month. The Winter Festival game would have no bearing on the Knights and Sarnia Sting’s traditional home-and-home set surrounding the New Year’s holiday. Both teams confirmed the series will continue and Hunter fought to keep the well-attended home-and-home contests between the rivals intact.
“Those are games we want to play,” he said. “We don’t want to lose them.
• In even less cheerier CBA news, Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien points out that TSN legal analyst Eric Macramalla interviewed former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly, and he offered some twitter snippets which suggested that a lockout would be downright silly on the NHL’s part:
Interview with Paul Kelly (Ex NHLPA head): Fehr’s appointment - “hard pressed to find anyone with more experience”; “in good hands”
Interview with Paul Kelly (Ex NHLPA head): Matthew Schneider “is lead advisor to Don”; he always “took an interest” in welfare of players
Interview with Paul Kelly (Ex NHLPA head): Schneider: “respected widely by other players” and “nice manner about him”
Interview with Paul Kelly (Ex NHLPA head): other NHL players that good in working with PA - Robin Regehr, Malhotra, Chelios
Interview with Paul Kelly (Ex NHLPA head): “NHL is not going to be out to recreate CBA…it’s not broken…don’t need a radical fix”
Interview with Paul Kelly (Ex NHLPA head): talk of a lockout is “premature”
Interview with Paul Kelly: “I do think it’s too early to start worrying we won’t have hockey come September…optimistic”
Interview with Paul Kelly (Ex NHLPA head): Can NHL afford lockout? “I don’t think so…large number of fans would turn away in disgust”
Interview with Paul Kelly: Salary floor has “placed great stress on teams”;8 to 12 teams would have “significantly lower” salaries
Interview with Paul Kelly (Ex NHLPA head): ownership side would not “abandon” salary cap
Interview with Paul Kelly (Ex NHLPA head): “great priviledge” to have been NHLPA head; opportunity to be involved was “exciting”
Interview with Paul Kelly: “didn’t end as I had hoped but was great priviledge”
Having been chewed out by Kelly himself by questioning his role in his firing, I can tell you that he’s not a man who blows smoke where the sun doesn’t shine, so his optimism is not manufactured.
In terms of the hockey attendance record the Wings and Leafs hope to set at Michigan Stadium, however, University of Michigan athletic director David Brandon told the Detroit News’s Angelique S. Changelis that it will not stand forever:
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, during a speaking engagement before the Wolverine Caucus in Lansing on Tuesday, made clear his desire to maintain the world-record attendance for outdoor hockey.
Michigan played Michigan State in the “Big Chill at the Big House” in December, 2010, before a record crowd of 113,411.
The NHL, however, will hold the Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium.
“The NHL plans on beating our record — I hope they do,” Brandon said, playing to his crowd. “Because when they do, what do you suppose we’re going to do?”
Speaking of gatherings...The Red Wings are holding a social media meet-up on June 30th at the MotorCity Casino, and if you want to attend, tickets are free;
In Charitable news, if you missed it yesterday, the Bob Probert Memorial Ride will take place on June 22nd, and their website provides more details about the event;
• The Red Wings’ Alumni Association also announced that they’re holding a charity golf tournament on July 8th, and they posted a PDF file which offers the details thereof for anyone who wants to attend, from simply hanging out with the alums at the pre-tournament dinner to getting involved as a sponsor;
• And today is “Tim Horton’s Camp Day,” a day in which Tim Horton’s attempts to raise money to help kids attend summer camp, and the Wings’ Twitter account revealed that two alumni will take part in the event:
As a part of Tim Hortons Camp Day, Eddie Mio will sign at the location on Rochester Road in Troy from 8-9.
Brent Fedyk will be signing at the Tim Hortons on Mound Road in Sterling Heights from 8-9 AM as well.
Regarding one Wings alumnus who you may not like very much right now, Brendan Shanahan did win three Stanley Cups with the Wings (I still wonder what might have been had he stayed with the Wings after Yzerman retired), and he spoke to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose in a must-read Q and A/“Alumni Reunion”:
Question: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
Shanahan: “Yeah, actually quite a few, like Kris Draper. I mean, you bump into guys, like Drapes, Steve Yzerman, Marty Lapointe. I mean, probably like a dozen of them.”
Question: Which of the current Red Wings is your favorite? And why?
Shanahan: “Tomas Holmstrom, but every guy I played with. It’s tough to pick. Homer made me laugh, Nick’s a favorite, Pav, Hank, I don’t think I can pick one.’
Question: What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?
Shanahan: “Probably winning our first Stanley Cup in 1997, here on home ice, sweeping Philadelphia. All the Stanley Cups were great, but when you win your first one, for almost all of us on the team, it was our first one.”
