The Malik Report
The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness spoke to Red Wings GM Ken Holland about two topics--the state of the Red Wings' defense and the signing of Axel Holmstrom--and his conversation with Holland regarding the Wings' blueline (and the options available to the team to improve the team as a whole) is fascinating:
"A year ago on July 1 we were looking for a right-shot defenseman we thought could get points,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “There were two or three on the market. When we didn’t get them we just stopped. We felt that the young players we had in our organization were the answer.
“I’d like to think by getting 100 points and making the playoffs, to a degree, validated the decisions we made,” Holland continued. “Certainly we’re disappointed we weren’t able to finish off, being up 3-2 on Tampa Bay. We’ve got to get better. Part of that improvement is going to be the experience that (Tomas) Tatar, (Gustav) Nyquist, (Danny) DeKeyser, (Luke) Glendening, (Petr) Mrazek, (Tomas) Jurco and (Riley) Sheahan have had in the Boston series and in the Tampa Bay series.”
And going forward...
The Toronto Maple Leafs have hired Jim Hiller and Jim Brewer away from the Wings as the Leafs filled out their assistant coaching staff today, and MLive's Ansar Khan reports that the Red Wings are likely to sort out both their assistant coaching and AHL coaching vacancies by the end of the week:
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he expected to announce his assistant coaching staff all at once this week.
Tony Granato, who was approached by Toronto and Buffalo, is expected to sign a multi-year extension to stay. Holland and coach Jeff Blashill are meeting with Chris Chelios on Wednesday to discuss a role in the organization. If Todd Nelson doesn't get the Grand Rapids Griffins head coaching job he might be a candidate for an assistant coaching position in Detroit.
ESPN's Craig Custance penned an article in which he discussed "What we learned about each playoff team," and here's what he said about the Red Wings:
Detroit Red Wings: Time has been kind to the Red Wings' first-round exit at the hands of the Lightning. The Red Wings probably should have beaten the Lightning after putting themselves in great position to do so, but with every round the Tampa Bay won, that seven-game effort by Detroit looked more and more impressive.
Cough Kronwall suspension cough...
We learned that Petr Mrazek is ready to be a bona fide No. 1 starting goalie in the NHL, responding under pressure by outplaying Ben Bishop for most of that series. Mrazek finished the playoffs with a .925 save percentage, and it was revealing that he got the work in goal over veteran Jimmy Howard. It was more good experience for Detroit's young core of skaters too, with Tomas Tatar showing he's capable of scoring in the postseason and Luke Glendening revealing the potential to be a high-end, shutdown checking center.
Since-departed coach Mike Babcock was certainly a big part of the Red Wings' near-elimination of the eventual Eastern Conference champions, so the challenge is to continue the growth under new coach Jeff Blashill. He's promising but unknown, though the success of his friend Jon Cooper of the Lightning is proof Blashill and other talented, young coaches can make quick adjustments. -- Craig Custance
More than a few Red Wings fans shed tears when this happened in 1998, and I was one of them:
Nicklas Kronwall gave an incredibly long interview to Hockeysverige's Ronnie Ronnqvist, and instead of a word-for-word translation, it's far more logical to get this out to you via a set of "highlights" and request some Swedish-language help to translate the rest:
1. Kronwall tells Ronnqvist that he isn't at the point where he feels that things have become tougher in terms of training or preparing to get ready for the season at 34, and that he trains with Swedish NHL'ers under Andrew Ohgren to work on specific hockey-related exercises;
2. Kronwall calls his 12-year tenure with Detroit a "privilege," and he suggests that between playing for an Original Six team and his favorite Swedish team growing up in Djurgardens IF, he's been incredibly fortunate. He feels that Metro Detroit is his family's home and that the Wings' continuity has been incredibly important. He's very evidently proud of his tenure with the Wings;
3. He says that he had a good relationship with Mike Babcock over the years, but Jeff Blashill's reputation as a "person who cares and a good person"--as well as a winner wherever he goes--precedes him;
This is a sort of wrapping-things-up entry given that we've already covered the substance of the Wings' pro scouting meetings and the signing of Axel Holmstrom. The Detroit News's Ted Kulfan also took note of the Red Wings front office's business at hand...
Red Wings management, amateur and pro scouts, and Blashill will meet Tuesday-Thursday for organizational meetings. They'll assess every player in the organization, other players, and discuss plans for the June 26-27 draft and the unrestricted free-agency period that begins July 1.
Trades also will be discussed.
"I've been getting phone calls, teams are formulating their (offseason) plans, and finding out what other teams are thinking," Holland said. "As we get closer to the draft, I'm sure there will be more interest around the league."
And he's reporting something about Tony Granato that is either good or bad, depending on whether the GM is to be taken literally:
MLive's Ansar Khan's article about the Red Wings' pro scouting meetings and this article by the Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleines'sarticle about said subject serve as bookends of a sort.
