The Malik Report
During the Red Wings’ locker room clean-out on Saturday, coach Mike Babcock suggested that the Wings will continue to make tweaks to the roster as opposed to wholesale changes, and the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell revisits Babcock’s comments today:
“I think we’re going see some changes, no question,” Babcock said. “I think it’s very important as we ask our players to train all summer and work and get better. One or two per cent better. That as coaches we do the same thing. And as management we do the same. We got to improve our team. The bottom line is the final four is going on and this is our second year in a row we’re not involved.”
Aside from suggesting that Nicklas Lidstrom’s all but certain to return, Babcock suggested that the Wings will largely see improvement from players who progressed during the team’s playoff run, including Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart…
When an ownership group fails to keep an NHL team in a market, outsiders tend to assume that the team’s leaving a market because it’s simply “not a hockey town” and that there’s fault upon part of the fans as well as the owners. I didn’t believe that when the Jets left Winnipeg for Phoenix, the Nordiques left Quebec City for Denver or the Stars left Minnesota for Dallas, and I’ve found it downright insulting that now that the shoe’s on the other foot, Canadian media types have assumed that fans in Phoenix, Atlanta, and Long Island, among other places, simply aren’t that rabid about hockey. It’s an oversimplification to say the least and an all but lets ownership off the hook for trying to “sell” fans an inferior product in most cases.
So I’m not about to begrudge Thrashers fans’ hockey chops as their team’s crappy ownership group, which has never been particularly interested in presenting fans with a superb on-ice product, seems ready to bail and send the team to Winnipeg. Things got busy in a hurry on Tuesday, with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution confirming that True North Sports and Entertainment is officially talking with the Atlanta Spirit about buying the team and relocating it to Winnipeg, and the Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg Sun, Globe and Mail and the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman all stated that things are getting hot and heavy, with various sources suggesting different things about possible realignments which might or might not include the Red Wings moving East.
Red Wings evening report: Hoping for Nick, HF’s organizational ranking and more Dick (Axelsson) news
Our mid-day’s worth of Red Wings updates provided the only real radio interviews that team members engaged in (that I can find, anyway), which may speak for the attention span of sports talk radio hosts, who, aside from talking about the Wings-moving-to-the-East scuttlebutt, have moved onto this year’s usual topics in the Tigers and Lions.
The Free Press’s and WCSX’s Jamie Samuelssen, however, chose to weigh in on Nicklas Lidstrom’s possible retirement in his blog, suggesting that the Wings captain has neither slowed much, nor does he seem to exhibit a Mike Modano-like level of weariness regarding off-season training and the regular season grind:
Bad timing: the “Red Wings overnight report” fell victim to Ye Olde, “You’ve got to click ‘open’ on the entry options tab for the damn thing to post” boo boo, and I’m about to head out the door for an afternoon’s worth of errand-running, so I’m going to be only to address the following Wings-related stories ever-so-briefly before revisiting them later today.
First and foremost, MLive’s Ansar Khan posted a series of player grades whose preface might be just as revealing as Khan’s assessments in terms of the Wings’ course corrections going forward:
In 2004, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman asked Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch and governor Jimmy Devellano to endorse an experiment involved locking out paying customers for an entire season, eliminating Detroit’s ability to out-spend its opponents (and buy out three players in the process) via instituting a hard salary cap, halving the Wings’ playoff revenues for the sake of revenue-sharing, and on top of it all, cutting a check in the $10 million range to help subsidize teams like the Coyotes and Thrashers. As this experiment was less than palatable to big-market teams like the Wings, Bettman engaged in the same kind of empty promise-making that fueled Arthur “Enron” Levitt’s “audit” of the league, a website full of lies about a hard salary cap eliminating ticket price increases and selling that lie to fans while courting the owners.
In the Red Wings’ case, Bettman ensured Ilitch and Jimmy Devellano that, should the league expand (back in 2004, the economy was a very different beast), the Red Wings would be given first priority in fulfilling their long-standing request to move to the Eastern Conference, as the Detroit News’s John Niyo notes...