Question: Which of the guys you played with was the toughest?
Shanahan: “You know, Vladimir Konstantinov, the one year I got to play with him I was amazed at how tough he was. Darren McCarty was obviously very tough. But then there were guys like Nicklas Lidstrom, who didn’t necessarily play physically, but was extremely tough in that he just never missed a game, would not ever get hurt. Steve Yzerman was incredibly tough in how he could play with pain. So, you know, our players showed toughness in whatever form they could bring it.”
He does go on for a bit.
At opposite ends of the prospect spectrum, and yes, these are repeats, great Gordie Howe, Dick Axelsson may have scored two goals in Sweden’s 4-3 loss to Slovenia at the World Inline Hockey Championships, but if you ever wanted a visual representation of Axelsson’s career in one nice, neat video package, check out the IIHF’s highlight clip from the game.
#31 scores two goals, nearly scores on a breakaway, dekes, dangles and dazzles wearing those red and white CCM gloves, and what does he end the game doing? Throwing his mitts against the glass in the penalty box. He’s done that enough in Sweden that the default pictures of Axelsson from the Swedish press almost inevitably involve his infamous “double chin” profile picture, a goal celebration, or, more often than not, Axelsson banging his stick against penalty box glass or yelling at a referee.
There’s a reason that the Wings will simply not sign him and retain his status as a “defected player” because he left the Griffins to head home and play for Farjestad…
• But if you don’t believe my suggestions that Calle Jarnkrok played so spectacularly well during the World Championships that I really believe the Wings brass’s hype that the still super-skinny center is, at 20 years of age, a year or two of playing for Brynas IF and bulking up from graduating directly to the NHL instead of spending time with the Grand Rapids Griffins, here’s what his World Championship teammate, Niklas Kronwall, had to say about Jarnkrok’s play (and yes, his name does indeed translate to “Iron Hook”):
“He’s got so much upside,” Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Very impressive.”
Jarnkrok played alongside Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Jonathan Ericsson on the Swedish national team that competed in the 16-team international tournament in Sweden and Finland in May. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound speedster finished with one assist in eight games while skating mostly on the Swede’s second forward line between a pair of Ottawa Senators – Daniel Alfredsson and prospect Jakob Silfverberg.
The telling tourney statistics for Jarnkrok was his performance in the face-off circle where he won 67.1 percent of his 70 draws. Only Norway’s Marius Holtet (68.7 percent), a former Dallas Stars prospect, had a higher percentage of face-off wins during the 17-day tournament.
“He’s got the skill to play with our top guys,” Kronwall said, of Jarnkrok. “He’s still, I think a few more pounds away to being ready, but even at the World Championship there was no way to tell that he was too light or anything like that. He’s so smart that he puts himself in the right positions to cover the puck or win the puck back. Even though he’s not a huge guy he’s still very strong on his stick, with good balance and outstanding hockey sense.”
Though he signed with the Wings, Jarnkrok will likely spend the upcoming season playing for Brynas in the Swedish Elite League. The hope is that Jarnkrok will be granted permission to participate in the Wings’ training camp in September, but either way, Kronwall is a believer in the young prospect.
“I always get impressed nowadays with a kid that’s coming up – they’re 18-, 19-years-old – and they’re ready to go,” Kronwall said. “They don’t need the years in the minors always. A lot of them are ready to go and their bodies are already mature enough that they’re good to go.”
He, Brendan Smith, Teemu Pulkkinen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Petr Mrazek and down-the-line players like Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, Louis-Marc Aubry, Tomas Jurco, Brian Lashoff and about half of Matthew Wuest’s Top 25 Wings prospect list on RedWingsCentral lead me to believe that the future is bright for the Wings in terms of home-grown talent.
As you’ve probably figured, “The Button” is going to rear its ugly head as I’m two hotel days’ worth of funds into my $1,200-1,400 and probably more like $1,500 or $1,600 total tab for the Traverse City trip, so…
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, I can always start a Kickstarter account (which would allow you to track my progress and pay via Amazon.com accounts), and I don’t mind sharing the mailing address of my secret blogging lair via my other email address, georgemalik at kuklaskorner dot com.
And finally for the moment, this little clip from the Wings’ website still makes me tear up…
But We All Bleed Red’s mash-up of Sportsnet’s Nicklas Lidstrom tribute and Emi Meyer’s Happy Song first made me tear up a bit…And then smile through my tears.
Please, please, make this video go viral, folks, because it’s wonderful, and Sanjay’s work (We All Bleed Red’s Twitter page reveals that he does have a name) in uploading all of these videos from TSN, Sportsnet and elsewhere praising Nick over the past week…Have helped me get through it, and especially given what’s happened with another member of the Wings family, maybe we all need a little cry and then a little smile from time to time.
