The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/29/12 at 08:25 AM ET
Every once in a while, there’s nothing wrong with starting a blog entry with a context-setting story, but this one ain’t pretty:
On March 3rd, 2000, I woke up in the recovery room at the University of Michigan medical center, having just undergone what was supposed to be a relatively routine septoplasty to repair what I’ll politely describe as “internal Patrick Roy nose.” The only problem was that in addition to feeling like someone had drilled into my sinuses, cheeks and forehead with a Roto-Rooter (which is essentially what happened), I noticed that it was much later in the day than it was supposed to be.
When my body shook off the anesthetics enough that I could be rolled into a semi-private area (this was out-patient surgery, disturbingly enough), my Boston-trained otolaryngologist came traipsing into the room, big-eyed and excited, saying something along the lines of, “Wow, you won’t believe what we found in there!” He then proceeded to tell me, with the glee that only a surgery jock can, of the extent of the damage to my severely deviated, s-shaped septum (thanks to falling face-first onto concrete when I was six, and yes, they re-broke my nose and set it again, using crescent-shaped plastic tabs that went from the openings of my nostrils to between my ears to hold the thing together for about three weeks), about mis-rolled turbinates, bone spurs in my cheek sinuses (“We don’t usually see those till someone’s 30 or 40!”) and the varying amounts of tweaking, pulling and prodding his endoscopes required to properly open up sinus cavities and passages that had never really opened thanks to a very sickly childhood and years and years of growing up with chain-smoking parents.
He’d also informed me, prior to my surgery, that I’d probably need a follow-up procedure in 8-10 years, and I’m both overdue and live with smokers again, so I’m quite concerned about what I’m going to be told after I finally get my tune-up (and I’m going to spare you the details of my throat surgery, because that was even more “exciting” from a surgeon’s perspective).
I say this because the one Red Wings player who needs off-season surgery will be rolled into an operating room at the Detroit Medical Center sometime this week, and it’s highly likely that the Wings’ orthopedist, doctor Douglas Plagens, will be present.
Given Danny Cleary’s issues with Baker’s cysts, arthritis, bone-on-bone grinding and ligature issues, I can’t help but believe that the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson describes a, “Wow, you won’t believe what we found in there!” situation:
Detroit Red Wings’ Danny Cleary’s going to need some major work on his left knee this upcoming week after he had it constantly drained after he hurt it in November. As he said, there’s tears in there, loose cartilage, bone on bone. He limped for five months. He had the knee shot up with cortisone before every playoff game.
The Free Press’s Helene St. James spoke to Cleary about his knee issues and struggles to recover from cartilage damage to his ribs during the exhibition season, and then his attempts to play through a knee injury which should have been addressed when it occurred:
About a week after [his rib] injury cleared up, his left knee started bothering him. “Looking back, I was hoping it would calm down,” Cleary said. “It just didn’t.”
Instead, it got progressively worse. Cleary received injections of gel to reduce the pain of bone grinding against bone. He got his knee drained numerous times to remove fluid buildup. Still he kept playing, trying to be a physical, checking presence on the third line and help on the penalty kill.
“Listen, I tried as hard as I could,” he said. “I did everything I could. It’s hard playing on one leg. I walked with a limp since November. So the games were really hard.”
Cleary, 33, said the surgery will take care of “significant issues—tears, loose cartilage, bone-on-bone, lot of fluid. The buildup of fluid was a major issue. I’m hoping to get it resolved.”
Cleary has become, as general manager Ken Holland put it, “a Red Wing,” meaning Cleary is looked upon as part of the team’s core fabric, someone who sets a positive example for the younger players. He also is counted on for scoring, and his 12 goals and 33 points in the regular season were far below expectations. He has had some big performances in the playoffs, and his inability to really be a factor this season hurt the Wings against the Predators.
As St. James notes, Cleary would have missed about two months had his knee been operated on in November, but instead…
Instead, he’ll have four months to recover and rehabilitate. His sense of humor, at least, has not been impaired; when a TV reporter asked Cleary if there was a chance he might not play again, Cleary laughed and said: “That’s a little drastic.”