Both summarize Ken Holland's outlook on the team as the Wings go into a summer where they're likely to re-sign restricted free agents Joakim Andersson, Landon Ferraro, Tomas Jurco, Gustav Nyquist, Brendan Smith and probably--I hate to say it, but probably--unrestricted free agent Daniel Cleary...
“We’re trying to go younger,” Holland said. “We’re trying to get better and sometimes when you’re dealing with younger people you’ve got to have patience and believe the patience is going to reward you somewhere down the line.”
The Wings’ core – Pavel Datsyuk (36), Henrik Zetterberg (35) and Niklas Kronwall (33) – are getting up there in age.
“There’s no doubt the core group of our team is old, but they’re superstars in their prime,” Holland said. “Those players can last longer. Even as their skills diminish, they may not be superstars, but they’re still good players. That’s what happened with (Steve) Yzerman, (Nicklas) Lidstrom. They could play until they’re 40. We’ve got a core that’s older, but if we can support them with youth, enthusiasm, speed, energy, it allows those players to kind of hold and maintain their status.”
And given the questions about Mike Babcock's role in the team's player personnel decisions, Holland gave Khan and Pleiness a surprisingly unprompted insight into that part of the coach-managerial process that we haven't received before:
The Grand Rapids Griffins have published 3 videos and about 20 minutes' worth of interviews with new Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, and today's installment closed the trilogy. Here are the trio of videos:
Fox Sports Detroit's Keith Gave penned a lengthy column about the probability of the Wings trading their first-round draft pick (it could happen) and/or one Anthony Mantha (which probably won't happen), and he focuses on Mantha's status by suggesting that it's simply not a very Red Wings-like move to give up on a prospect with as much promise as the 6'4," 210-pound Mantha after all of one disappointing season unless there's a "perfect deal" to be had:
Regarding Mantha, anybody who knows anything about Holland and how he believes in player development also knows that it would take an awfully good offer to pry Mantha away from the Wings. And how likely are they to get an offer like that, seriously? Come on, the other 29 teams in the NHL have pro scouts just like the Wings do, and they all saw how Mantha struggled to find his game in the American Hockey League.
So when Holland is asked about Mantha's status as an "untouchable" player in trade talks, can you blame him if he hedges a bit in his comments? If you held a gun to his head, and asked that question about untouchables among players who finished the year in Grand Rapids, you're likely to get just two names: Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi.
Both have passed Mantha on the prospect list after their performances in the Calder Cup playoffs this spring, but Holland is hardly giving up on a kid who came off a broken leg and had a rough first year.
And one more thing, Holland points out: "The kid is only 20 years old. We have to give him time."
That's why this offseason may wind up being the most important three months or so of Mantha's career. He knows he has to beef up, and get stronger and quicker in the process. He was humbled this season, and if he can put that humility to good use in the gym and develop that big body into something that can thrive -- not just survive -- in professional hockey, then he'll once again establish himself as a player of the future in Detroit.
Gave continues, and I agree with him: unless there's a deal for a better defenseman than Dion Phaneuf in the offing (and who's to say that Phaneuf won't be Mike Babcock's #1 reclamation project in Toronto, as Babcock himself suggested?), the Red Wings would trade Mantha at their peril. There just aren't many large goal-scorers with size in anyone's prospect pipeline, and as Mantha's the only one in Detroit's developmental system right now, there's no point in bailing on the one type of forward you've been looking to acquire for multiple seasons because he had a mediocre rookie pro campaign.
As the Swedish newspapers have been reporting...
Here's the Wings' press release:
Detroit signs forward Axel Holmstrom to entry-level deal
2014 draft pick was Sweden’s Junior Player of the Year in 2014-15
DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings today signed center Axel Holmstrom to a three-year entry-level contract. In accordance with club policy, additional details will not be disclosed.
Originally drafted by the Red Wings in the seventh round (196th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Holmstrom skated in 44 games for Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League in this season, recording 20 points (10-10-20) and four penalty minutes. The 18-year-old forward ranked ninth on the club in scoring and tied for second overall in the SHL among junior-aged players. Holmstrom helped Skelleftea reach the SHL finals and led the league in postseason scoring with 18 points (7-11-18) in 15 games, breaking the league record for playoff points by a junior player. After the season, he was named the Swedish Junior Hockey Player of the Year. The Arvidsjaur, Sweden, native also represented his country at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal, ranking fifth on the team with seven points (1-6-7) in seven games.
The 6-foot-1, 198-lb., forward spent the 2013-14 campaign with Skelleftea’s junior club, recording 38 points (13-23-38) in 33 games and making his men’s league debut with four regular-season games in the SHL. He totaled 45 points (17-28-45) and 12 penalty minutes in 46 games at the under-20 level from 2012-15 and notched 47 points (12-35-47) and six penalty minutes for Skelleftea in the under-18 circuit from 2011-14.
Holmstrom will be "loaned" to Skelleftea AIk of the SHL for the upcoming season.
Update: MLive's Ansar Khan confirms as much:
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.