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A dissenting opinion

Last night, I plainly stated my belief that Mike Babcock's sharply-worded criticism of his team was not only necessary, but also long overdue. I'm getting incredibly tired of the, "Waive everyone, bring up ALL the Griffins" (the Wings have gotten pretty close there) "and fire Babcock, he's the problem!" talk.

The coaching staff consists of more than one man, and watching the Wings' Game-Day Preview after the Wings' loss reminded me that associate coach Tom Renney and assistant coach Bill Peters often share the ice with video coach Keith McKittrick and goalie coach Jim Bedard.

Just as the management is more than "Ken Holland"--Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill, capologist Ryan Martin, manager-in-training Kris Draper, Mark Howe's pro scouting staff (which includes Kirk Maltby), the team's amateur scouts, player mentors like Chris Chelios and Chris Osgood and director of player development Jiri Fischer--so there are more than two people coaching and managing this team.

Just as importantly, while you and I may not agree with their decisions, the men in charge of this team's coaching and management are trying to win, not trying to specifically piss you off or drive players out of town. Suggestions to the contrary simply don't hold water over the long haul. Coaches and management want their players to succeed, and while we have every right to criticize their decision-making processes, this concept that coaches and management only exist as adversaries of their own personnel isn't accurate.

And as for this poor guy wearing #13, who's supposedly being "driven out of town?"

Yes, we know that Pavel Datsyuk has suggested that he may finish his career in Russia. Yes, we know that he's got strong patriotic leanings, to the point that the Wings have somewhat reluctantly agreed to allow him to play for the Russian national team at the World Championships while injured, and have done so repeatedly. Yes, we know that his daughter's attending school in Yekaterinburg, which is never a good sign.

But Datsyuk HAS been vocal after wins AND losses, and in case anybody forgot, here's what he told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose about the supposed slug playing on his line:

Pavel Datsyuk’s English isn’t always easy to understand. But the Russian star perfectly described what Justin Abdelkader meant to the Red Wings in the first half of the season, which ended with Thursday’s 3-0 win over Edmonton.

“He goes through and gets the puck to me or goes back in front of the net and fights for every puck,” Datsyuk said, Friday afternoon. “Some people only measure him if he scores. But if you see him … he does a lot of hard jobs.”

Abdelkader was finally rewarded for his hard work when he scored his first goal of the season Thursday at Joe Louis Arena, which snapped a 41-game scoring drought.

Using an analogy to sum up Abdelkader’s contribution to the top six forwards this season, Datsyuk said, “It’s like somebody needs to pull the piano and somebody needs to play the piano. This is a guy who pulls the piano.”

I don't like the Abdelkader-Datsyuk-Cleary line combination--which became an Abdelkader-Datsyuk-Franzen line last night--but Datsyuk's not exactly skating into puck battles at half speed, shrugging his shoulders and going back to the bench having given a quarter of his usual effort...

And he's not alone in the, "Top six-to-nine forwards gone completely silent over the past 10-12 games" department. Datsyuk has been able to succeed at the NHL level regardless of his linemates, as has Henrik Zetterberg, and they tend to receive leeway in terms of scoring slumps, but brass tacks are brass tacks, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan penned this before last night's game:

Pavel Datsyuk has gone 10 games without a goal. It’s a lengthy streak, but interestingly, Datsyuk has gone through more droughts that have been much longer.

Datsyuk’s longest stretch without a goal is 21 games, from Nov. 5 2002 to Jan. 28, 2003 (he missed 18 games in between due to injury). In all, Datsyuk has had 11 droughts of at least 10 games in his career.

It's 11 games now, and Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Damien Brunner, Johan Franzen, yes, Danny Cleary and Justin Abdelkader, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard and the rest of the Red Wings' players need to step up.

This isn't a case of the Wings' coaches being the sole reason that its players can't or won't succeed. The Red Wings' players aren't rowing the boat, and a significant chunk of blame for this team rowing in circles has to lie with the players.

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CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 03/14/13 at 07:04 PM ET

The LA Kings sucked for years and drafted Brown, Kopitar, Bernier, Doughty.

