The Malik Report
Updated with a take on the issue from SI’s Darren Eliot at 5:56 PM: Attention Red Wings fans: If you wish to vote your favorite Wings into the starting lineup of the NHL’s All-Star game, there’s good news: the NHL’s latest updates in their fan balloting place Nickals Lidstrom in fourth place among defensemen’s votes (about 115,000 short of Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson) and Jimmy Howard in eighth place among goaltenders, way up from where he was prior to WRIF’s Meltdown’s campaign [edit: following those started by Winging it in Motown and Nightmare on Helm Street /end edit] to rock the Howard vote. Keep the votes coming!
Update: SI’s Darren Eliot talked about Howard’s status as a ballot snub this afternoon:
Still, while far be it for me to say that any of the goaltending brethren don’t belong on the ballot, Jimmy Howard’s exclusion raises the debate. I mean, Howard leads the NHL in wins, ranks second in goalsagainst and has been the most consistent of all starters thus far. And unlike Brian Elliott and his otherworldly season to date, this is Howard’s third consecutive season posting big numbers for Detroit. In St. Louis, the thought was that Elliott, hopefully, could back up Jaroslav Halak who, by the way, is on the All-Star ballot. Which is kind of the point. Nothing against Halak, but he isn’t even the top performer on his team. His last two seasons as a starter didn’t yield 30 wins, or playoff appearances. Meanwhile, Howard has two-straight 37-win campaigns on which he is building.
Updated 9x with tons of Wings game-day commentary and some Griffins injury updates at 2:23 PM: The Detroit Red Wings face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight (7:00 PM EST—not 7:30, sorry—FSD/WXYT/ROOT), the WIngs find themselves in a slightly strange position, having hoped to get back to .500 on the road by tangling with a Penguins team at full strength, and that’s what they discussed with MLive’s Ansar Khan yesterday afternoon, but they also readily admitted that the injury-plagued Penguins (no Zbynek Michalek, no Kris Letang, no Crosby, no Ben Lovejoy, no no Richard Park, etc.) provide an opportunity to kick a bitter rival while they’re down:
“Obviously, we’d like Sid to be playing. As a league, you want him to be playing,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “When you’re playing another team, you want their best goalie, you want their best players. You want to find out if you’re any good or not. In saying that, you also want points.”
With or without Crosby, the Wings know that Dan Bylsma always has his Penguins in a row…
“They have great structure,” Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “The coach (Grand Haven native Dan Bylsma) has done a great job making sure everyone is on the same page. They don’t live or die with one guy. Last year when you look at what they did, it’s pretty remarkable, being able to play that well without (Crosby and Malkin for much of the season). Guys like (Jordan) Staal (who’s questionable with a lower-body injury), (Chris) Kunitz and (Tyler) Kennedy really stepped it up, reached another level.”
The Detroit Red Wings begin a stretch of six games—and five on the road—over the course of ten nights tonight in Pittsburgh (7:30 PM EST, FSD/WXYT/Root) knowing that they won’t face one Sidney Crosby. The Red Wings repeatedly stated on Monday that they would much rather face a Penguins team with Crosby in the lineup, but as the Wings also pointed out, given their 6-and-7 road record and the fact that the 2011 portion of their schedule will conclude with a total of eight road games and three home games, the team plans on righting itself away from Joe Louis Arena while attempting to earn a win over a still-hated rival this evening.
If you feel like reading the Penguins’ website’s Crosby news, a pair of columns from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, one from the Post-Gazette or two columns which paint Crosby’s lingering concussion problems as a sort of international hockey tragedy and/or tragic passion play involving the game’s savior, rock on with your bad self. All I’ll say about Crosby is this: as someone who’s suffered from a concussion and half a year’s worth of post-concussion syndrome myself, I actually hope that he recovers and I really do hope that I dislike the guy for being a very good player instead of somebody still sidelined by something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, #87 included.
Red Wings player mentor and USA Hockey legend Chris Chelios joined the ranks of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame (at a ceremony held in Chicago) on Monday night, and he did so in classic Chelios fashion—with equal amounts of genuine and incredible humility and an almost gleeful willingness to admit that his unbridled passion for the game included a viciously competitive nature which led him to almost asphyxiate one of his fellow inductees. Here’s the gist of his induction speech, via the Associated Press...
“I’ve been surrounded by great players my whole career,” Chelios said during the induction ceremony Monday night. “But the most enjoyment I ever had was seeing the enjoyment of my friends and family when I played. I hope I entertained you,” Chelios said. “I couldn’t skate any more. I had to hang ‘em up.”
