The Malik Report
I’m gonna make this real simple for once and only once:
• No Draper, Osgood or Rafalski yielding a huge challenge in terms of filling leadership and moxie voids, to the point that you can almost feel the Wings’ players clutching up and clenching their sticks too tightly;
• Offense gone dry under a system of play that leans too heavily upon the puck possession standard that either Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters have yet to tweak or the players have yet to implement the suggestions thereof;
• Bad breaks and of course, as we all wear tinfoil around here, bad calls in addition to bad pinches, a dud of a power play and the kinds of fundamental mistakes that are as simple to correct as they are predictable for the Wings to make;
Why are the Red Wings a big “Work in Progress,” and why has their collective play dropped off so significantly after a 5-and-0 start? Going into tonight’s game against the Wild, it seems like the Wings’ players aren’t just on “different pages”—they’re on different chapters of their team’s new playbook, if they’ve read it at all, and I think I know why: after a very strong start, we’re witnessing the effects of Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and Brian Rafalski’s retirements kicking in.
You can see that in the fact that players like Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Jiri Hudler are waiting for that kick-in-the-ass, “Start engaging physically and getting ‘em mad at you!” speeches that Draper would give both in the locker room and on the bench, Osgood’s willingness to chirp at his defensemen if they weren’t demonstrative enough, and of course Rafalski’s calmness and passing abilities haven’t been matched—instead, the Wings are over-pinching on defense, with only Ian White having the excuse of not knowing how to play less aggressively, and Kindl, Ericsson and Stuart’s physical edges have disappeared as Kronwall’s attempted to adjust to the weight of that “A” on his right shoulder.
If the preseason is about implementing systemic tweaks, trying out new line combinations, giving rookies and new additions time to acclimate, if not shine, and slowly but surely rounding into regular season form while attempting to avoid injuries, rounding out the exhibition season with a three-games-in-three-nights slate makes very little sense.
That is exactly what the Red Wings have done for the better part of the last decade, however, and today’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins (5 PM EDT, FSD/WXYT’s AM station only/PCNC) either tends to demonstrate that even a fatigued and splintered Wings roster is more or less good to go, or it’s a game in which fans pay full price to watch the Wings mail one in—or worse, get bit one more time by the injury bug.
If you’re not watching the Tigers game, or might flip channels from time to time, we’re gonna live blog this one.
The Red Wings hopped on Red Bird III and flew to Toronto for tonight’s marquee match-up against the Leafs (at 7 PM EDT on the CBC, CBC Sports online in Canada and the NHL Network in the U.S.); hopefully someone will toss up a link to a stream to those who need it) going with what we’ll politely call the “B Team” against a due to a combination of injuries—Pavel Datsyuk (back), Mike Commodore (knee) and Danny Cleary (upper-body something) and Jan Mursak (ankle, out till January-ish) are sidelined—and the fact that the Wings inexplicably cap off their pre-season slate with a three-games-in-three-nights grind.
No Brendan Smith (suspension), no Pavel Datsyuk (back), no Danny Cleary (???), no Mike Commodore (knee) and a Joe Louis Arena whose crowd consists of die-hard Red Wings fans who are willing to miss a Tigers-Yankees games and a raucous band of Maple Leaf fans who appear like pot fiends during a rock concert, trading soccer chants and sometimes out-cheering the two thirds majority of Wings fans, and a back-to-back slate of games on Fox Sports Detroit (tonight at 7:30 PM) and then Hockey Night in Canada (tomorrow at 7)...
It all adds up to, as far as I’m concerned, anyway, one of the best rivalries in sports, sadly constrained to the pre-season because the NHL split two of the league’s most historic and bitter rivals, perhaps despite another empty promise of a reunion. These may be pre-season games, but the Wings and Leafs wage a war both on the ice and in the stands (expect a drunken brawl or three and arrogance galore from the blue and white-wearing crowd that believes its’ already won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967) under an international media spotlight and amidst a plain old fantastic atmosphere as both teams pare down their rosters to prepare for the regular season in earnest
The rivalry continues tonight. who will be crowned king of the pre-season?
Watch the game to find out- VERSUS 8:30pm ET.
Paul for George.
George asked me to put up a live blog for him so here it is.
Play hard and stay healthy boys.
Chicago’s lineup will be sprinkled with prospects like Saad, Beach, Kruger, Smith, Pirri, Olsen, Hayes and Connolly. Veterans making the trip include Carcillo, Bickell, Frolik, Mayers, McLean, Stalberg, Leddy, Lespisto and Montador.
Some of the Wings taking the ice today are Lidstrom, Franzen, Helm, Abdelkader, Bertuzzi, Ericsson, Kindl, Zetterberg and Miller. (Khan has the full lineup)
The game is televised on FoxSports Detroit beginning at 5:00pm ET today.
As things slowly work their way back towards “normal” here at TMR, I’ve promised myself to, if you’ll pardon the comparison, “Don’t be Ellen,” as in “don’t get preachy about mental health or anything else, just do your damn job” (her TV sitcom “jumped the Shark” when she came out because its focus became singular, I’m not going to turn into a chapter of NAMI here—this is just a hockey blog)...
But given all the talk we’ve already heard and will continue to hear about fighting and the role of enforcers as it pertains to the trio of passings this past summer, I’m lost as to why we can’t just state the obvious about the issues obviously facing the NHL, NHLPA and NHL Alumni in terms of investing as much in improving their behavioral health programs, mental health care programs and alumni support as they do keeping their athletes in tip-top physical shape.
To be brief (for once, and perhaps only once):
Very sad news from DetroitRedWings.com’s John Hahn:
The Detroit Red Wings mourn the passing of their friend and honorary coach, Earl Cook. Earl was an amazing 23-year-old young man who was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma on January 25, 2007. His journey has seen him battle through numerous rounds of chemotherapy, 9 surgeries, and learning to live with one leg. He became friends with Head Coach Mike Babcock and the Red Wings players over the past several seasons, serving as an inspiration to the team and everyone who heard his story.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Earl and his family,” says Babcock. “Earl had an unbelievable spirit that allowed him to battle through a long list of challenges that most of us are fortunate to never know. He served as a fantastic role model for myself and our team. He may have passed today, but with the way he lived his life, he never allowed this disease to beat him.”
I met Earl once and shook his hand because he was one of my heroes.
While I was overwhelmed by the support so many of you offered when I stated my health issues in plain terms, I’m not expecting the same here, especially because it starts with a crappy simile:
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.