Quick was a second or third rounder.

I’m sorry the facts get in the way of your anti-draft tirade. If not through the draft, then how else do you get the talent? FA can get you one, maybe two players because of the cap (Not that KH or Babs could actually get a free agent to sign in Detroit anymore). Trades? I suppose it worked for Boston, but the B’s are the exception. The Pens, Hawks and Kings have all built from suckage that permitted them access to talent available high in the first round.

The Flames and Oilers don’t prove that the draft doesn’t work. They prove that you need good ownership and a first-rate front office that can capitalize on early first round pics when they become available


Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 03/14/13 at 07:13 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

I totally agree with George.

And I might be stoned…

Should have stopped right there, alukacs.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 03/14/13 at 07:33 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Posted by alukacs on 03/14/13 at 06:16 PM ET

I can appreciate that outlook.  If you’re going to get stoned for that, at least share some. I’ll bring the Oreos Locos Tacos.

I suppose it worked for Boston, but the B’s are the exception.

I’d rather be the other exception and do what the Bruins did.  Of course, it helps a bunch that they sold a highly-touted guy and lucked into a top pick with Seguin. 

It’s harder to do it without sucking enough to get lottery picks, but I’d much rather the team do that.  However, I’m also really worried about missing and falling into the Calgary model of frustrating mediocrity in the face of a much-needed rebuild.

I don’t want the Wings to abandon the “reload” attempt yet and I’m probably not going to want them to do that this season, but I would like to see them actually trying out those future core assets with more responsibility.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/14/13 at 07:39 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

HTO, Sorry for the misunderestanding.

KH should have kept his word that he was going to retire when No. 5 retired. I’ve been bitching about Babs since he arrived. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Ducks won the Cup after he left. Babs is a 21st century Barry Melrose. The only difference is Babs team won the final. But they both took a team someone else assembled to the finals. After that, when given more contol, they both lost their respective locker rooms.

If anyone in the Ilitch family was actually paying attention and gave a shat, Babs would have been canned after the second game in which he demoted Pavs to the third line between 8 and 11. Nobody in the Billions of people on this planet, except Babs, thinks 8-13-12 is a good idea. Babs has all the hard-nosed stubborness of Scotty, but next to none of the hockey intelligenc or psychological accumen that Scotty possessed in spades.

I think the exit interviews of the players after this season should be conducted by members of the Ilitch family and not by KH or Babs. I would love to be a fly on the wall for those interviews with the players able to speak freely about how the club is being run. Someone wrote today that all the Ilitches care about now is the Tigers. Sad but true.

I know the Wings do not have one of the top four teams in terms of talent. But that doesn’t excuse Babs from criminally mismanaging the talent he does have. Holland has lost it. His judgment seems to be clouded by something. It really has all gone south for him since he chose to sign the one-season-wonder he drafted over the proven free agent he brought in as a mercenary. See where loyalty gets you?

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 03/14/13 at 07:54 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

8-13-11. damn typos

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 03/14/13 at 07:56 PM ET

alukacs's avatar

HockeytownOverhaul - just googled a little about the Richards/Carter trades to see how suckage was involved there. To land those two players, the Kings gave up the following:

Simmonds (2nd rounder)
2nd round pick
Schenn ((1st round - 5th overall pick)
Jack Johnson (1st round - 3rd overall - not drafted by LA)
conditional 1st round pick

So you might need to have high picks/prospects…

Posted by alukacs on 03/15/13 at 12:48 AM ET

alukacs's avatar

And again - let’s not praise Chicago all that much. They have a double first round exit resume since the cup…

Posted by alukacs on 03/15/13 at 12:49 AM ET

perfection's avatar

I essentially agree with you George.

a lot of you seem to just ignore the fact that the team went ALL OUT for Suter and Parise. That was the big plan. That was the big move. That was why they didn’t make inflated moves at the deadline or on July 1st the last couple years. They were saving that cap space for Suter (and Parise was a bonus). The problem is that it obviously didn’t work. But can you blame that on management? They HAD to go for it. They came down to the wire, gave it their all, but came up short because Parise and Suter wanted to play in their home state. but the fact they were in the position to go after them was due to stellar management.