It is, but so is assuming that he won’t wake up to an overly enthusiastic doctor informing him of all the neat-o stuff the surgical team found when their arthroscopes poked around Cleary’s knee.
Shifting gears to the Red Wings’ final prospects to take part in playoff action, Tomas Jurco’s Saint John Sea Dogs have advanced to the QMJHL final, defeating the Chicoutimi Sagueneens four games to one.
Jurco registered an assist in Saint John’s 4-3 overtime victory on Saturday, and the Canadian Press and Sea Dogs’ website (including a slate of highlights and interviews—the Sea Dogs have a fantastic video crew) provide recaps. Jurco’s now registered 8 goals, 11 assists and 19 points over 12 games played for Saint John this spring, which ain’t half bad.
The Sea Dogs will now await the winner of the series between the Halifax Mooseheads and Rimouski Oceanic (Rimouski leads the series 3-2, and the teams play this afternoon), and if Halifax pulls off a comeback win, that’ll be good for Wings fans as RedWingsCentral and Capgeek.com founder Matthew Wuest happens to cover the Mooseheads for his day job.
The other Wings prospect who was playing in playoff hockey, one Petr Mrazek, whose Ottawa 67’s were defeated by the Niagara IceDogs despite Mrazek’s fantastic goaltending, spoke to iSport.cz’s Kvetoslav Simek, and while I’m not confident enough in my Czech to offer a full translation, even a rough one (anybody want to help with Czech, Slovak or Finnish this summer, by the way? Work would be credited to you and all of that good stuff), Mrazek reflects upon his junior career and battling IceDogs goalie Mark Visetin before talking about his expected internship with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and, well, this…
Question: Where will your next stop be? Detroit?
Mrazek: “Well, it’ll be hard to earn a spot in Detroit, I guess I’ll have to win in the AHL first, and then I could earn a chance. I look forward to it. I believe that even in Grand Rapids, I’ll continue to improve and my chances will come.”
Question: Have you looked at your potential competition?
Mrazek: “Two years ago I first went to Detroit’s training camp, and I know they have a goalie, who they drafted very high four years ago (Thomas McCollum, drafted 22nd overall). So far, he hasn’t done very well, and they weren’t happy with him, but I think he’ll still be my biggest competitor. I think that I will battle with him for a spot on the roster.”
And now we’ll shift focus back to the big club and the “meat” of this entry: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan offered a slate of player assessments, minus grades, via a photo gallery
grade-less assessments of his own, but today we get a little more critical via the Free Press’s St. James.
St. James doles out actual player grades today, and she doesn’t give a single player an A due to the team’s poor playoff showing, offering the following team assessment…
As a team, the Wings get an A for the first half, a C for the second half, and an F for the playoffs.
Johan Franzen: D Led the team with 29 goals and a plus-23 in the regular season, then followed with one goal in the playoffs, when the puck went in off his skate. Immensely talented, but capable of doing more given his size and skill.
Drew Miller: C Continued to show progress, contributing 14 goals among 25 points as a mainstay on the third line. Wasn’t nearly as effective after losing Helm as his center, and struggled in the playoffs.
I hate to say this, but if you were to ask me about the most disappointing playoff performers outside of Franzen and Stuart, I’d go with Miller and Abdelkader…
Jakub Kindl: C: Tailed off after a solid first half and didn’t play with the physical edge the Wings want to see from him. Could be gone next season. Didn’t appear in the playoffs.
Kyle Quincey: D Got thrown into a bigger role after being acquired Feb. 21 and struggled with the transition. Didn’t have a good playoffs, especially in Game 5, when his turnover led to Nashville’s first goal.
Ian White: C His plus-minus rating was dazzling the first half of the season, but he looked more pedestrian the second half after losing Lidstrom as a partner. Good passer and offensive instincts, but not great in his own zone.
And now that I know it’s the Chief who’s converted more than a few of you to Fire Babcock-ians, some of you might appreciate this:
Coaching staff Mike Babcock & Co. C Babcock and his assistants had the team cruising along the first half, in position to make a run at the Presidents’ Trophy. Injuries ravaged the team in March, and overall the second half was marked by losses (seven victories the last 22 games). The overarching story of the regular season was the failure of the power play (16.1%, 22nd in NHL) and an inability to win on the road (17-21-3). One victory in the playoffs speaks for itself.
