The Malik Report
from Matt Larkin of The Hockey News,
We’ve almost reached the end of 2016-17’s regular season. Soon we’ll have a ton to discuss: the Stanley Cup playoffs, the expansion draft, the NHL award recipients, the entry draft and free agency. So now feels like a good time to raise a virtual glass to some of the game’s least appreciated players.
None of these guys should even flirt with awards contention, but each quietly put together a great season. This is the All-Underrated Team....
Anthony Mantha, Detroit Red Wings
Mantha narrowly edged out the Panthers’ Jonathan Marchessault to make the list. Marchessault has eight of his goals and 17 of his points on the power play this year. Mantha, toiling on a bad Red Wings team, has 16 of his 17 goals at even strength. He also has one of the best Corsi relative marks in the league. He’s playing at a completely different level than most of his teammates in 2016-17, and the effort has been wasted in a lost season. At least Mantha is delivering on the promise he showed as a prolific scorer in major junior with the QMJHL’s Val-d’or Foreurs. Injury woes held Mantha back when he started his pro career with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins, but he’s found his stride now. He’s justifying the 20th overall pick Detroit used on him in 2013.
from Dana Wakili of DetroitRedWings.com,
"It's been tough the last few years, getting knocked out by them," Darren Helm said. "We have an opportunity to kind of make it a little harder on them to get in, so I think it would be a little nice. But you look at things this late in the season to motivate you, I think that's one of them."
However, Wings coach Jeff Blashill said that isn't the team's main focus.
"Our focus is on our team and continuing to make sure we play for this culture, that we maintain it, so the spot we're in never happens again," Blashill said. "That's our biggest focus."
Part of that culture is giving it your all regardless of what the circumstances are.
"I think we're battling pretty hard," Helm said. "We're not just throwing in the towel yet. Obviously we're knocked out but we still want to compete and play hard and do good things that can kind of carry over, good habits for next year."
A later than normal game day skate...
via Ansar Khan tweets,
Petr Mrazek in starter's net as goalie rotation continues for #RedWings
Athanasiou (ribs) rotating with Street in line rushes. Could be game time decision.
lines at skate:
added 11:45am, Khan.
Athanasiou not practicing on power play, could be sign he's not in tonight.
added 11:48am, Khan again...
Nyquist-Zetterberg-Abdelkader (net front), Kronwall-Tatar
Mantha-Nielsen-Sheahan (net front), Larkin-Green
Below, a few Detroit related stories you may have missed...
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
“Oh boy,” cackled Leaf radio man Joe Bowen, who called all but one or two seasons of the Joe Louis era. “Bobby Probert and Joey Kocur were involved in virtually every one of the bouts. There was Wendel Clark against Probie, Kevin Maguire had a great fight one night. Paul Higgins, our resident tough guy one year, his entire NHL career was (25 games) but he had a couple of memorable bouts and one of them was at Joe Louis.”
Bowen said an on-ice battle is in Detroit’s blue-collar DNA.
“I went to university in Windsor. The whole area was about building cars, getting on the assembly line. In Sudbury, where I was born, what were you going to do? Go underground and work the mines. In Detroit and Windsor it’s ‘I’m gonna work for Ford or Chrysler’. It was a hard-working, hard-partying, hard-drinking, tough town.”
But at one stage hockey in Detroit, at least downtown, looked doomed. Last or second-last in their division in four of the final five years of the Olympia’s existence, the team was terrible, the city was depressed and the Lions and Pistons were moving to the burbs. Not wishing to see the Wings follow suit, the politicians gave owner Bruce Norris a sweetheart deal on real estate and parking — if he picked their site near the riverfront.
The arena opened in late 1979, but with losses on the ice and at the box office piling up, the Ilitch family took over in 1982, hiring Jim Devellano as general manager.
“It’s mid-July, I’m out at centre, with no ice in at that time,” Devellano recalled. “We’d just been to the box office and were horrified to find out we only had 2,100 season tickets for the coming season. I looked up at this 20,000-seat building and thought, ‘My God, it’s going to take a hell of a team to fill this place.’ I said to (Mrs.) Marian Ilitch, I don’t think we’ll ever do it. But winning does that.
from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun,
On Tuesday night, it finally came to an end, the dagger delivered by ex-Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose Maple Leafs defeated Florida 3-2, thereby eliminating Detroit from the postseason for the first time since Nill and his buddies dejectedly packed up their belongings and walked out of The Joe some 27 years earlier.
Think about that. Qualifying for the playoffs 25 consecutive times. It’s an incredible accomplishment, one that an irked Nill feels doesn’t get its due. When he hears or reads about fans criticizing Detroit general manager Ken Holland and the Wings organization for allowing the on-ice product to decline this season, his blood boils. Are you spoiled? Don’t you understand just how remarkable 25 straight trips to the Stanley Cup dance really is?
