The Malik Report
Prospect talk remains the theme of the week: the Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke with Dylan Larkin about possibly turning pro after the World Championships, where he's playing very solidly for Team USA...
Babcock and Detroit GM Ken Holland are en route to the Czech Republic to check out their future star in person and while many expect Larkin to return to Michigan, where he’d likely be the No. 1 centre and a Hobey Baker Award contender, he’s not ready to make that commitment at this time.
“Not 100 per cent,” Larkin said. “I’m still in between and weighing the options.”
He admits that his performance in the world tourney will have a significant impact on his ultimate choice of direction.
“Yeah it does,” Larkin said. “I wanted to wait until after the tournament to make a decision.”
Duff continues at length, concluding with this...
“I really feel like there’s not a wrong choice or a bad option,” Larkin said. “Either way I’m still going to be playing hockey and doing what I love. Well see what’s best for me.”
And in light of Jimmy Devellano's comments about Anthony Mantha and Mantha's comments about his struggles, the Free Press's Helene St. James spoke with Wings GM Ken Holland about his take on Mantha's difficult rookie pro season:
from Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press,
Ken Holland and Mike Babcock are always jetting off somewhere, either to Grand Rapids to see the Griffins play — well, that one was by I-96 — or now to the Czech Republic for the world championships, according to TSN's Darren Dreger.
And reading the tea leaves, Dreger says these road trips are a good sign for Babcock's contract talks as coach of the Detroit Red Wings.
"It's interesting, isn't it?" Dreger told an Edmonton radio station. "You know, they had conversation on the weekend … I was told by Babcock it was good conversation but there's more to come. No timeline on when he intends on making a decision or what have you, but the more that these guys spend time together … "
Dreger continued: "You know, Babcock's not going to the world championships because he purely wants to scout and all of that. And if he were going, wouldn't he go alone? He's going as a representative of the Detroit Red Wings. So he's still invested and, frankly, he's still under contract. But if this relationship was straining because of an ongoing negotiation, I would think that Babcock would want to lay low, stay back in North America. …
Update: Here's the audio, and you can read the Buffalo News's Bucky Gleason's Mike Babcock plea on your own:
I wouldn't post this as a normal entry, but...Man alive, the Wings' "Coffee Talk" feature with Kyle Quincey yields insights into a very "Bohemian" dude's lifestyle:
As I said yesterday (audio included), Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha addressed his struggles during his rookie professional season, and the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner penned an article regarding Mantha's comments...
"Personally, I think I underachieved a little bit," he said. "Obviously, I would have liked, say 50, 60, 70 points. That was my goal at the start of the season. Obviously, I didn't achieve that, but it's not over. I could have a great impact in the playoffs. Who knows? Only one goal could make a difference between winning a series or not. A block shot, one-on-one battles. It's not over and I want to show them I can still play great hockey."
It is physical play and full attention to detail each shift that the 6-foot-4, 214-pound Mantha will need to work on in the off season.
"I need to work on my strength, for sure," he said. "I need to work on a lot of aspects of my play, like getting quicker on my skates ... I got better as the year went along but I need to keep growing for the summer."
And again, Ken Holland and Mike Babcock addressed Mantha's shortcomings as well:
from Ansar Khan of Mlive,
Here are three questions regarding the Red Wings:
Which players who spent all or most of this season in Grand Rapids will be on the Red Wings' roster in 2015-16?
Teemu Pulkkinen is out of options, so the Red Wings need to keep him on the NHL roster. He provides a dimension with his booming right-handed shot. He led the AHL with the 34 goals in just 46 games. He had only five goals in 31 games with Detroit but was starting to figure out how to create space for himself.
Landon Ferraro's hopes for an NHL career were resurrected after he earned a spot in the Red Wings' lineup for the playoffs. His skating ability and competitiveness will enable him to battle for a roster spot in training camp as a bottom-six forward.
Mantha had a disappointing first pro season with the Griffins and needs more AHL seasoning.