Chelios was one of five American hockey notables inducted Monday. He was joined by fellow defenseman Gary Suter, with whom he played at the University of Wisconsin and with the Chicago Blackhawks, forward Keith Tkachuk, Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider and broadcaster Mike Emrick. Chelios, a three-time Norris Trophy winner who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park, said his greatest moment in the game, aside from winning the Stanley Cup for the first of three times, was taking the ice to play for the gold medal in the 1992 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“You wanted to win the gold medal, but there was no disappointment (when Canada won),” Chelios said. “It was the best hockey I’ve ever been involved in.”
When Tkachuk once tangled with Chelios as an enemy of the Chicago Blackhawks, however, well…Here’s what Tkachuk told NHL.com’s Brian Hedger:
You know how, every once in a while, someone makes an incredibly astute observation and then chooses to continue speaking, sticking his or her foot in their mouth in the process? Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andy Sutton, who just happens to find himself suspended for eight games, told the Edmonton Sun’s Derek Van Diest that he feels players must be allowed to appeal their suspensions, lest NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan turns into the same sort of wheel-of-justice-spinning totalitarian as his predecessor, Colin Campbell…
“There absolutely should be (an appeal process),” Sutton said. “My only course of action is that I can appeal to Gary Bettman. That’s not going to change anything. Going forward in the new CBA we have to make strides in that regard. We should have an impartial arbitration committee that’s going to take a look at this have my people on my side, have the NHL on their side and have an independent party that’s going to make these decisions. It’s not just one guy making all these decisions.”
Sutton was allowed to state his case on both occasions with Shanahan. The first time he travelled to New York to meet in person. In regards to the Ponikarovsky hit, Sutton spoke his piece over the phone. Had Sutton believed he could have swayed Shanahan’s opinion, the six-foot-six, 245-pound defenceman would have probably made the trip. However, he’s in a growing group of people around the game that is frustrated with the process.
“It’s a big hot-button issue for the NHLPA going into the next negotiation, it has to be,” Sutton said. “You can’t have it set up when it’s just Shanahan’s decision and then your only course of action is to go to his boss [Gary Bettman—George’s note], who has never played a game of hockey in his life. How is that a good setup? It’s not. It’s a flawed process, and it needs to be changed. You can’t just go around taking people’s money.”
That being said, Sutton doesn’t seem to be all that remorseful about the hits which led to his suspensions, and instead, he’s tossing out the, “It’s the player I hit who’s at fault if he doesn’t keep his head up” theory:
Updated 4x at 7:10 PM: The Detroit Red Wings boarded Red Bird III to fly to Pittsburgh and begin a brutal stretch of six games over the course of ten nights by playing the hated Pittsburgh Penguins knowing that they would not face off against the NHL’s most famous player dealing with concussion issues, and, as Jimmy Howard told MLive’s Ansar Khan, the Wings would much rather defeat the Penguins with Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal in their lineup:
“You want him playing,’’ Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “He’s one of the best in the game. He’s great for our sport. It hurts us when he’s not playing. With that being said, they’re still dangerous. (James) Neal is playing real well as is (Evgeni) Malkin.’‘
The Penguins beat the Red Wings twice last season without Crosby, 4-1 in Pittsburgh on Jan. 18 and 5-4 in a shootout in Detroit on March 21. The last time the Red Wings beat Pittsburgh also was the last time they faced Crosby, in a 3-1 win at Joe Louis Arena on March 22, 2010. That’s the game that ended in a scuffle behind the Detroit net. Crosby started slashing Henrik Zetterberg as time expired. Howard too exception and roughed it up with him, giving Crosby quite the face wash.
“That was so two years ago,’’ Howard said, laughing.
Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom and coach Mike Babcock seconded Howard’s remarks while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
Chris Chelios spent just over a third of his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings, but Wings GM Ken Holland tells DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose that the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee’s contributions to the Wings during his decade-long tenure and two Stanley Cups with the organization exceeded their expectations for the man they acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in 1999 by several orders of magnitude:
“We knew we had him for that playoff run and three additional years,” Holland said. “Realistically, we thought that would be the time-frame for his career. I thought if we had him for four playoffs that would take him to 40-years of age, and that would be more than enough. But we never thought he would be here for 10 years.”
In all, Chelios played 27 NHL seasons, won the Norris Trophy three times and finished second twice, including 2002 when he lead the league with a plus-40 rating and was runner-up to Lidstrom.
“Cheli is a guy that when he’s on your team you and your fans love him, and when he’s on the other team you don’t like him,” Holland said. “And obviously once we got him on our team we loved him. He’s a warrior, he’s a competitor, he’s a team player, he’s a physical fitness nut and he’s a work horse, and he’s mentally strong, really strong. And when he got here, he was an old pro. He knew how to conserve energy. He was running around and didn’t try to go end-to-end. He conserved energy, and a real good player.”