Edit/update: The Detriot Free Press’s actual story does not include any alterations to the content of the story. That’s not always the case, thus staying up till 2 to make sure.
Also: Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman may have put things best while speaking to the Tampa Tribune’s Ray Cummings:
Two days after returning from a general manager’s meeting in New York, Yzerman said during a roundtable discussion he hopes to trade for a new goalie before the month is out.
“There are two teams left in the Stanley Cup playoffs (Los Angeles and New Jersey) and the others are starting to kick around ideas as far as what they can do to improve their teams,’’ Yzerman said.
“We accumulated a lot of (draft picks through late-season trades last year) and so now we’re starting to explore things and we’re going to try to trade for a goalie. If that doesn’t work out, we’ll look at free agency.’‘
The Red Wings aren’t looking to make any trades, but now is definitely tire-kicking time regarding potential free agents.
Update #2: Well, the kinds of trades the Wings are willing to make are different ones—tossing draft picks to teams for free agents’ signings rights—as Holland told MLive’s Ansar Khan
“We’ll do whatever we got to do that makes good business sense,’’ Holland said. “When the opportunity presents itself, we have to be ready.’‘
Clubs that acquire a player’s rights gain an edge in trying to sign that player. Two players stand above the crowd on the list of potential unrestricted free agents – Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter and New Jersey forward Zach Parise. They happen to be at the top of the Red Wings’ wish list, sources have said for months.
The shallow free-agent pool could lead to more trade activity at the draft (June 22-23 in Pittsburgh). Holland said he’s received a couple of exploratory calls from clubs.
“Most teams are where we’re at, they’re at the planning stages,’’ Holland said.
The Red Wings wrapped up three days of organizational meetings Tuesday, as the front office gathered to evaluate their own players as well as potential trade and free-agent targets.
“We went over players that may be available through trade, either from what we’ve heard through rumors or based on conversations I’ve had with other people,’’ Holland said. “It’s really just a lot of preparation, so when things finally present themselves I know what our people are thinking. We went through all the potential free agents. We know some of them are going to sign (with their own club) in June.’‘
Khan also believes that the Wings want to sign that fourth-line forward with grit and size we keep talking about and a back-up goalie, he suggests that it’ll cost about $6 million in total to sign the team’s three restricted free agents in Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Kyle Quincey, and he says that Holland will speak to Tomas Holmstrom about his future on Friday, and he offers this update on Jiri Hudler:
Holland said he “touched base’’ with Jiri Hudler’s agent this week and they will talk again in a couple of days. But Hudler, coming off a 25-goal season, could get much more money on the open market than the Red Wings would be willing to pay (probably not much more than $3.3 million).
Update #2.5: The LA Daily News’s Andrew Knoll notes that the Kings are somewhat relieved that Anze Kopitar’s finally getting some much-needed recognition…
“I give him the ultimate compliment. He reminds me of (Detroit’s) Pavel Datsyuk,” Mitchell said. “He’s so good defensively, he makes players around him better. He’s big and strong. It’s tough to get him off the puck. He’s our most important player on the power play. He’s one of our most important players on the penalty kill and he’s our most important centerman. Need I say more?”
• The Newark Star-Ledger’s Steve Polliti spoke to 93-year-old former Maple Leaf Wally Stanowski about the Maple Leafs’ rally from a 3-0 deficit against Detroit in the 1942 Stanley Cup Final;
• And the Windsor Star’s Jim Parker offers pricing for the OHL games between the Windsor Spitfires and Saginaw Spirit and then the Plymouth Whalers and London Knights at Comerica Park:
Ticket prices for the OHL games are expected to run between $18 and $38 and are expected to go on sale later this summer.
Update #3: MLive’s Phillip Zaroo suggests that Nick Lidstrom was the second-nicest “gentleman” in Detroit sports history, with only Ernie Harwell outranking Lidstrom:
2. Nicklas Lidstrom: There has to be someone, somewhere who has a beef with this Red Wings great but if so, it’s a C-12 matter because no one’s saying a word about it. Lidstrom is easily one of the greatest defensemen ever to play in the NHL. Yet what was most obvious, especially during the latter part of his career, was how recognized “Mr. Perfect” was for his humility, professionalism and kindness. On the ice, there’s no questioning his impact on the Red Wings, as he was a critical part of four Stanley Cup-winning teams, a seven-time Norris Cup Tropy winner and a 12-time All-Star. Off the ice, he was the very embodiment of the word “gentleman.”
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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.