On defense, Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet are NHL-ready; there could be a roster spot for one of them at the start of next season (Marchenko has the inside track). If not, both are waiver-exempt for another season, as are Ryan Sproul and Nick Jensen.
read on for Stephen Weiss and perhaps a buyout and trading for Dion Phaneuf...
It's not an "Overnight Report" as much as it's three stories, so:
1. The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa was also in Grand Rapids this past weekend, and he's penned a novella...erm, I mean article...about Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, framing him as Mike Babcock's possible successor.
With Mike Babcock admittedly undecided as to whether he's going to return, and me taking Babcock at his word, that means Blashill has to be evaluated on his merits. His merits include a USHL championship, a Frozen Four berth, a Calder Cup, and if I may be blunt, a manner of coaching that is both remarkably similar to Mike Babcock's in its preparation, attention to detail, decisiveness and intensity, and at the same time, he's...
Highly-heralded prospect suffers a broken leg during a prospect tournament, misses training camp, and "loses his game shape" while rehabbing his leg. Player begins season a month-and-a-half behind the games-played curve and far further behind the confidence curve. Struggles snowball, highly-heralded prospect has very mediocre rookie pro season, is OK in playoffs, but just OK.
Player was expected to dominate as goal-scorer but didn't. GM, coach say that player needs to "hit the gym," but aren't writing him off by any means. Team VP seems to ignore injury in saying player's campaign was disappointing, using "very" three times. Internet asplodes.
Pro Hockey Talk notes the issue. The Hockey News points out that it still ranked player as 6th-best NHL prospect. Some blogger goes to Grand Rapids, watches two games focusing on player, realizes that he's out of shape, that stick is probably five inches too long, that team chose to allow player to struggle at AHL level instead of demoting him to ECHL because prospect from shallowest Major Junior league is still benefiting from struggling as a big fish in a Great Lake.
If you weren't aware, Anthony Mantha actually spoke with the media and this random blogger yesterday, addressing his rookie struggles, Babcock and Holland's remarks about him and his goals going forward, and I thought his willingness to admit to and embrace his struggles as a professional were incredibly encouraging:
Well, you can take this for what you will: the Free Press's Helene St. James spoke with Ken Holland regarding the substance of Sunday's post-Griffins win conversation as the pair crossed the state together (I hope it wasn't the white Mercedes SUV that hogged the damn road for fifteen miles...west of Lansing...jerk...):
"We talked about his situation, and now, we need a little time — I'm going to use the word 'stew' — to stew over what we talked about," Holland told the Free Press today. "Then, in a few days, we'll talk again. And eventually, that will lead to some decision. I don't have a handicap on the situation. We drove over and back, had a nice talk."
Holland said he would "give myself the month of May and hope it's concluded by then — or close to it." He leaves Saturday for the Czech Republic to catch the world championships.
St. James also reports that Babcock's looking for a $4+ million salary, which is a lot of pizzas, but that's to be expected.
I get to be something of an "old fart" when it comes to discussing whether college athletes should "turn pro" early. From a rational perspective, I look at Dylan Larkin, who won't even turn 19 until this July, and I think, "He's getting an education at one of the best universities in the country, he's still very young, there's no reason whatsoever for Larkin to surrender his college eligibility to start the pro journey early."
But things get muddy when I think about the times I watched Larkin absolutely light up his opposition at the NCAA level, and I see his poise playing as Team USA's second-line center, and I wonder--as both a Red Wings fan and someone who believes that a young player with pro prospects should play at the highest level they can, if not higher than they think they're able to play, to facilitate their development--if Larkin should indeed turn pro.
The Griffins do a fantastic job of chronicling their team's adventures via the team's "Between the Benches" video series, and while the ending can be spoiled--the Griffins defeated Toronto 3-1 in Game 5, rallying from an 0-and-2 deficit to win the teams' five-game first-round series--the Griffins' first playoff installment of "Between the Benches" features nine-and-a-half minutes of footage regarding the Griffins' losses in Games 1 and 2:
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