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Off-Season Questions For The Wings

from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

Here are three questions regarding the Red Wings:

Which players who spent all or most of this season in Grand Rapids will be on the Red Wings' roster in 2015-16?

Teemu Pulkkinen is out of options, so the Red Wings need to keep him on the NHL roster. He provides a dimension with his booming right-handed shot. He led the AHL with the 34 goals in just 46 games. He had only five goals in 31 games with Detroit but was starting to figure out how to create space for himself.

Landon Ferraro's hopes for an NHL career were resurrected after he earned a spot in the Red Wings' lineup for the playoffs. His skating ability and competitiveness will enable him to battle for a roster spot in training camp as a bottom-six forward.

Mantha had a disappointing first pro season with the Griffins and needs more AHL seasoning.

On defense, Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet are NHL-ready; there could be a roster spot for one of them at the start of next season (Marchenko has the inside track). If not, both are waiver-exempt for another season, as are Ryan Sproul and Nick Jensen.

read on for Stephen Weiss and perhaps a buyout and trading for Dion Phaneuf...

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On Blashill, revisiting the Phaneuf trade and outdoor hockey in Denver

It's not an "Overnight Report" as much as it's three stories, so:

1. The Detroit News's Gregg Krupa was also in Grand Rapids this past weekend, and he's penned a novella...erm, I mean article...about Grand Rapids Griffins coach Jeff Blashill, framing him as Mike Babcock's possible successor.

With Mike Babcock admittedly undecided as to whether he's going to return, and me taking Babcock at his word, that means Blashill has to be evaluated on his merits. His merits include a USHL championship, a Frozen Four berth, a Calder Cup, and if I may be blunt, a manner of coaching that is both remarkably similar to Mike Babcock's in its preparation, attention to detail, decisiveness and intensity, and at the same time, he's...

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On Anthony Mantha and three “veries”

Highly-heralded prospect suffers a broken leg during a prospect tournament, misses training camp, and "loses his game shape" while rehabbing his leg. Player begins season a month-and-a-half behind the games-played curve and far further behind the confidence curve. Struggles snowball, highly-heralded prospect has very mediocre rookie pro season, is OK in playoffs, but just OK.

Player was expected to dominate as goal-scorer but didn't. GM, coach say that player needs to "hit the gym," but aren't writing him off by any means. Team VP seems to ignore injury in saying player's campaign was disappointing, using "very" three times. Internet asplodes.

Pro Hockey Talk notes the issue. The Hockey News points out that it still ranked player as 6th-best NHL prospect. Some blogger goes to Grand Rapids, watches two games focusing on player, realizes that he's out of shape, that stick is probably five inches too long, that team chose to allow player to struggle at AHL level instead of demoting him to ECHL because prospect from shallowest Major Junior league is still benefiting from struggling as a big fish in a Great Lake.

If you weren't aware, Anthony Mantha actually spoke with the media and this random blogger yesterday, addressing his rookie struggles, Babcock and Holland's remarks about him and his goals going forward, and I thought his willingness to admit to and embrace his struggles as a professional were incredibly encouraging:

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Afternoon news: On the Babcock-Holland ride, Miller’s ‘numbers’ and Griffins-IceHogs stuff

Well, you can take this for what you will: the Free Press's Helene St. James spoke with Ken Holland regarding the substance of Sunday's post-Griffins win conversation as the pair crossed the state together (I hope it wasn't the white Mercedes SUV that hogged the damn road for fifteen miles...west of Lansing...jerk...):

"We talked about his situation, and now, we need a little time — I'm going to use the word 'stew' — to stew over what we talked about," Holland told the Free Press today. "Then, in a few days, we'll talk again. And eventually, that will lead to some decision. I don't have a handicap on the situation. We drove over and back, had a nice talk."

Holland said he would "give myself the month of May and hope it's concluded by then — or close to it." He leaves Saturday for the Czech Republic to catch the world championships.

St. James also reports that Babcock's looking for a $4+ million salary, which is a lot of pizzas, but that's to be expected.

Otherwise...