Can’t disagree with that. I can’t help but think that Babcock’s decision to go with an assistant coach with no pro experience in Jeff Blashill and no NHL experience in Bill Peters for the sake of finding “new voices” turned out as a failed experiment…
And I suppose you can say the same about Ken Holland and the management staff’s decisions to not overcompensate for the losses of Brian Rafalski, Chris Osgood and Kris Draper by more aggressively pursuing a top-pair defenseman, reliable back-up goalie and faceoff specialist, respectively, and instead hoping that adding Ian White and witnessing growth from Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall would serve in terms of replacing Rafalski’s production, that a rebounding Ty Conklin would reclaim the form he displayed during the 2008-2009 season instead of continuing his downward trajectory from his tenure with St. Louis, and that Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Cory Emmerton and a healthy Jan Mursak and Patrick Eaves would essentially replace Draper by committee…
The management staff also chose to stick with Jiri Hudler and Franzen instead of pursuing a goal-scoring forward, too, and at the trade deadline….We all know the Wings more or less punted, snagging Quincey from the Avs-via-Tampa Bay at a high price because the team decided its cap space this summer couldn’t be gobbled up trying to overpay for a replacement (as the Edmonton Journal’s Matheson noted in the above-mentioned column, and we’re gonna get back to him in a bit, it’s scary that defensive defensemen can earn $5 million on the open market these days).
Some of you have suggested that when Holland and the management chose not to bolster a struggling lineup with any sort of forward depth, that made the team’s morale worse than even the underachieving Mule suggested it had gotten to on its own, almost tacitly telling the team, “Well, about the playoffs and the whole, ‘We’ve got cap space to burn to reinforce the roster’ thing? Meh. Good luck!” and all but setting the team up to fail in more ways than one.
I don’t know if that’s true, but we’re only nine days from the team’s ouster, and I’m assuming that as Valtteri Filppula, Jakub Kindl and Tomas Tatar are already overseas, and that Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall are all leaving for Sweden today, and Pavel Datsyuk’s likely to join the Russians soon, those players have engaged in their exit interviews, as has Cleary, and that the players, coaches and management are slowly but surely gathering a more complete picture of what went wrong, how it went wrong, and how it might want to address what have been three unacceptable springs’ worth of playoff results (and yes, I’m sure that a certain birthday boy is reading those grades today, just as a certain 42-year-old who isn’t happy about turning 42 while not playing hockey is reading ‘em, too).
All I can say for sure is that assessments like player grades help fans like you and me voice our concerns, and that I believe we can all say with some solid certainty that the one thing the Wings cannot get away with, regardless of whether CBA uncertainty shifts the team from a “buyer” to a “predator,” is choosing to abstain from making any significant additions to the roster for the third straight summer.
As previously stated, I’ll post grades in chunks when I’m able. I’m kind of waiting on the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness before digging in myself, but we’ll see…
Also of Red Wings-related note this morning: The Red Wings’ website posted a clip of the 5 winners of their “Bud Lite Face Off” contest playing against the Red Wings Alumni team. There was actually a bit of a kerfuffle about all five finalists earning a chance to play against the alums, but all seems to have worked out for the best. And yes, there’s an unshaven Mickey Redmond sighting in this video:
• Speaking of Redmond, a few more photos of Redmond and the Wings Alums playing the Well Church showed up on photographer Jennifer Leigh’s Flickr account. I love that Redmond’s so dedicated to his old Louisville TPS gear that he’s now wearing an old pair of Keith Primeau’s gloves…
You might also note that the vast majority of the players who skate for the Wings’ Alums did not actually play for the team. That’s what happens when many Michiganders play in the NHL and many NHL’ers end up settling in Michigan because—gasp!—it’s a nice place to live.
• Speaking of Wings alums, the most famous of them all will be attending a charity dinner held by Knight Homes Reality in Kitchener, ON, on May 26th, to raise funds for the St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation and the Salvation Army.
