The Malik Report
The Red Wings opened their summer development camp today in Traverse City, MI, and they "broke in" new equipment, "broke in" new coaches in Grand Rapids Griffins coach Todd Nelson and assistant coach Ben Simon, and the players got to know each other while taking part in a combination of getting-acquainted systems play (though Nelson was loath to call it such) and skill development drills.
As noted earlier this afternoon, the Wings' prospects were quite talkative, but now it's time for me to explain what I witnessed on the ice and do some initial player evaluations.
Here are the teams that participated in today's activities...
The Wings took Saarijärvi in the third round of last weekend’s NHL draft, and on Friday the club signed him to a three-year-, entry-level contract. On Tuesday he was selected by the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League in the CHL import draft.
Now he has a decision to make: where will he play next? While it would be great for Saarijärvi to train and play in Flint, just north of Detroit, he’ll first need to get out of his contract with a top men's league team in his native Finland.
Asked if he believes that the 5-foot-10 right-handed shooting defender will wind up in Flint, Jiri Fischer, the Red Wings’ director of player development said, “That’s where it’s going.”
However, Fischer is aware that plans can change.
“He has a contract in Oulun (Kärpät) and essentially it’s going to be his decision where he wants to play next year,” Fischer added. “Now there is another option by obviously being a very-high CHL import draft pick for Flint.”
It appears that Saarijärvi has his mind made up. He’d like to play in Flint. The Wings would like to see him play in Flint. But Friday, he still wasn’t clear on the legalities and any subsequent ramifications.
“I signed with the Finnish team last summer,” he said. “Now what happens next? Well, I’m here. I don’t know. I’m heading back to Finland after this and practice there, probably under-20 tournament, summer camp, and after that probably coming back here and then going to Flint. We haven’t talked that much yet, so I’m going to find out soon.”
Roose continues, and Saarijarvi definitely wants to play in Flint instead of Karpat, where he told me he'd expect to play as the team's playing seventh defenseman (teams are allowed to dress 20 skaters in the Liiga). Signing with the Wings gives Detroit the leverage to play Saarijarvi wherever they want him to play.
Update: As the Free Press's George Sipple notes, the Wings support Saarijarvi's line of thinking...
The Red Wings' prospects were put through their paces during the first day of the summer development camp this morning in Traverse City, Michigan, and Todd Nelson's camp was a little different than Jeff Blashill's, emphasizing fundamentals and skill development over the Red Wings' system of play--though it was also the first day thereof.
And let me tell you, it was a "first day" and a half. Evgeny Svechnikov was the highest-profile member of the, "My new equipment = sometimes I fall over" club, passes were off at times, the pace of play was staggered and the returning players looked to be at least three or four steps ahead of even the most-heralded newcomers.
I spoke with several players during the media availabilites, as well as coach Nelson and Wings director of player development Jiri Fischer, and here's the audio from said interviews:
Among this morning's Red Wings-related news stories:
The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa issued very tepid praise for the Wings' free agency "gambles," suggesting that there's much for both management and the signed players to prove before a positive assessment can be issued:
Holland likely was around the office with coach Jeff Blashill and Mark Howe, the chief professional scout, fielding phone calls and watching the NHL tickers Wednesday. But, when all is said and done, it is always at least a wee bit like being at Mrs. Ilitch's casino and knowing a lot about blackjack.
Despite the bad plate appearance for the Wings on the selection of Weiss, Holland knows when to hold them and when to fold them.
Assuming good fortune, for once, with injuries, Green and Richards are significant upgrades. Healthy, they should provide a rookie NHL coach with more offensive punch and, perhaps more importantly, less time in the defensive zone than Babcock had to coach around for the past few seasons.
The Red Wings' prospects spoke with the media at Joe Louis Arena before boarding a bus for Traverse City, MI this to take part in this weekend's summer development camp, but the media availability had a split focus as both Ken Holland and Jeff Blashill discussed the ramifications of the Red Wings' free agency haul.
It's with the latter topic that we'll begin this entry, and Blashill was actually more outspoken about the "possibilities" that Brad Richards gives him as a strong second-line center, as the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness noted:
Michigan Hockey's Nick Barnowski attended this morning's press conference for the Red Wings' prospects, and in addition to posting half-a-dozen videos of prospects chatting with the media, he took note of Ken Holland's take on the futures of Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha, per Ken Holland and Jeff Blashill...
"Coach Blashill’s got to say to me, I want him to play,” Holland said. “He’s not going to be a 13th or 14th forward. He’s going to be really important for our franchise moving forward. We want to make sure we do what’s right for him and for us.”
Blashill said he thought Larkin did a great job in his short stint in Grand Rapids during the playoffs, where he had five points in six playoff games. He compared his career path with Gus Nyquist’s, saying he grew as a player when he wasn’t with the Red Wings and made an immediate impact when he was called up.
