The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/14/13 at 01:57 PM ET
The Red Wings have re-signed Drew Miller and want to re-sign at least one of Daniel Cleary and/or Damien Brunner. As such, tthe Wings may very well go into training camp and the exhibition season with more than 14 forwards and 23 players (with Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson will all lead what the Wings hope will eventually be a slate of graduates from the Griffins' roster as full-time Wings).
The Free Press's Helene St. James duly notes that the Wings have their reasons for not just possibly but also probably heading into training camp with a glut of forwards (regardless of whether the team decides to buy out Mikael Samuelsson)...
Miller puts the Wings at 12 forwards under contract for the coming season, a number that will grow by two when restricted free agent forwards Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson are signed. Miller was one of four forwards headed toward UFA status, and the Wings very much want to sign two of the three left: Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner. Valtteri Filppula is expected to sign elsewhere for more money.
It's not uncommon for teams to have excess players on rosters during the off-season — and even coming into training camp. As it stands right now, the Wings don't know whether Darren Helm will be back — a back injury dating to January has confounded treatment. Mikael Samuelsson is still dealing with a pectoral injury, one of many he had last season. And then there's Cory Emmerton, who is under contract but who is a bubble player because of the push of incoming players like Andersson, Nyquist and Tomas Tatar.
It's entirely possible that the Wings could move Emmerton, Patrick Eaves and even Jordin Tootoo if they either re-sign Cleary and Brunner and/or if Bertuzzi and Helm do return, and the team's cap situation obviously plays a large part in the team's decisions (Capgeek estimates that the Wings have about $10.6 million in cap space left, with Bertuzzi, Helm and Samuelsson on the roster and Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith and Jakub Kindl as restricted free agents--who will probably eat up $4 million of cap space to re-sign)...
As Paul noted this morning, however, Wings GM Ken Holland insisted to MLive's Ansar Khan that the team will not specifically alter its roster as its coaching staff prepares the team to play in what is supposedly a bigger and meaner Eastern Conference:
I hear everyone saying the East is bigger and tougher,'' Holland said. “Anaheim was pretty big. I don’t know if there’s a bigger team than L.A.''
Moving East will have no effect on how Holland approaches the off-season. The Red Wings would like to add a decent-sized forward who can score – every team would – but those players are scarce in an increasingly thin free-agent market.
“If you’re a manager it’s kind of like having a freight liner on the ocean,'' Holland said. “If you want to change course ... we’re not running little speed boats. I can’t make nine moves over the course of six weeks and say we’re changing direction, we’re going to have great big guys with lots of skill and we’re going to be hard. You’ve got to methodically work your way through it. I understand it's a little bit of a different conference, but I still think if you have a good team, you’re a good team.''
Size doesn't necessarily translate into success. Neither does fighting.
According to hockeyfights.com, four of the top five teams in fighting majors this past season were in the Eastern Conference, and the other, Columbus (No. 2 with 34) is moving East along with Detroit. Toronto led with 44, Philadelphia was third (33), followed by Boston (32) and Tampa Bay (31). Out of the top 10, only four made the playoffs and just two (Boston, Ottawa) advanced past the first round.
The Red Wings ranked 29th with 14 fighting majors, one more than Edmonton. They might be challenged to drop the gloves more often, but they're not looking to rumble, they're looking to win. And they did a pretty good of that in the West while ranking at or near the bottom of the league in fighting majors almost every season for the past dozen years.
“In this day and age, you have to be able to play, and fighting is not as big of an aspect as it once was,'' forward Justin Abdelkader said. “Playing tough is different. It doesn’t mean you have to go out and fight. Play your game, play physical, play hard, and it’ll be fun.''
I believe that it's possible, if not probable, that the Wings won't do anything on defense save trade Carlo Colaiacovo and his affordable $2.5 million salary given that a 39-year-old Sergei Gonchar earned $10 million over 2 years and 35-year-old Mark Streit will earn similar bucks from the Philadelphia Flyers--as of the pre salary cap compliance buy-out market, the Wings' desire to add another top-four defenseman to take some pressure off of Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson's running into a crappy free agent crop and a summertime tendency to pay someone who can skate in a straight line and make passes $4 million or more, and those two factors indicate that we'll see the Wings go with Kronwall, Ericsson, Danny DeKeyser, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, Kyle Quincey and probably Brian Lashoff until the 2013-2014 season trade deadline...
And I also believe that the Wings may do nothing up front if they re-sign Cleary and Brunner given the team's desire to see what Nyquist, Tatar and of course Brunner can do over the course of a full season.
