The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/21/11 at 10:40 AM ET
In theory, the weekends bookending the NHL’s Research, Development and Orientation Camp are the twin fulcrums upon which the NHL’s news cycle pivots and more or less re-sets itself. European hockey teams’ training camps and exhibition seasons are underway,* Major Junior teams are, for the most part, either going to get on the ice this week or next week, and we’re under three weeks from the start of most NHL teams’ prospect tournaments, but last week, European NHL’ers were wrapping up their summer vacations and giving their final interviews to the local press corps, and this week’s going to mark the start of the informal gatherings of players who are filtering back into their NHL cities of employment from summertime vacation spots all over two (or in Pavel Datsyuk’s case, three) continents.
Soon we’ll be awash in season previews and initial reports of players skating together and management gathering to perform any final tweaks on their roster and begin to pluck the few remaining free agents off the pro hockey unemployment line.
For the next few days, however—and I should choose my words carefully as I still stayed up till seven in the morning to wait for European websites to update—we’re stuck in a bit of a dead spot in terms of Red Wings news, and I’m not going to publish overnight reports or anything else if all I have is an empty head (sorry, last week was a little…engrossing) and not much to go upon, especially given that I’m signing for my supper and climbing uphill in that regard.
So as hopefuls who are trying out for the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye hope to gain recognition not only for their hockey skills, but also, in some cases, because Fox Toledo’s Howard Chen reports that one’s named Michael Jordan, and WNWO’s Tim McMahon notes that another spells his name very similarly to Walleye coach Nick Vitucci (for those of you who asked what the substantive difference between the quality of play at the ECHL and AHL levels consists of at this point, well here ya go—the Griffins don’t hold amateur try-outs)...
Here’s what I’ve found on the Red Wings front:
• Right before the Red Wings hold “Hockeyfest” on September 10th, Wings coach Mike Babcock will make his second appearance at a Livonia Chamber of Commerce luncheon, according to the Free Press’s sports staff:
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock will speak at a joint luncheon for the Livonia and Novi chambers of commerce Sept. 8. The event will take place at the Schoolcraft College VisTaTech Center from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Babcock, who spoke at a Livonia chamber luncheon last year with general manager Ken Holland, will be available for autographs and photos for a brief time at the end of the program. The Wings will provide some game tickets and other items to raffle during the program. Those who attend the luncheon will receive a discount for tickets to the Wings’ HockeyFest on Sept. 10 at Joe Louis Arena.
Luncheon tickets are $30 for chamber members and $45 for nonmembers. Tables of eight are available for $240 for chamber members, $360 for nonmembers. Reservations must be made with payment or a credit card.
• Babcock will obviously address the fact that he’s chosen two relatively anonymous (by Red Wings standards) assistant coaches to replace Brad McCrimmon and Paul MacLean, and the higher-profile hire, former Western Michigan University coach Jeff Blashill, spoke to Western Michigan University about his job—very briefly—while selling the virtues of Ferris State University’s hockey and athletic programs to whoever might view the following YouTube clip:
I’m guessing that he’s going to be the good cop.
• While we’re looking forward and speculating, Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon did a helluva job talking up five of his employer’s (NBC Sports’) NHL telecasts, and two of them involve the Red Wings:
1. November 25 – Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings, 1 p.m. ET
It’s the first of what is going to be an annual game on Black Friday. You spent the morning chasing bargains at the stores the day after Thanksgiving and you’ve still got a fantastic turkey hangover. What’s better to relax after a morning of fighting the crowds than settling in to watch the first NBC game of the year? Making it all the better is that it’s an original six match-up featuring the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins at home against the Detroit Red Wings.
You’ll get anything and everything you could ask for in one game. Great goaltending? Sure, Tim Thomas is the man in Boston. Tremendous offensive firepower? Yup, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will be hoping to beat Thomas. Added to that, you’ll see two of the league’s best defensemen in Boston’s Zdeno Chara and 41 year-old future Hall Of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom for Detroit. Since you’ll be hurting for great sports to watch on Black Friday, getting this game as your afternoon headliner makes the day even better.
4. February 19 – Hockey Day In America
Hockey Day In America is once again going to be a huge day. With a broadcast doubleheader featuring three regional games to kick off the afternoon (San Jose-Detroit, Pittsburgh-Buffalo, St. Louis-Chicago) followed up by a national broadcast featuring the Bruins going to Minnesota to take on Dany Heatley and the Wild it’ll make for a huge day of events.
While the Wild and Bruins get the main game that afternoon, seeing new rivalries like Sharks-Wings and Penguins-Sabres sharing the day along with an old school rivalry like Blues-Blackhawks gives us the kind of warm fuzzies you need on a mid-February day. With that much hockey to be watched in a day there’s no way you can lose.
