The Malik Report
Today's schedule of Red Wings-related events goes as follows:
At 9:45 AM EDT, Jakub Kindl's Czechs will battle Denmark at the World Championships;
At 1:45 PM EDT, Tomas Tatar's Slovaks will play Italy in Minsk (no TV for either game but they can be...found);
And at 4 PM EDT, Tyler Bertuzzi and the Guelph Storm will battle the Edmonton Oil Kings at the Memorial Cup (on Sportsnet and the NHL Network).
I'd argue that Friday involved far too much discussion of Mike Babcock's future as it relates to a certain team in Pittsburgh, and it turns out that Babcock was in London, ON on Friday to watch Anthony Mantha score the only goal the Val-d'Or Foreurs needed to defeat the London Knights in the Memorial Cup's opening game, but he wasn't in the mood to talk...
And Fox Sports Detroit's Art Regner believes that the Red Wings, and Babcock, need to let the Pittsburghs, Torontos, and the players of a youthful Red Wings team what's going to happen regarding any possible extension or exit as Regner believes that the team's relative youth might yield a performance-dropping distraction:
Red Wings playoff prospect news: Griffins on the ropes; Mantha helps Val-d’Or win first Mem Cup game
Updated substantially at 2:27 AM: Posting this and will flesh it out with recaps shortly:
In the AHL, the Grand Rapids Griffins are on the ropes now, facinga 3-games-to-2 deficit and possible elimination from their attempts to "Defend the Cup" thanks to a 3-2 OT loss to the Texas Stars. The Griffins had to rally from a 2-0 deficit in the goals department, and they out-shot Texas 40-29, but lost early in OT.
The Griffins will have to win Games 6 and 7 on Sunday and Monday in Austin, Texas to advance.
And at the Memorial Cup, Anthony Mantha scored the only goal the Val-d'Or Foreurs needed to open the tournament with a 1-0 win over the host London Knights.
Val-d'Or won't play again until Monday's match-up with Tyler Bertuzzi's Guelph Storm on Monday, giving the team two days ot recover from their seven-game QMJHL championship series; Bertuzzi's storm will take to the ice tomorrow to battle the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Update: Regarding the Griffins, I'm gonna be honest: I don't know whether Grand Rapids can match the Stars. When Bob Kaser suggested that the Stars might be the best team in the AHL left in the playoffs, I didn't think he was wrong, and even though Jordin Tootoo, Landon Ferraro and Tomas Jurco returned for Friday's 3-2 OT loss, I have this unnerving feeling that the team's missing Adam Almquist and Alexey Marchenko's puck-moving skills on the blueline to the point that the Griffins can't answer the Stars' lightning-fast transition game.
The Griffins must, must, must shut the Stars down on Sunday and Monday if they are to advance, and they need some help from their third and fourth lines in the scoring department, but the unsaid statement needs to be made, too: Petr Mrazek's got to be better. He's let some goals go by him on the rush that have to stay out.
Anyway, the Griffins' website posted a recap...
Tonight at 7 PM EDT, the Grand Rapids Griffins will attempt to break their 2-games-to-2 deadlock with the Texas Stars at Van Andel Arena (on WOOD Radio and the AHL Live; box score will be available here) and Anthony Mantha's Val-d'Or Foreurs will open the Memorial Cup by battling the host London Knights at the same time (on Sportsnet and the NHL Network U.S., though some of us receive neither network; it'll be streamed online for a fee; box score likely to be available here).
If you wish to weigh in on one or both of the games taking place tonight, here's an open post to suit your needs.
Regarding the Griffins game, Fox 17's Steve Amorose provides lineup news...
And here are some of the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner's "10 storylines to watch" regarding the Griffins game:
Update: Sorry about posting "Tatar's Czechs." Was probably thinking about the Saturday Night Live Czechoslovakian Brothers sketch or Vaclav Havel and the Velvet Divorce (better writer than politician).
Gustav Nyquist scored the game's first goal and should've had an assist on Sweden's third marker as the Swedes defeated Tomas Tatar's Slovaks 3-1 (Tatar had an assist on the Slovaks' goal, too).
Sweden dominated the first half of the game, and then the Slovaks built upon successive power play opportunities to give the Swedes a run for their money. Anders Nilsson was strong in goal, however, and was one of the main reasons Sweden prevailed...
Though Jaroslav Janus was far, far better than Jan Laco in the Slovak crease, giving coach Vladimir Vujtek's team sound netminding for the first time in the tournament.
Just as I went with some "good news and bad news" regarding Team USA's 3-2 OT win over Kazakhstan, here's good news and bad news regarding Nyquist and Tatar, as well as their teams as a whole:
Hockey's Future paid the Red Wings quite the compliment today. HF has been revealing its rankings of each and every one of the NHL's 30 teams' prospect pools. Today, they revealed their list of the league's top 10 teams, and while they gave the Buffalo Sabres the top nod, the Wings didn't finish far behind:
3. (9) Detroit Red Wings
Strengths: The Detroit Red Wings continue to have an excellent development strategy for their prospect group. Their patient approach paid dividends this year, as numerous prospects contributed to the NHL club, including forwards Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan. The Wings are particularly strong at forward, with a mix of players who bring high-end skill and good hockey sense. Despite several graduations this year, the defensive group is still a very solid mix of good all-around talent and depth.
Weaknesses: Outside of Anthony Mantha, the Wings do not have a particularly big group at forward. There is little goaltending depth behind Petr Mrazek.
