The Malik Report
Updated 2x at 5:12 PM: Throughout last night's quick take, overnight report, today's practice post and even the "cuts post"--and long before that, frankly--the hottest preseason topic regarding the Red Wings' roster has involved the team's defense.
Today, the team sent Ryan Sproul and Mattias Backman down, reminding us that Sproul is still both a year removed from the OHL and a bit of an adventure in his own zone, and reflecting the fact that, despite his immaculate positioning (a fine foil to Sproul's bombastic rushes and one-man-showmaking), Backman can be pushed around and needs to both get stronger and get more accustomed to North American-sized rinks...
But Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko and the surprising (to those of you who haven't attended the past six summer development camps) Nick Jensen remain on the Wings' 39-man roster, and the vast majority of what TMR readers, Wings fans on Twitter/Facebook and just about everywhere else have been discussing involve how the team might extricate itself from the unpleasant situation that is Jakub Kindl (and the 3 years remaining on his contract, with a $2.4 million cap hit for every season) and/or Brian Lashoff (two years remaining at a Capgeek-estimated $725,000) starting the year as the team's third pairing on defense.
The Free Press's Helene St. James addresses this issue head-on this afternoon, noting that today's post-practice media availability yielded blunt praise for Ouellet, Marchenko and Jensen from one Mike Babcock...
Updated with a take from GR at 4:38 PM: I placed the Red Wings' cuts "inline" with afternoon news--and it should be noted that the waiving of Louis-Marc Aubry and Tom McCollum don't fare into the equation (and Kevin Porter [groin], Andy Miele [sports hernia] and Anthony Mantha [broken leg] remain with the team due to injuries which prohibit them from being sent down)--but here's the Wings' official release regarding said cuts:
DETROIT TRIMS ROSTER TO 39
DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings today assigned forwards Andreas Athanasiou, Colin Campbell and Martin Frk and defensemen Mattias Backman, Richard Nedomlel and Ryan Sproul to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. Additionally, the Red Wings assigned defenseman Joe Hicketts to the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Royals and released forwards Shane Berschbach, Alden Hirschfeld and Mark Zengerle from their tryouts.
(Technically speaking, Hicketts' reassignment and the releases of Berschbach, Hirschfeld and Zengerle happened last weekend, but they were made official today)
Detroit’s roster currently stands at 39 players. The Red Wings will wrap-up their preseason slate with back-to-back road games against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (FOX Sports Detroit) and against the Boston Bruins on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. (NHL Network).
Updated 2x with prospect news at 4:59 PM: Today's Red Wings practice brought good news about both Tomas Tatar and Darren Helm, as well as a Pavel Datsyuk sighting, prior to tomorrow and Saturday's exhibition finales against Toronto and Boston, respectively (Wings @ Toronto on Friday = 7:30 PM EDT on FSD/Sportsnet/97.1 FM, with Jonas Gustavsson starting; Wings @ Boston on Saturday = 5:30 PM EDT on the NHL Network U.S., with Petr Mrazek starting).
The Wings may or may not use an "A Team" and "B Team" lineup (with "A" and "B" meaning just the letters, not A is better and B is worse) against Toronto and Boston, skipping the "NHL Dress Rehsarsal Lineup" policy given coach Babcock's statements regarding needing to "figure out" his defense...
But the Wings need to waive a solid chunk of players for the sake of waiving them, and the Wings need to bolster the Grand Rapids Griffins' roster ahead of AHL exhibition games against Lake Erie (on Friday in Windsor, ON and Saturday in
Indianapolis Fort Wayne, IN)
As such, the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa reports that cuts are coming:
He also offers a Tatar update:
Updated 2x with some minor waiver news at 1:19 PM: There's encouraging news from today's Red Wings practice, per MLive's Ansar Khan:
Pavel Datsyuk joins team for practice, wearing gray non-contact jersey.
Datysuk, who suffered separated right shoulder 10 days ago, seems to be passing and shooting well. Estimated to be out another 2-3 weeks.
Otherwise, the Detroit News's Gregg Krupa reports that the Wings are still skating in two groups:
Forbes Michael Onazian engaged in an intriguing conversation with Chris Ilitch, who discussed a certain hockey team's follow-on rink:
For our current Forbes SportsMoney television show I chatted with Chris Ilitch, President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings (please see video below). Ilitch Holdings owns the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and MLB’s Detroit Tigers and the hockey team is set to open a new arena during the summer of 2017, replacing Joe Louis Arena–the oldest arena in the league.
The new arena will be part of a new mixed-use development project in downtown Detroit, headed by the Illitch family, that plans to take underutilized blocks in the city and establish five distinct neighborhoods in downtown Detroit that offer residential housing, green space, entertainment, dining and of course, venues for Detroit’s sports teams. Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, a native of Detroit, has also been investing in the city’s redevelopment.
The 11:14 video isn't embeddable, but it's worth your time.