“I sit back and shake my head,” Nill says. “The era that we live in right now, with social media and reading some of the comments about the franchise and Kenny Holland, I’m amazed at the lack of respect that occurred there. It’s an incredible feat and I don’t think it gets as much respect as it should.”
The Red Wings' current coach and players were asked to weigh in on the end of "the Streak" last night, and they offered blunt comments regarding the team's performance this past season--as well as takes on what needs to happen going forward:
"Our focus will continue to be on making sure this is a one-time deal, not an eight- and nine- and 10-time deal," [coach Jeff] Blashill said. "You do that by making sure you maintain the culture that's allowed that streak to continue for a long time: work ethic, attention to detail, selflessness, competitiveness. We've got to make sure that's there every single night. You can't let it slip whatsoever. Once you let it slip it's hard to get back. There's a lot of organizations around the league that will attest to that."
The Red Wings (31-33-12) are 15th in the 16-team Eastern Conference. Only five teams in the league have fewer points. But they believe they could have been better. Offense was a major issue. Several players didn't step up as expected and the power play was ranked last in the league much of the season. The defense struggled. Goaltender Petr Mrazek didn't perform to the level he did the first half of last season.
The Red Wings, overall, were too inconsistent.
"That's probably the biggest reason," Zetterberg said. "When we've been playing well, we're a good team. And then what we saw the next game is totally opposite. That's something that we have to improve on for next year."
Paul posted the vast majority of what I would have shared in terms of media reports regarding the end of the Red Wings' playoff streak (in case you haven't noticed, TMR has been a "sick house" over the past 5 days), but Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski penned something of an ode to the Wings' streak, and it's quite good:
It began on April 4, 1991, in St. Louis against the Detroit Red Wings’ Norris Division rival Blues.
It was a victory, as so many playoff games over the next 25 seasons would be for Detroit. Steve Yzerman had a hat trick. Brett Hull had three points for the Blues.
And Dylan Larkin was over five years away from being born.
I thought a lot about Larkin this week, as the Red Wings’ 25-year playoff streak officially ended on Tuesday night when their tragic number hit zero, via a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Larkin is 20 years old. He grew up in Waterford, Michigan. The only Detroit Red Wings he knows are the Detroit Red Wings of annual playoff appearances and four Stanley Cups. Not ones that had two playoff appearance in 17 years from 1966-1983, featuring 15 different head coaches. The ones that had 25 straight playoff appearances from 1991-2016, and had a grand total of six coaches during the stretch, if you count Barry Smith’s five games in the interim in 1998-99.
So this is new to Larkin, this notion that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are sometimes held without the Detroit Red Wings in them.
It’s new to a lot of us.
But of course it had to happen now.
This is the kind of crap that gets dug up prior to a Wings-Maple Leafs game to cause more controversy than usual. Wings assistant coach Chris Chelios apparently made an off-the-cuff comment regarding Mike Babcock's influence upon free agents during the latter portion of his tenure as the Red Wings' head coach, and Sportsnet's Luke Fox not only produced the comment...
Chris Chelios believes the Detroit Red Wings will have an easier time luring free agents now that Mike Babcock has moved to Toronto.
“It’s going to help even more now that Babs is gone, because those free agents didn’t want to play for Babs,” the Red Wings legend said on-air Friday night during a mid-game interview with 97.1 The Ticket.
Host Jeff Riger questioned the truth of that statement. Chelios holds a grudge against his last significant NHL head coach, for whom he played from 2005 through 2009.
“It’s very accurate. Ryan Suter [who chose Minnesota over Detroit as a UFA in 2012] is a good friend of mine. It’s nothing personal, but he’s a tough guy to play for if you’re a veteran. If you’re a young guy, I think it’s great because of the accountability. If you don’t play [properly], you’re not going to play,” Chelios said.
“I'm telling you: No veteran free agent is going to want to come in and play for Mike Babcock."
But Fox also posted a rebuttal:
From MLive's Ansar Khan:
Detroit Red Wings forward Luke Glendening will miss the final six games of the season due to a fractured ankle/foot suffered in Monday's 4-3 overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
General manager Ken Holland said it hasn't been determined if Glendening needs surgery.
Glendening appeared in 74 games, picking up three goals and 11 assists and posting a minus-10 rating.
Holland said Andreas Athanasiou is day-to-day, his status for Thursday's game at Tampa Bay (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Detroit) uncertain. Athanasiou was injured when cross-checked in the back by Victor Rask while scoring in OT.
The Red Wings have 12 healthy forwards and six defensemen, so Holland said there are no plans to recall anyone from the Grand Rapids Griffins for Thursday's game.
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.