The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/18/12 at 06:47 AM ET
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard may believe that his team’s commitment to excellence will still attract marquee talent to Detroit this summer, but even if the Wings land all their unrestricted free agent targets this summer, Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement—and according to Nick Barnowski, official move to Sweden on Sunday—will yield a near-unceasing chorus of, “Ding dong, the Wings are finally dead” from the MSM this summer and likely this fall.
In an NHL where pundits insist that teams must rebuild every couple of seasons to re-stock with those precious 18-23-year-olds that ensure success, the Wings have no intention of doing anything less than keeping their 21-year streak of playoff appearances intact, employing the same cadre of superstars over 30 years of age, up-and-coming prospects and support players in their late-20’s and a smattering of prospects graduating from Grand Rapids from around 23-25 years of age, but we’d better get used to the kind of talk the CBC’s Chris Iofrida used in describing the Wings as one of the most “compelling” teams to watch this summer:
The last time Nicklas Lidstrom wasn’t in Detroit’s future plans, Jimmy Devellano was general manager and Jacques Demers was behind the bench as coach. So yeah, a long time.
The Wings also expectedly lost veteran blue-liner Brad Stuart, trading him for a late pick as he was destined for free agency with his family living in Northern California.
Up front, Jiri Hudler would be coveted should he test the market. As well, the Wings have to make a decision on 39-year-old Tomas Holmstrom.
Detroit has been good, not great, in the last couple of seasons in no small part due to an age schism on their roster; players born after 1985 have yet to make an impact other than in depth roles. We point out here that Ryan Suter was born in that year and Zach Parise is just a year older.
I can only shake my head at what’s become three years of insistence that age is to blame for the Wings’ injuries in Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon’s framing of Jimmy Howard’s words to the Wings’ press corps on Sunday…
For the first time in a long time the Wings have a lot of cap room and they’re looking at a few needs. Nicklas Lidstrom‘s retirement makes them weaker on defense and with the perpetual banged up nature of their forward unit, they could use some help there too.
The Wings will be in on guys like Ryan Suter and Zach Parise should they hit free agency on July 1. They’ll also have to navigate a minefield of potential free agents should they miss out on either or both of those guys. Maybe not sweating free agent summer is best for anyone’s sanity in Detroit.
Because, by Red Wings standards, the 2011-2012 team will be downright green. Yes, the Wings’ core players in terms of contributions—Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Danny Cleary, Niklas Kronwall, Jimmy Howard—contain all of two 28-year-olds in Filppula and Howard—but aside from 37-year-old Todd Bertuzzi, the Wings will begin the 11-12 season with eight forwards, five defensemen and a starting goalie all under the age of 30, Datsyuk and Cleary will represent the team’s other “graybeards” at a young-by-Detroit-standards age of 33.
Just as importantly, while I can’t deny that Cleary’s knee issues are wear-and-tear related, and that Bertuzzi, Franzen and Joey MacDonald’s back issues are the same, Patrick Eaves, Darren Helm, Ian White, Jan Mursak and Howard’s injuries had nothing to do with age, and the same can be said for Lidstrom’s broken ankle and Datsyuk’s knee problem.
Moreover, as RedWingsCentral’s Matthew Wuest pointed out in his spring Top 25 prospect list, Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist will have opportunities to crack the Wings’ roster this season, Tomas Tatar’s becoming “overripe” at all of 21, Brian Lashoff’s close to graduating to the Wings at 22, big Joakim Andersson will get some look-see cups of coffee at 23, and the Wings’ crop of younger players on the horizon include what the team believes are stars in the making in players like Calle Jarnkrok, Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, Xavier Ouellet, Louis-Marc Aubry, Petr Mrazek and Ryan Sproul.
Yes, the Wings face an absolutely crucial summer in terms of recovering from Lidstrom’s retirement, Tomas Holmstrom’s probable status as an alumnus and Jiri Hudler bolting for more money as a free agent, but suggesting that the team’s goose is cooked strikes me as plain old silly…
Though I expect we’re going to be hearing it until the Wings prove the pundits wrong next winter, and, hopefully, next spring.
Howard did more than sell the Wings’ “program” on Sunday: he attended the Quicken Loans 400 at the Michigan International Speedway (and the Detroit News posted one picture of Howard in its event gallery, while the Wings’ Facebook page posted one of Howard and his father), serving as a grand marshal, and Howard got kinda gushy about both his father and his son while speaking to the Free Press’s George Sipple:
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Howard said of spending Father’s Day with his dad. “It’s not very often anymore that we get to spend a weekend like this. Being Father’s Day weekend, it’s really special, just to be able to get away.”
Howard will get to experience the other side of Father’s Day in coming years. His young son, James Howard IV, is less than a year old.
“Too bad he wasn’t a little older; I could have brought him as well,” Howard said. “James, he’s coming along just as planned. Loves gym class. Loves smiling. Loves sitting in his swing, I guess.”
James Howard II, who lives in Ogdensburg, N.Y., was glad to spend the day with his son.
“Words can’t explain how proud I am of Jimmy,” he said. “I mean, as a son I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s just been a thrill to watch him grow up and do the things that he’s been doing and have the drive that he has. To be here today is just the pinnacle. It’s really exciting.”
The elder Howard said Sunday was much more relaxing than when he had attended the Wings’ annual fathers trip.