The Chief called 2009 "The Summer of Ken," and going into Friday's game against a Toronto Maple Leafs team that hasn't played since Monday's 3-0 Wings win (7:30 PM EDT on FSD, Sportsnet and 97.1 FM; fear not, the Leafs "went to cottage country"), as well as Saturday's exhibition finale against Boston (5:30 PM EDT on the NHL Network U.S.), I think we might want to call the season we're all about to begin as "The Winter of Babs (and the Cone of Silence)." It sounds better than, "The Season of Mike Babcock" at least.
But I'm not the Chief (much to some of your disdain and much to my, well, comfort). I'm the awkward, anxious but sincere guy who won't shut up. Seems to work for me, and I hope for you.
Please take note that the beat writers report that Tomas Tatar's OK:
The Red Wings lost a very "up and down" game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, dropping a 2-0 decision, but ahead of Friday and Saturday's back-to-back exhibition finales (in Toronto on Friday, at 7:30 PM EDT on FSD, and in Boston on Saturday, at 5:30 PM, on the NHL Network), there were some positives in the game:
- Jimmy Howard held the Wings in the game at times, and despite a wonky rebound on the 2-0 goal, he was otherwise immaculate, looking sharper and smarter in the crease (and stopping 15 of 16 second-period shots and 31 of 33 overall);
- The Wings' penalty-kill remains perfect on the preseason, going 25-for-25;
- Nick Jensen most certainly aided his cause via a 4-shot, 2-hit, 20:24-played perfromance, leading a Wings defensive corps that wasn't hurting for talent with Danny DeKeyser and Niklas Kronwall in the lineup;
- While they can't seem to finish, the Nyquist-Zetterberg-Franzen line was nothing less than dynamic. Nyquist led the Wings with 5 shots (and 4 more attempts), Franzen had 4 (with 4 more attempts), Zetterberg went 10-and-7 on faceoffs and had 3 shot attempts and 2 takeaways;
Updated 2x at 6:40 PM: So I had an awful afternoon, whose details of errand-running and dead batteries I will only allude to. As such, the Red Wings-Penguins "morning skate in progress" post is going to hit the wires sometime shortly before tonight's game (7:30 PM on FSD, ROOT Sports, the NHL Network U.S. and 97.1 FM)...
And you and I are going to disagree about some stuff, starting now (maybe I should be blunt more often). I happen to find the fact that the Joe Hicketts Cone Of Media Silence coming down over Mike Babcock's contract negotiations with Ken Holland to be more amusing than anything else. GM Low Expectations himself did a fine job of both doubting that he'd come to a deal with Babcock before pointing out that the two may in fact discuss contract turkey during the season itself, which is something Babcock hasn't suggested before.
Mind you, all of this silence is going to mean that when the Red Wings visit Toronto on Friday, Andy Frost may introduce Mike Babcock as, "The Next Coach of Your TorontoMapleLeafs" (yes, Leaf fans, you pronounce it like one word, take it from a Detroiyiter; the fact that the Leafs haven't played a preseason game since Monday doesn't help the situation, either), and I could hear the Toronto media at large issue a Fangirl SQUEEEEEEEE from the parking lot of my mom's shrink...
from Sean McIndoe of Grantland,
Some of the teams we’ll be covering today are passing through this section on their way to bigger and better things, while others are tracking in the opposite direction. And a few are in what may well be the worst possible situation an NHL team can find itself in: stuck in no-man’s-land, not really good enough to contend but never quite bad enough to land the sort of high draft pick who could turn into a franchise player. Spend more than a season or two in that zone and it can take a franchise years to recover....
Outlook: The Red Wings are really old. Key contributors like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, and Niklas Kronwall are all well into their thirties, and the team is still mulling the return of 41-year-old Daniel Alfredsson.
The Red Wings are also kind of young. Breakout star Gustav Nyquist leads a group of players that are just entering their prime, giving the Red Wings yet another generation of potential stars. That mix of young and old makes it hard to nail this team down — they could go in a few different directions.
Key number: 18.3 — Nyquist’s shooting percentage last year, which is Steven Stamkos territory. Nyquist certainly has the sort of talent that would lead you to expect him to put up a decent number in this category. But he was just a 6.1 percent shooter in 40 career games before last season, so it seems fair to assume we’ll see a drop this year.
Best case: The old guys stay healthy, the young guys take another step, the normally dependable Jimmy Howard rebounds from an off year, and the Wings return to quasi-contender status.
Worst case: Age and injuries wreak havoc once again, Howard struggles, and Babcock’s status becomes a running sideshow as the Wings finally miss the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.
more on the Wings and other teams in the middle of the pack...
from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock met Tuesday regarding an extension for Babcock, but a deal doesn't appear imminent.
In fact, it might not come to be before the Wings open Oct. 9, which is when Babcock has said he no longer wants to talk about his contract situation.
A caveat to that, though: It means that neither side wants to deal with it publicly, in the media.
added 1:54pm, Below, watch/listen to Doug MacLean on Babcock who was on Sportsnet radio this morning before the Holland announcement.
Scroll to the 6:20 mark of the vid unless you want to hear about the Leafs.
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.