“It’s a tiny sample size but he seemed to pass all those tests in terms of small sample sizes – World Championship, World Junior, his freshman year at Michigan,” Blashill said. “I think he’s going to be a really good player. We’ll see when.”
Mantha, who produced 15 goals and 18 assists in 62 games with the Griffins this past season, will struggle to make the Red Wings, Holland said. The Wings GM said he would have to take someone’s job, with 14 to 16 forwards competing for a spot.
And after addressing the Green and Richards signings, Holland and Blashill looked toward the upcoming summer development camp, which begins tomorrow:
Take this from Fox Sports Detroit's Keith Gave, who believes that the Red Wings simply won't retire #91 due to the burnt bridges from Fedorov's offer-sheet signing in 1998 and his exit for Anaheim in 2003, for what you will:
There may be room for a reasonable compromise, however, while honoring one of the most memorable eras in Wings history -- and five fabulous players at once. Hang a banner with the names and numbers of all the Russian Five who were so instrumental in helping the Wings end their Stanley Cup drought.
Invite Scotty Bowman -- the man who assembled them and put them together as a unit nearly 20 years ago -- and have him help hoist the banner to the rafters at Joe Louis Arena. Three of those players, after all, are in the Hockey Hall of Fame: Slava Fetisov, No. 2; Igor Larionov, No. 8, and Fedorov. The others: the ever-popular Vladimir Konstantinov, No. 16, and Slava Kozlov, No. 13.
Three of those numbers remain in service: Brendan Smith wears No. 2; Justin Abdelkader wears No. 8; and Pavel Datsyuk wears No. 13. No one has worn No. 16 since Konstantinov took off his sweater on June 7, 1997, the night the Wings won the Cup. Six nights later, a limo crash ended his career.
Oct. 24 marks the 20th anniversary of the trade Bowman made with San Jose to bring Larionov to Detroit and complete the Russian Five unit. Hold a ceremony this fall honoring them, but keep all their numbers in service.
That way, Richards can wear No. 91 in Detroit, if it means that much to him. But we bet it doesn't.
from Paul Harris at NHL.com,
Holland said with everyone healthy, Richards will be Detroit's No. 2 center. But with the uncertainty about Pavel Datsyuk, who had surgery on ruptured tendons in his right ankle last Friday, Richards could open the season as the No. 1.
"Throughout his career, he's been productive as a top-couple-of-lines center," Blashill said. "... He's a great power-play guy who can run it from up top and who can pull up on the half boards."
Blashill is comfortable with Richards' age.
"He's slowed down, but I think he's got some great hockey left in him," he said. "He's been great in the playoffs, he just won a Cup and he has two."
Blashill said he talked to Green and Richards on Wednesday. He added that he already had an idea about what type of player and person Green is.
Blashill was the head coach of the Red Wings' American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, the past three seasons. One of his assistants in Grand Rapids was longtime NHL player Mike Knuble, who was Green's teammate in Washington and also played for Detroit during his career.
"Mike Knuble had good things to say about [Green] as a person and a teammate," Blashill said.
It remains to be seen how Green and Richards will fit in with the Red Wings.
"I don't know the exact picture," Blashill said. "We won't know that until we get to camp. … But you'd rather have more options than not enough."
They came from all over the world yet there was a general consensus about what they saw – the Red Wings' new stadium looks fantastic.
The Wings' just-drafted players, prospects and invitees to their development camp got a private tour along with Jiri Fischer, director of player development, of the plans for the new stadium and District Detroit.
District Detroit is the vision of the Ilitch family for a state-of-the-art events center and surrounding areas that will comprise 50 blocks of the city, including Comerica Park, Ford Field and the Fox Theatre.
Wings general manager Ken Holland had mentioned that the experience at Montreal's Bell Centre, where the fans seem to be on top of the ice and the noise can be intimidating, so the Wings are looking to exceed that with what is expected to be the tightest bowl in the league.
As Ypsilanti, Michigan, native and Windsor Spitfires defenseman Jalen Chatfield said, "Who wouldn't want to play there?"
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun provides a breakdown of the "how's" behind the Wings' signings of Mike Green and Brad Richards:
Holland has been after Green a for a long time, approaching the Washington Capitals a summer ago when it appeared Green might be available after the Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik signings overloaded the Caps' blue line. Instead, Green stayed put until his deal ran out.
That’s when Holland jumped on him, though not at all costs. The Wings made it clear to Green's representatives at Newport Sports early on that they weren’t going to do a long-term deal, so forget a five-year contract.
The conversation then came down to doing three years or four, average annual value (AAV) a bit higher on three years. The Wings chose the shorter deal, even if the AAV was higher at $6 million.
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.