It’s this kind of fluff that really irritates my Wings fan’s sensibilities…Since January, it seems, the Vancouver press corps has regularly suggested that this year’s Canucks compare favorably to the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup-winning teams from the late 90’s, and this suggestion from the Vancouver Province’s Tony Gallagher is just...silly:
Not since the Detroit Red Wings of ‘98 has a team approached a Stanley Cup run the way the Vancouver Canucks seem to be tackling this at times.
To refresh, that was the year the Wings won the Cup despite the fact Chris Osgood fanned four shots from centre ice during their playoff run and that’s what he’s often remembered for even though he won three Cups and was the starter for two.
That’s where Nick Lidstrom got the idea to shoot from long range on Dan Cloutier in 2002. He’d seen them go in behind him in earlier playoffs.
The Detroit Red Wings’ locker room clean-out day involved the usual end-of-the-season address from Wings coach Mike Babcock, but none of the initial reports quoted him at length regarding anything but Nicklas Lidstrom’s future.
Thankfully, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness’s “day-after” notebook sheds light on what the coach had to say about three blueliners, including Niklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart, who the Wings hope will fill the void when Lidstrom retires…
“Obviously Kronner is a guy who continues to take steps and we need him to do so,” Babcock said. “Stewie’s just been fantastic. I think every year at this time, the way he plays at playoff time he’s even better. He had a great year for us.”
As well as Jakub Kindl’s status heading into next season…
The Detroit Red Wings’ timing of the team’s locker-room clean-out was…convenient. The team understandably wants to get down to the business of preparing its returning players for the off-season, tending to the injured and determining what changes the team has to make systemically (that’s Mike Babcock and the coaching staff’s department), what the team plans on doing in terms of re-signing players or making renovations via free agency or trades (Ken Holland, capologist Ryan Martin and the pro scouts’ areas of expertise) and how the team’s long-term outlook will influence both its moves at the NHL Entry Draft in June (Jim Nill, Hakan Andersson and the amateur scouts’ department) and the shape the Grand Rapids Griffins will take, call-up pecking order included (Griffins GM Bob McNamara, coach Curt Fraser, assistant coach Jim Paek and Jiri Fischer and Chris Chelios are in the player development business).
In short, the Wings’ front office has a lot of work to do and its players need to get a few weeks of rest and recuperation in before sinking their teeth into their off-season training regimens and/or scheduling any necessary surgery dates…But scheduling the locker room clean-out for a weekend date meant that the local media could stuff its sound recorders, Flip cams and video cameras with the necessary quotes, stock up for the weekend sports wrap-up TV shows, Monday’s newspaper columns and sports talk radio segments, and then shift focus to the Tigers (and, inevitably, the Lions). Do it on a weekend, get it over with, and maybe hope that the media and fans move on to the next thing as the team goes about addressing some very real questions not involving Nicklas Lidstrom’s return without much hassle.
There’s basically no way that the NHL would realistically move the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference given Columbus and Nashville’s statuses as ahead of the Wings in the pecking order and the Wings’ status as the Western Conference’s “anchor tenant,” but the Sporting News’s Craig Custance reports that the Wings would still like to move East if the Thrashers re-locate at some point in the future:
According to Jimmy Devellano, Detroit’s senior vice president, a move won’t be happening next season for the Red Wings. “We’re going to be right where we are next year,” he said on Saturday. “Beyond that, I can’t comment. Next year we’re right where we are.”
Moving East would mean money and time saved on travel for the organization, not to mention reasonable start times for fans in Detroit when the Red Wings are on the road. That’s why Devellano is holding out hope that it could still happen as soon as the 2012-13 season. “Fingers crossed, toes crossed, saying prayers,” he joked.
Updated at 15x at 7:34 with Babcock on Modano: Via the Detroit Red Wings’ official Twitter account, as of noon EDT, the team’s taken its team picture and its players are addressing the media as they prepare for a long summer:
Rolling out the red carpet for the team photo. http://yfrog.com/h4ho4gcej
Lidstrom said he expects to make a decision on next season by July 1.
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.