but the fact is it didn’t work and that hurt us bad. We’d be a different team with BOTH the top-2 dman AND top 6 forward everyone wants so badly. They ARE hard to get, especially fairly. But I still say our team has OVERACHIEVED this season. We essentially lost Lids, Stuie, Homer, Suter AND Parise, lost some of the most man-games to injury and STILL are competing for a playoff spot. We are struggling currently, but if we do make the playoffs, this season will be a success in large part to Babs’ coaching. (and if we don’t make the playoffs, while it would definitely be sad to see the streak end, it would be kind of Red Wing style to do it in a shortened season - to spare us some of the misery - AND in the first year all non-playoff teams are eligible for the first overall pick lotto. That would be kind of exciting at least.)

I totally get why everyone has such high expectations, but I also think there was little to be done after the Suter/Parise gamble didn’t work. Holland actually did pretty good snagging Brunner and Quincey (who’s come around of late it seems) as plan-b’s. But I think it’s fair to say that next time we see big name UFA’s, Holland will be putting the Wings’ best foot forward. Hopefully it works next time.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 03/15/13 at 02:23 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Whatever your opinion is of which individual actors may be responsible, the plain fact of the matter is that what the organization as a whole is doing, it isn’t working. And it hasn’t been working for a while.

It’s no more complicated than that.

Fairly major changes need to be made. The culture of mediocrity that has crept into being over the course of the last few seasons has to be reversed.

Well, I mean, I guess it doesn’t HAVE to be reversed, but it certainly does if this team wants to start competing for Cups again. Because right now they aren’t even close. It’s not a matter of making tweaks or minor moves.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 03/14/13 at 01:28 PM ET


Alright, since HIHD hasn’t come back, I actually feel a crazy need to defend some of what he was saying. His tact is pretty rude, but honestly, I think most of his points were fair.

The most important point he makes that the big-time complainers are ignoring is the point about THIS IS THE “NEW” NHL. It was pretty remarkable that KH and Co. kept the standard so high all the way up until Lockout Part 2. Every other team had to make significant changes after Lockout Part 1, and weren’t able to sustain a high level of success right through to Lockout Part 2.

I don’t like it. This new setup is obnoxious. I’m even past the point of caring about the cap, specifically. But this is how it works now. You have to take your licks. Every team has good scouting in Europe and in U.S. college hockey. Fedorovs and Lidstroms and Konstantinovs are now #1 picks. Datsyuks and Zetterbergs are now 2nd round picks as “small skill guys with upside.” Even Holmstroms are now fliers in the 3rd or 4th round. Look no further than Brunner—everyone knows about these guys, too. Everyone knows about Dan DeKeyser. These markets are tapped. You can’t expect to sustain success by finding a new Pav and Z every seven years.

So, you have to suck to be good again. It is what it is. And before anyone gets pissy about having not had #1 picks, for so long, and why the hell did KH make those trades… if he hadn’t made trades in most of those years, you’d all have been in the streets burning effigies of the man for not going for the Cup.

I’m not completely excusing KH. There are problems here. There have been bad trades and suspect signings. But the man dominated pre-lockout, and he’s dominated post-lockout (#1 anyways). This is new territory for him, to have to truly look at selling significant pieces and do a moderate rebuild. From his immense success, I think he deserves at least through the end of next season to show if he can adapt and continue to be the best in the league at what he does. And if this team drags ass, brings in another reclamation project or two on the UFA market, and continues to act like this club is a Cup contender when it very clearly isn’t? I will be the first to say that KH is out of his element, he hasn’t shown he has what it takes to adjust to a rebuild in the current NHL, and it’s time to move on. Short of Kenny not seeing the writing on the wall that this team is multiple significant pieces away from being a contender again, the man deserves some time to show what he can do in this new situation.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 03/15/13 at 08:13 AM ET

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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.