Top 5 Prospects: 1. Anthony Mantha, RW; 2. Petr Mrazek, G; 3. Tomas Jurco, LW; 4. Riley Sheahan, C; 5. Xavier Ouellet, D.
Key Additions: Colin Campbell (free agent).
Key Losses: Gustav Nyqvist (graduation), Tomas Tatar (graduation), Brian Lashoff (graduation), Dan DeKeyser (graduation), Calle Jarnkrok (trade-NAS).
I've got some good news and some bad news about Team USA's World Championship team.
The good news is that the Americans assuaged their 6-5 loss to Latvia, defeating Kazakhstan 3-2 in overtime today. The Americans now get a day off to prepare to play Finland on Sunday. The good news also involves Danny DeKeyser having an assist on the game-winning goal, Justin Abdelkader playing very well, DeKeyser earning oodles of ice time in a 3rd period shut-down role, and Tim Thomas looking like less of a trainwreck than usual.
The bad news involves the bottom line: Team USA's management picked a team that's very young, very mediocre in goal and marginally coached by Peter Laviolette, and as such, Justin Abdelkader's status as a cat-herding captain (who's going to the front of the net and staying there, like he should all the time as a WIng) will probably come to a close during the World Championship's quarterfinals next Thursday.
Given what's about to come out of Pittsburgh, ESPN's Craig Custance's sound and even-handed Insider-only entry discussed in the mid-day report, and especially given what Mark Madden had to say this morning, these Tweets from Yahoo Sports' Nicholas J. Cotsonika are now probably the most reasonable and logical assessments of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's future that you're going to read until...Well, until Babcock either signs a contract extension over the next calendar year, or he doesn't:
To be clear: Mike Babcock has one year left on his contract, and there is zero reason to think he is going anywhere right now. (1)
Fact: The Red Wings will sit down with Babcock at some point in the near future to discuss an extension. (2)
Opinion: I think Babcock will play out the last season of his contract and assess his options this time next year. (3)
Opinion: Babcock likes Detroit. He works fine with Holland. But he knows he will have great options. Why not leave options open? (4)
Last point. Fact: You cannot trade an NHL coach. (5)
OK, one more. Opinion: If Babcock leaves next year, he's going to go a team he thinks can win the Stanley Cup. Doesn't need $ or rebuild.
No, I don't think Babcock will coach at Michigan -- and I'm a U-M alum. He's going to make more than $2M coaching a Cup contender.
Update: Here's the non-insider version of Custance's reasoned take:
As I write this, Team USA's tied 3-3 with Kazakhstan in the 3rd period, Penguins GM ray Shero's being fired (the next couple of months should involve even more Babcock-to-Pit rumors), Sweden will play Slovakia at 1:45 PM EDT, and both Game 5 of the Griffins-Stars series and the Val-d'Or Foreurs-London Knights game begin at 7PM EDT (on WOOD Radio and AHL Live for the Griffins, Sportsnet and the NHL Network for the Memorial Cup).
The Val-d'Or Foreurs' morning skate's over...
This is the only news from the Griffins' morning skate thus far (no updates regarding the statuses of Jurco, Tootoo or Ferraro)...
I'm no fan of the, "The grass has to be greener for Mike Babcock elsehwere, I mean, it's DETROIT" theory (see also: what every Michigander hears about the burned-out heart of their crappy state--it's downright meme-tastic), and I'm even less enthused about Pittsburgh radio host Mark Madden's suggestion that the Penguins can "force" the Red Wings to surrender Mike Babcock to them, as he suggests in the Beaver County Times:
If Detroit won’t release Babcock, the Penguins should sign current assistant Jacques Martin to a one-year contract, thus making it clear that Babcock takes over in 2015-16. Babcock refuses to sign an extension with Detroit. He becomes a lame duck. Babcock has already said he’s in no hurry to do a new deal.
That paints Detroit into a corner. Babcock gets released.
It’s a dirty game. But the Penguins need to play it.
[sarcasm] Yes, because the Red Wings' ownership would totally be like, "Sure, why not, here you go, Pittsburgh." Because he's totally told the media, half a dozen times, that he likes it in Detroit, that he likes the ownership, the roster, the working conditions, the general manager, the region, and like the media keeps telling us, he is in fact lying through his teeth, pining to coach Dear Sid if that whole Toronto thing doesn't work out. Right. [/sarcasm]
I get that the Babcock rumors are going to come fast and furious until he either re-signs with the team or doesn't sign with the team over the next calendar year, but as I said in the overnight report, he's not some sort of magical coaching free agent (the ownership doesn't have to make him available to speak with anyone if they don't wish to do so), and both he and Ken Holland have stated that they plan on speaking with each other regarding an extension during the offseason.
Anyway, Madden continues...
If you're a Red Wings fan, this is a good weekend in terms of hockey entertainment. If Game 7 between the Ducks and Kings this evening (9 PM EDT on NBCSN), the start of the Rangers-Habs series on Saturday (1 PM on NBC and the CBC) or Game 1 of the Western Conference Final (Chicago vs. ???) on Sunday don't interest you...
1. The World Championships' Friday-and-weekend-games include Justin Abdelkader, Danny DeKeyser and Team USA playing Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan at 9:45 AM EDT (on NBCSN), as well as Tomas Tatar and Slovakia battling Sweden at 1:45 PM (via alternate means). Jakub Kindl's Czechs and Tatar's Slovaks also play on Saturday, and the Americans, Swedes and Czechs play games on Sunday, too.
The round robin portion of the tournament will wrap up on Tuesday, with the playoff rounds taking place from Wednesday the 21st until Sunday the 25th,
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.