The Malik Report
Update: Sorry about posting "Tatar's Czechs." Was probably thinking about the Saturday Night Live Czechoslovakian Brothers sketch or Vaclav Havel and the Velvet Divorce (better writer than politician).
Gustav Nyquist scored the game's first goal and should've had an assist on Sweden's third marker as the Swedes defeated Tomas Tatar's Slovaks 3-1 (Tatar had an assist on the Slovaks' goal, too).
Sweden dominated the first half of the game, and then the Slovaks built upon successive power play opportunities to give the Swedes a run for their money. Anders Nilsson was strong in goal, however, and was one of the main reasons Sweden prevailed...
Though Jaroslav Janus was far, far better than Jan Laco in the Slovak crease, giving coach Vladimir Vujtek's team sound netminding for the first time in the tournament.
Just as I went with some "good news and bad news" regarding Team USA's 3-2 OT win over Kazakhstan, here's good news and bad news regarding Nyquist and Tatar, as well as their teams as a whole:
Hockey's Future paid the Red Wings quite the compliment today. HF has been revealing its rankings of each and every one of the NHL's 30 teams' prospect pools. Today, they revealed their list of the league's top 10 teams, and while they gave the Buffalo Sabres the top nod, the Wings didn't finish far behind:
3. (9) Detroit Red Wings
Strengths: The Detroit Red Wings continue to have an excellent development strategy for their prospect group. Their patient approach paid dividends this year, as numerous prospects contributed to the NHL club, including forwards Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan. The Wings are particularly strong at forward, with a mix of players who bring high-end skill and good hockey sense. Despite several graduations this year, the defensive group is still a very solid mix of good all-around talent and depth.
Weaknesses: Outside of Anthony Mantha, the Wings do not have a particularly big group at forward. There is little goaltending depth behind Petr Mrazek.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Anthony Mantha, RW; 2. Petr Mrazek, G; 3. Tomas Jurco, LW; 4. Riley Sheahan, C; 5. Xavier Ouellet, D.
Key Additions: Colin Campbell (free agent).
Key Losses: Gustav Nyqvist (graduation), Tomas Tatar (graduation), Brian Lashoff (graduation), Dan DeKeyser (graduation), Calle Jarnkrok (trade-NAS).
I've got some good news and some bad news about Team USA's World Championship team.
The good news is that the Americans assuaged their 6-5 loss to Latvia, defeating Kazakhstan 3-2 in overtime today. The Americans now get a day off to prepare to play Finland on Sunday. The good news also involves Danny DeKeyser having an assist on the game-winning goal, Justin Abdelkader playing very well, DeKeyser earning oodles of ice time in a 3rd period shut-down role, and Tim Thomas looking like less of a trainwreck than usual.
The bad news involves the bottom line: Team USA's management picked a team that's very young, very mediocre in goal and marginally coached by Peter Laviolette, and as such, Justin Abdelkader's status as a cat-herding captain (who's going to the front of the net and staying there, like he should all the time as a WIng) will probably come to a close during the World Championship's quarterfinals next Thursday.
Given what's about to come out of Pittsburgh, ESPN's Craig Custance's sound and even-handed Insider-only entry discussed in the mid-day report, and especially given what Mark Madden had to say this morning, these Tweets from Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika are now probably the most reasonable and logical assessments of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's future that you're going to read until...Well, until Babcock either signs a contract extension over the next calendar year, or he doesn't:
To be clear: Mike Babcock has one year left on his contract, and there is zero reason to think he is going anywhere right now. (1)
Fact: The Red Wings will sit down with Babcock at some point in the near future to discuss an extension. (2)
Opinion: I think Babcock will play out the last season of his contract and assess his options this time next year. (3)
Opinion: Babcock likes Detroit. He works fine with Holland. But he knows he will have great options. Why not leave options open? (4)
Last point. Fact: You cannot trade an NHL coach. (5)
OK, one more. Opinion: If Babcock leaves next year, he's going to go a team he thinks can win the Stanley Cup. Doesn't need $ or rebuild.
No, I don't think Babcock will coach at Michigan -- and I'm a U-M alum. He's going to make more than $2M coaching a Cup contender.
Update: Here's the non-insider version of Custance's reasoned take:
As I write this, Team USA's tied 3-3 with Kazakhstan in the 3rd period, Penguins GM ray Shero's being fired (the next couple of months should involve even more Babcock-to-Pit rumors), Sweden will play Slovakia at 1:45 PM EDT, and both Game 5 of the Griffins-Stars series and the Val-d'Or Foreurs-London Knights game begin at 7PM EDT (on WOOD Radio and AHL Live for the Griffins, Sportsnet and the NHL Network for the Memorial Cup).
The Val-d'Or Foreurs' morning skate's over...
This is the only news from the Griffins' morning skate thus far (no updates regarding the statuses of Jurco, Tootoo or Ferraro)...