“You get to spend some time with your son and see what he goes through every day and how he prepares and those kinds of things,” Howard II said of the dads trip. “He and I don’t get to spend much time together alone, so this has been really great and really rewarding I figure it’s been about seven or eight years since we’ve been able to do something like this.”
I don’t usually interject personal stuff into these kinds of stories, but I wrote something about someone I’m certain wasn’t the best dad in the world, but was good enough for me, on Twitter.
Shifting back to the “naysayers,” MLive’s Brendan Savage pointed out that the Wings aren’t exactly perceived as long shots to win the Cup by Las Vegas odds-makers, and the Free Press’s Brian Manzullo took note of said numbers in an article looking at the “odds” doled out to each and every one of Detroit’s pro teams (and Michigan and Michigan State’s football and basketball teams):
With the free-agency frenzy yet to commence for the Red Wings, oddsmakers seem to like their chances to compete for the Stanley Cup next season.
Many sites, including Vegas Insider, Bovada and TheSpread.com, have the Wings at 12-1 odds to win the NHL’s championship.
The favorite? None other than the Penguins, who either have 7-1 or 15-2 odds across betting sites.
The defending champion Kings have 11-1 odds to repeat. The Wings (1997-98) are the last team to repeat as champions.
And given that the Wings, barring a trade, will begin their draft day not on Friday (NBCSN will simulcast TSN’s coverage of the first round starting at 7 PM EDT on Friday, and while it can be dull as all f***, we’re highly likely to see some trades and draft picks flipped), but on Saturday when they begin their day looking to re-stock the cupboard with the 49th overall pick and then the 80th, 110th, 140th, 170th and 210th picks (and the NHL Network webcasts TSN’s coverage on Saturday, which starts at 10 AM EDT—and moves fast, usually wrapping up around 1:30 PM)...
There’s some irony (hey, work with me here) in that the Wings’ website will be looking back at the Wings’ draft history. Per DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:
This weekend the NHL will conduct its 50th amateur draft when the 30 clubs convene in Pittsburgh for the annual selection of young talent from around the world.
Each day this week, DetroitRedWings.com will present the top five draft picks for each of the five decades since the Original Six clubs first gathered for the inaugural draft on June 5, 1963 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.
Since that June day in Montreal, the Wings have selected 438 total players, many of whom enjoyed all-star careers and a few more that were fortunate to have won multiple Stanley Cup titles like Nicklas Lidstrom, Peter Mahovlich, Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman.
Today we take a look at the top top Red Wings’ pick from the first 10 years of the draft.
This week’s schedule:
Today – 1963-72
Tuesday – 1973-82
Wednesday – 1983-92
Thursday – 1993-2002
Friday – 2003-11
Roose lists Marcel Dionne, Jim Rutherford, Pete Mahovlich, Yvon Lambert and Henry Boucha amongst the team’s best picks during the first decade of the draft, but otherwise, the team’s record was…I’ll be polite and say poor.
Also of Red Wings-related note this morning:
• DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford’s “Dual Citizenship” series continues with a conversation with (ugh, two “with’s” in a sentence, sorry) former Wing and Maple Leaf Arnie Brown;
• The Gannett Newspapers are engaging in something of a “chatty” week, and this morning. The Free Press’s Evil Drew Sharp will chat at 11 AM EDT, and USA Today’s draft expert, Kyle Woodlief, will chat with readers at 12 PM.
As noted yesterday, University of Michigan hockey recruit Jacob Trouba will chat on the Free Press’s website at 11 AM on Tuesday, Plymouth Whalers coach Mike Velucci, as both a coach and draft/prospect expert at 11 AM on Wednesday and George Sipple in his guise as a Wings scribe at 11 AM on Friday.
• I took a good look at the usual 40-something Russian, Swedish, Czech, Slovak and Finnish websites, including a new source as Sovetsky Sport’s Sergei Galkevich pointed me toward Izvestia, whose Ilya Desyaterik spoke to Alex Radulov’s agent about the 100% certainty that his client will leave the NHL again to sign with CSKA Moscow very shortly, I can at least tell you that Alex Semin said absolutely nothing about his free agency plans in a conversation with Sport-Express’s Dmitry Uskov.
Instead, he talked about the World Championships and how much he enjoyed playing alongside both Alex Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk.
You can go ahead and suggest I’m overreaching on a morning where the NHL’s possible takeover of the New Jersey Devils, at least according to the New York Post’s Josh Koshan, is the biggest news story and is the story which might have the most Wings-related free agency implications, but given that Semin is probably a) the Wings’ back-up plan and b) has crazy Mark Gandler, perhaps the king of booking Russian NHL clients for permanent trips to the KHL, any time that a potential target like Semin doesn’t declare his intention to bolt, that’s a good thing.
• And in a programming note, I’ll be out of the office for a significant chunk of Tuesday as the mom will have back MRI #2 in Southfield, at 4 PM, which is bad given that the location I’m going to is at the maddening intersection of the Lodge, 696 and Telegraph, and that I tend to head back to South Lyon by taking 696 through the 275 interchange to 96. Methinks a the “surface street” commute via 10 Mile to Farmington Road, Farmington to 12 Mile and 12 Mile to Beck might be faster than trying to navigate the freeways, but that means I probably won’t come home till 6-ish.
We’re pretty sure that all is well with the mom, so these MRI’s are simply precautionary.
• Finally, the button: 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.
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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.