If I may be blunt, the Wings are heading to Boston for a 1 PM start, and as the team’s road trips around Christmas (this year, the Wings wrap up a three-games-in-four-nights West Coast swing in Calgary on December 22nd, come home for Christmas and leave to play the Predators in Nashville on December 26th, kicking off a slate of four games in six nights!) tend to leave the Wings enjoying their turkey legs and Lions game on Thanksgiving as the team’s only “real” uninterrupted holiday, I don’t think they’re going to be delighted about having part of their American Thanksgiving taken away ([sarcasm] and oh look, they go home to host the Predators the next day, how convenient for Nashville, I’m sure that never happens [/sarcasm])...
And the Wings and Sharks, at 12:30 PM EDT on a Sunday afternoon at the Joe? Aside from the early wake-up call, after the last four years, that one doesn’t feel “new.” More like quite the, “So we meet again” match-up with some revenge in the offing, and perhaps more so for the Wings given that the Sharks game wraps up a six-game home stand that could go a long way toward ensuring that the Wings finish toward the top end of the Western Conference standings (and who do they play beforehand? Nashville).
Do I even need to mention that the Wings don’t tend to fare well when playing before 7:30 PM local time, either?
Sorry, I’m a little grumpy this morning.
• Semi-finally, from the Free Press’s Steve Schrader, the Wings’ management team has earned a “Stevie” award…
The “Beach Blanket Bingo-Bango” award To the Red Wings, who—getting in the spirit of the Woodward Dream Cruise, the annual effort to bring back the ‘50s—signed Fabian.
It’s Fabio. Nothing more, nothing less.
• And finally finally, I’ve gotta sing for my supper again. At the end of a week that doesn’t involve a parent going to the ER and the aunt having to swap out serious-ass pain meds (I kept quiet about that one, but it’s been an adventure as well), I’ll have thoughts in my head that don’t involve going, “AAaaaaaaahhhhhrrrrgggghhh!” and, “What the **** was that?”
But in three weeks I’m going to be in Traverse City, and I’m…erm…a third of the way there, not begging for a discount as I’ve tossed over two grand of your money at one hotel chain included. So it’s the usual drill:
It’s been an uphill battle to raise funds to help defer the cost of staying in Traverse City for 15 days to cover the prospect tournament and main camp, and I really am at a level where it’s just time to beg, plead, ask please and suggest that the $5 and $10 donations are going to get me there this time around, because that’s the truth:
You’ll have to use my email address, rtxg at yahoo dot com, to donate, if you can/will/feel like it. I’m sorry this is such a sorry excuse for an entry worth both your time and money, but it’s a quiet Sunday and it’s been a f’ing trip lately (in addition to the excessive use of parenthetical expressions, there’s been swearing at a, “Holy ****, it’s like I was back at the U as a freshman, straight out of Catholic ****ing school when I swore all the ****ing time” level over the past week), and the next one’s around the corner.
*Via Hockeysverige.se’s Uffe Bodin, the, “First Injury of the Season” award goes to Malmo’s Linus Klassen, who suffered a broken finger in a pre-season game against Vaxjo.
Update: Via Paul: Parked my browser on Fluto Shinzawa’s columnist page on the Boston Globe, but this never showed up. Here’s his take on Chris Chelios’s recent comments about a potential coaching career:
It is not surprising that recent US Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Chris Chelios, after filling the Yzerman role in Detroit last season (understudy to GM Ken Holland), is skating against the trend. Chelios, as rabid a rink rat as the game will ever find, also served in an on-ice development role. During the playoffs, he worked with Detroit’s Black Aces. There he found what he believes is his future calling.
“I don’t want to jump the gun,’’ Chelios said. “But I really enjoy teaching. I watched Larry Robinson, who I have the utmost respect for. He tried head coaching and didn’t enjoy that. He found a niche in assistant coaching. That’s better suited for me. With the great coaches I’ve had, hopefully I can use that, help the young kids in our system, and make them better players.’’
Neither role is easy. But in terms of lifestyle, there’s more comfort and stability in management. Better hours. Less travel. Detachment from the daily grind. But when you’re 48 and still mucking it out as a healthy scratch - as Chelios was with Atlanta in 2009-10 - it’s a good indication that the ice is where you belong.
“I think I’m leaning more toward being on the ice,’’ Chelios said. “There’s nothing better than being on the ice teaching. I really enjoyed that - going to Grand Rapids this year and working with the defensemen in Grand Rapids. Coaching is something I’ll really enjoy when I decide I want to make that move.’’
I think he’s going to remain a player mentor—there’s something about Chris Chelios getting on the ice to help young defensemen learn how to play the game that’s both natural and makes sense for someone who wants to learn and grow with the Wings.
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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.