I'm no fan of the, "The grass has to be greener for Mike Babcock elsehwere, I mean, it's DETROIT" theory (see also: what every Michigander hears about the burned-out heart of their crappy state--it's downright meme-tastic), and I'm even less enthused about Pittsburgh radio host Mark Madden's suggestion that the Penguins can "force" the Red Wings to surrender Mike Babcock to them, as he suggests in the Beaver County Times:
If Detroit won’t release Babcock, the Penguins should sign current assistant Jacques Martin to a one-year contract, thus making it clear that Babcock takes over in 2015-16. Babcock refuses to sign an extension with Detroit. He becomes a lame duck. Babcock has already said he’s in no hurry to do a new deal.
That paints Detroit into a corner. Babcock gets released.
It’s a dirty game. But the Penguins need to play it.
[sarcasm] Yes, because the Red Wings' ownership would totally be like, "Sure, why not, here you go, Pittsburgh." Because he's totally told the media, half a dozen times, that he likes it in Detroit, that he likes the ownership, the roster, the working conditions, the general manager, the region, and like the media keeps telling us, he is in fact lying through his teeth, pining to coach Dear Sid if that whole Toronto thing doesn't work out. Right. [/sarcasm]
I get that the Babcock rumors are going to come fast and furious until he either re-signs with the team or doesn't sign with the team over the next calendar year, but as I said in the overnight report, he's not some sort of magical coaching free agent (the ownership doesn't have to make him available to speak with anyone if they don't wish to do so), and both he and Ken Holland have stated that they plan on speaking with each other regarding an extension during the offseason.
Anyway, Madden continues...
If you're a Red Wings fan, this is a good weekend in terms of hockey entertainment. If Game 7 between the Ducks and Kings this evening (9 PM EDT on NBCSN), the start of the Rangers-Habs series on Saturday (1 PM on NBC and the CBC) or Game 1 of the Western Conference Final (Chicago vs. ???) on Sunday don't interest you...
1. The World Championships' Friday-and-weekend-games include Justin Abdelkader, Danny DeKeyser and Team USA playing Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan at 9:45 AM EDT (on NBCSN), as well as Tomas Tatar and Slovakia battling Sweden at 1:45 PM (via alternate means). Jakub Kindl's Czechs and Tatar's Slovaks also play on Saturday, and the Americans, Swedes and Czechs play games on Sunday, too.
The round robin portion of the tournament will wrap up on Tuesday, with the playoff rounds taking place from Wednesday the 21st until Sunday the 25th,
I don't mean to spear this to death, but I'm gonna give it a try:
My final take on the handshake line shenanigans is this: Milan Lucic is paid $6 million dollars a season to be a bully. He very, very evidently doesn't respect his opponents, and based upon the league's ridiculous, "Past precedent = you CAN spear that" logic, it's clear that the NHL tolerates his behavior.
Lucic will also receive over ten thousand dollars in playoff bonus money, and for all his efforts to bully, instigate, intimidate and cause bodily harm, he was given ONE task: to preserve the artiface of sportsmanship, by acting like an adult for all of 90 seconds.
Maybe it was the rink (the same one where Team USA played a trainwreck game against Latvia), or maybe it was the fact that Expressen's Mattias Ek reported that Jimmie Ericsson and Erik Gustafsson (Gustav Nyquist's roommate) battling fevers, but Sweden played just well enough to eke out a 2-1 victory over France on Thursday (Sweden's playing back-to-backs like Team USA, with a showdown with Tomas Tatar's Slovaks set for Friday)...
And Gustav Nyquist didn't look like himself. He played 15:44 and had 1 shot, but finished at -1 playing a line with Calle Jarnkrok--whose speed has turned into a lot of chasing after the puck and trailing the play instead of anticipating where the puck's going and getting to areas of the ice before the puck does (that, and he's still getting bumped off the puck pretty easily)--but Nyquist's own speed, poise, playmaking savvy and shot have been noticeably absent as he's posted a goal and an assist over the course of four games thus far.
If you read the surprisingly rambly overnight report (I didn't mean to bury Gregg Krupa's fantastic Mantha profile at the end, but the narrative unfolded that way), the London Knights may not have won the OHL championship (Tyler Bertuzzi's Guelph Storm did), and they may not have played for three weeks, but the Mastercard Memorial Cup's hosts certainly seem to believe that an exhausted Val-d'Or Foreurs team and Mr. Mantha will be easy pickings in Friday night's tournament-opener (on Sportsnet at 7 PM; Sportsnet's already geo-blocking their videos, so that's swell).
There's no doubt that Mantha and Val-d'Or--and Bertuzzi and Guelph--will be playing the best of Junior Hockey's best in each other and the Edmonton Oil Kings, as well as those stacked Knights. That means Mantha, Bertuzzi et. al. will have to battle through some incredibly heavy checking, but some of this bluster is...
Bluster, and the whole, "Mantha is a one-dimensional player, we can check him into submission" line's been the line about him since the get-go.
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.