It is widely assumed that the un-named second victim to which Graham James pled guilty to sexually assaulting was former Red Wings forward Sheldon Kennedy, and the Associated Press’s Kimberly Hefling (via the Detroit News) reports that Kennedy, who faced his own demons and substance abuse issues which derailed his NHL career, will testify before the U.S. legislature regarding the sexual abuse of children in sports programs. It’s an awful thing to report but there is one thing worse than talking about this horrific issue—not talking about it:
A former National Hockey League player who rocked the Canadian sports world with sexual abuse accusations against a former coach is the marque witness at a congressional hearing Tuesday examining such abuse in the wake of the Penn State scandal. The story of Sheldon Kennedy, whose NHL career began in 1989 with the Detroit Red Wings, was back in the news last week after his former coach in junior hockey pleaded guilty to sexual assaults involving two other former players, including NHL star Theoren Fleury. The coach, Graham James, already served more than three years in prison for abusing other players he coached, including Kennedy. James was quietly pardoned for his crimes in 2007, leading to public outcry.
The junior hockey system Kennedy played in is a prime steppingstone to the NHL. Many players between the ages 16 of 20 live far away from home with local host families, known as billets. Junior coaches hold strong sway over their lives and futures in the sport. Kennedy has said he didn’t tell his teammates about the abuse for fear they would conclude he was gay. He has said he was afraid to tell his mother about the abuse for fear she would pull him off his team.
Kennedy is expected to discuss the effects of abuse and what it’s like to be in an organization that didn’t do enough to protect teens. Kennedy, who later co-founded an advocacy group, has said previously that when there’s a crisis like the one at Penn State, it creates a platform for change, and he’s hopeful positive changes can be made as awareness is increased.
Continued, and kudos to Kennedy for continuing to relentlessly advocate for a very worthy cause.
The Red Wings received a welcome Sunday off after their 7-1 victory over Winnipeg on Saturday, and today, they’ll practice, fly to Pittsburgh and prepare for what might be the most brutal stretch of their schedule: the Wings will play six games over the course of ten pre-Christmas days, facing the Penguins in Pittsburgh (and no, neither the Penguins nor Wings know the status of #87 at present), the Predators in Nashville and then stopping at home to refuel Red Bird III, host the Los Angeles Kings next Saturday and almost immediately head to Western Canada to play a three-games-in-four-nights slate against the Oilers, Canucks and Flames.
Put unpleasantly bluntly, the Wings have to brace for some serious-ass wear and tear while hoping to both gain ground in the tightly-packed Western Conference and hopefully not get too banged-up along the way. They’ll have four more games (two on the road and two at home) to close out the last week of December, too, so in the larger scheme of things, we’re really talking about 10 games over the course of 19 nights (including a three-day break around Christmas), all starting on Tuesday.
Somewhat paradoxically, as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan notes, the Wings can prepare for their nasty road grind knowing that they’ve made hay at home, reversing a tremendously shaky 2010-2011 record at Joe Louis Arena:
Red Wings player mentor (and the best-ever U.S. hockey player?) Chris Chelios visited his former employer, the Chicago Blackhawks, prior to his induction into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame tonight, and he received a feting that almost left him uncomfortable some twelve-and-a-half years after he agreed to be traded away from his hometown team. As Chelios told the Chicago Daily Herald’s Tim Sassone, the fact that he was cheered for the first time at the United Center made him feel a little conflicted given that the Hawks’ faithful booed him when, with his family in tow, the Hawks honored his career a season ago:
“Does it bother me? Absolutely, but I understand it,” Chelios said. “I swore I’d never play for (Detroit) and things changed overnight. They’re going to forgive me for that someday, they’ve got to. I played for the USA in other buildings during these World Cups and Canada Cups and Boston hated me, Philly, but when I’d go there with the USA jersey they all cheered for me, so they’ve got to forgive me here sooner or later.”
Chelios saw the direction the Hawks were heading in 1999, and what followed his departure was some of the worst years in franchise history. While some fans are quick to blame Chelios for contributing to that, they forget that late owner Bill Wirtz and former senior vice president and general manager Bob Pulford traded away Jeremy Roenick and Ed Belfour and allowed other top players such as Joe Murphy, Bernie Nicholls and Suter to leave.
“It started with Jeremy [Roenick] and Eddie [Belfour] leaving,” Chelios said. “I fell into that situation where the Hawks decided to bring (Doug) Gilmour and (Paul) Coffey in and it didn’t work. They were going to go with the young guys and it was just time for me to move on. Everybody was leaving and it was a transition stage.”
Chelios continued while speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Adam L. Jahns...
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