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Dylan Larkin faces stay-at-Michigan-or-turn-pro decision

I get to be something of an "old fart" when it comes to discussing whether college athletes should "turn pro" early. From a rational perspective, I look at Dylan Larkin, who won't even turn 19 until this July, and I think, "He's getting an education at one of the best universities in the country, he's still very young, there's no reason whatsoever for Larkin to surrender his college eligibility to start the pro journey early."

But things get muddy when I think about the times I watched Larkin absolutely light up his opposition at the NCAA level, and I see his poise playing as Team USA's second-line center, and I wonder--as both a Red Wings fan and someone who believes that a young player with pro prospects should play at the highest level they can, if not higher than they think they're able to play, to facilitate their development--if Larkin should indeed turn pro.

As the Hockey News's Ryan Kennedy suggests (via RedWingsFeed), Dylan Larkin, who you and I both know is gauging his pro readiness at the Worlds, has quite the decision to make:

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Griffins’ ‘Between the Benches’ playoff chronicles begin on a down note

The Griffins do a fantastic job of chronicling their team's adventures via the team's "Between the Benches" video series, and while the ending can be spoiled--the Griffins defeated Toronto 3-1 in Game 5, rallying from an 0-and-2 deficit to win the teams' five-game first-round series--the Griffins' first playoff installment of "Between the Benches" features nine-and-a-half minutes of footage regarding the Griffins' losses in Games 1 and 2:

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Larkin experiences ups and downs in Team USA win at Worlds

Team USA's game against Russia was supposed to be something of an acid test for the very, very young American team, but instead, the Americans rolled over Russia, winning 4-2, and while Dylan Larkin didn't register a point, he continued to look more than pro-ready.

He had some hiccups and finished at -2, but Larkin also played on the penalty-kill in the 3rd period, when Team USA was nursing a 3-1 lead, and Larkin held his own against the Kovalchuks and Malkins in 14:55 of ice time.

Larkin's going to have some rough outings as Team USA's second-line center, but he's looking calm, composed and very, very smooth at the highest level of play he's faced--and the Americans are 3-and-0 in group play thus far, which is pretty damn impressive as well.

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Mid-day news: (mostly) talking about the Griffins

Amongst this afternoon's Red Wings-related news stories:

MLive's Ansar Khan asks three "off-season questions" regarding the Red Wings, and two of them have to do with the team's coaching situation. If--and it's a big if--Mike Babcock leaves, Khan duly notes that the Wings have a very capable in-house replacement:

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Here are ‘the media’s’ takes on the Holland and Babcock pressers

The most interesting things I learned during Ken Holland and Mike Babcock's respective media availabilities on Sunday involved Holland's revelation that none of the Red Wings' defensive prospects have to clear waivers next year, which buys Detroit the time and ability to add one more veteran defenseman if they really do wish to find a second-pair offensive defenseman externally instead of "organically," and I learned that Babcock's very intrigued by the young U.S. team that's playing at the World Championships and not just Dylan Larkin, who both Babcock and Holland are going to watch when they head to Prague after Wednesday and Friday's Griffins games (and oh hey, Team USA plays Russia at 10:15 EDT on Monday on NBCSN).

I learned that the pair are also still high on Anthony Mantha's potential despite his mediocre rookie AHL season, and the fact that they both indicated that Mantha needs to "hit the gym," using the same parlance and almost the same damn sentences in suggesting as much, was an amusing little footnote given...let's say the rest of it.

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Prospect news: Griffins complete rally against Marlies; Wheaton’s Rockets to play for WHL title

The Grand Rapids Griffins made AHL history in becoming the 11th team to rally from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-5 series, defeating the Toronto Marlies 3-1 on Sunday night, and watching the Griffins absolutely disassemble Toronto was plain old delightful to watch.

As soon as Alden Hirschfeld snapped a 1-1 tie with a fluky goal just after the game's halfway mark, there was really no doubt which team was going to win the scrappy, penalty-filled affair, and I haven't seen or felt that kind of certainty in a playoff game since the Wings took out the Ducks two springs ago.

The Griffins will move on to play the Rockford IceHogs in the second round of the playoffs; the Marlies will return to Toronto having built up a 2-0 lead and having allowed the Griffins to rise off the mat and eliminate them.

The Griffins' website posited a recap...

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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.

 

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