If you can’t handle the $999 CDN ticket price (I sure as hell couldn’t) for the dinner, Howe will be signing autographs at Keller Williams Realty in Kitchener on May 27th, and the prices for his signature are more reasonable
• The Wings don’t play a starring role in any Sunday columns—yet, anyway—but the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein and Stu Hackel note that the Wings’ combined 1,495 games of playoff experience didn’t exactly pay off against Nashville;
• The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson recalls a game in which players with supreme playoff experience strutted their stuff in this blurb…
When Martin Brodeur, who turns 40 May 6, was up against Jose Theodore (35) in the Devils-Panthers series it was only the third time in history two goalies 35 or over have gone head-to-head in a Game 7. The other two times were Dwayne Roloson versus Tim Thomas in the Tampa Bay-Boston battle last spring and Dominik Hasek versus Patrick Roy in 2002, according to the folks at Elias Sports Bureau. Off his playoff with the Panthers, Brodeur, who looks slimmer this year than in past seasons, looks like he can play another year.
And if we’re going to indulge in a little free agent fantasizing…
Now, how does [Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon] keep defenceman Jason Garrison and his big shot? Apparently, he offered about $2.5 million a year (400 per cent raise) months back and it was rejected out of hand. I know Oilers are interested if he gets to unrestricted free-agent status on July 1. With the slim free-agent market, he can get $4 million somewhere.
Because Matheson delivers a reality check and-a-half regarding the reason why the Wings “overpaid” for Kyle Quincey now, especially given that it’s Ryan Suter, Dennis Wideman, Matt Carle, Garrison and not much else in terms of offensive defensemen likely to hit the UFA market this summer, and it’s just as slim in terms of the kinds of top-four, defensively-minded defensemen like Quincey out there, yielding, well…This kind of craziness:
The riskiest free-agent signing is always a defensive-oriented D-man. Ask the New Jersey Devils how they feel today after giving Anton Volchenkov $25.5 million over six years when he left the Ottawa Senators? If they don’t give you any offensive juice and they start to lose their feet, then what? Always a banger, Volchenkov looks like the game’s too fast for him now. Ask the Pittsburgh Penguins if they they’ve got full value for Zbynek Michalek’s five-year, $20-million deal? He competes, but he scored two goals and had 13 points. Better yet, ask them how they like Paul Martin at $5 million (five years, $25 million). He came from New Jersey as a Dan Hamhuis-type, but he’s been a major disappointment there. He’s on the block, for sure, but would you pay $5 million for him? The Penguins will definitely be finding room next year for Robert Bortuzzo, a younger stay-at-home blue-liner from the Wilkes-Barre Penguins, and Simon Despres to take some puck-moving heat off Kris Letang.
And somebody will be willing to pay a Matt Gilroy or Shane O’Brien similar bucks this summer, no doubt.
• We conclude our Sunday column skimming with a bass-ackwards theory from the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons…
Have to wonder if Mike Ilitch, who checked out his own mortality by signing Prince Fielder, won’t have his Red Wings take the same big-time philosophy this summer.
The fact that he’s in his 80’s doesn’t hurt—there’s a reason that Chris Ilitch is now more or less the man in charge—but the Wings’ cap situation and need for high-profile help are more likely to drive Ken Holland’s spending than his owner’s ego.
Speaking of spending, fantasizing and egos, go to town with this from Simmons:
Lou Lamoriello told me that Zach Parise isn’t going anywhere — “he’s a Devil” — but others believe Lamoriello is mistaken and Parise is hungry to test free agency and sign on with a team with a real chance at winning the Stanley Cup.
• For the record, the IIHf has a link to the box scores of the pre-World Championship exhibition games that have been taking place over the past few weeks, and NHL.com’s Tal Pinchevsky has the format of the tournament in terms of “groups” and schedules (albeit in Central European Time and Eastern European Time) available all in one place;
• And finally, our dear estranged pals at Puck Daddy enlisted info-graphic maestro Dan Gustafsson of SixteenWins.com to post a handy-dandy first round summation in graphic form, but I don’t need to tell you that the Wings don’t exactly fare prominently in his narrative.
Quick update: Sweden lost 4-2 to Russia in an exhibition game on Saturday, but HockeySverige.se’s Uffe Bodin reports that Calle Jarnkrok made a positive impression on Team Sweden coach Per Marts.
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About The Malik Report
The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.