As Fox Sports Detroit's Darren Eliot suggests while penning a column for Michigan Hockey, the Wings would obviously be better-served by hedging their bets regarding the youth movement, adding a goal-scoring forward to their "rebuilding-on-the-fly" roster:
[T]he cap era has the NHL trending younger, where drafting and development are paramount. Which brings our analysis into focus: good organizations draft AND develop, while many simply draft and deploy. The Red Wings have seen this trend coming for some time and since they haven’t had the luxury of drafting the highest-end teenagers available due to their consistent success, development has long been central to the overall plan. This season alone we witnessed five players solidify roster spots for next season – three on defense in Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser. That is quite a makeover on the blue line. Up front, Gustav Nyquist showed that he has a better chance of becoming what everyone hoped Valtteri Filppula could be than Filppula himself. Joakim Andersson proved to be a smart, effective and useful player – the type of glue guy coaches love and teams need.
All of which is good for the team – something the organization can be proud of and fans can take stock in. However, the cautionary part in all this is twofold. First, a short run of success in intensity-fueled games by young players doesn’t always translate into the same effort and results in the subsequent regular-season grind. And second, the Wings still lack a bona fide 20-something scorer on its top two lines. Meaning, don’t expect the young players’ progress to be all upward and linear from where this season ended. Temper your enthusiasm with a dose of regular season “rigoritis”. Additionally, the team needs to add a big scoring winger from outside the organization.
You can draft and develop all you want, but if you don’t have anyone that fits that one glaring need an organization has to address it via trade or free agency. The Wings have a hole to fill, so names will start circulating shortly. I’ll leave the speculation to others. All I know is that during this Stanley Cup Final I’ll be watching Nathan Horton very, very closely (if he can return to the line-up).
I hope Wings’ GM Ken Holland is as well.
Whether that player might be Horton or Bryan Bickell--or even Viktor Stalberg--remains to be seen, but Michael Ryder, David Clarkson and the wild cards that are Brad Boyes and the, "Does he want to take less to play for a team that can win now?" fellow named Jarome Iginla should all be out there...
And just as the cap-compliance buy-out market may change the Wings' plans in terms of adding a defenseman, there's no doubt that we'll see some solid 20-goal-scoring talent be bought out 48 hours after the Stanley Cup Final ends.
At this point, it's going to be both "cheaper" and "smarter" for the Wings to bolster their forward and scoring ranks if at all possible.
In a very different vein, Paul sent me a set of links from a Kukla's Korner reader reporting that, well, I'll let The Age's Kyle Brodie explain...
Canadian ice hockey philanthropist Kerry Goulet has been promoting concussion awareness for a long time. And he knows that the best way to get a message across is via entertainment.
He is helping to organise a Canada v USA exhibition series in Melbourne and Sydney in June featuring the finest ice hockey talent to have competed in this country, including current NHL stars.
The games are to be played at HiSense and Allphones arenas - stadiums with capacities well beyond the biggest rinks in Australia - which will be fitted out to provide an "authentic North American ice hockey experience".
But for all the promised razzamatazz of the eagerly-anticipated events, Goulet's motivation is as much about imparting knowledge as putting on a show.
"If we educate ... sport can create safer opportunities,'' he says. "That is why we are so excited to have the opportunity to have this ice hockey extravaganza in Australia.
"It is an opportunity for us to spread the word. It's not sport; it's collisions, that's the issue. It's not about hockey, football, rugby. It's kids playing on a skateboard, riding a bike, skiing ... all of these activities where you can hit your head in a collision.
And it just so happens that the charity games, which will take place today and tomorrow in Melbourne, and on June 22nd in Sidney, include soon-to-be-former Wings prospect Tom McCollum and Ottawa Senators scrapper Zenon Konopka on Team USA, and Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey captaining Team Canada.
From, "What's on, Sidney":
In Canada and North America Ice Hockey Players like Kyle Qunicey (Captain of the Canadian invitational team) and Zenon Konopka (Captain of the USA invitational team) are revered like rock stars. They are the kings of sport, facing pucks hurtling across the ice at speeds of over 170km an hour each time they play. In context the fastest cricket ball bowled on record is just over 161.39km whereas the Ice Hockey puck speed record currently sits at 191.5kms an hour. It’s serious, its fast and its fun.
“I have played against Kyle on a number of occasions, and we are both ambassadors of www.stopconcussions.com, but that does not mean my USA team are going to lie down for them. Far from it, when our two countries go head to head in Australia, I’ll do what it takes. Right from an early age, I loved sport, all kinds of sport, and no matter what or who I play, I want to win. This series will be no different. Bring it on Mr Quincey, Bring it on” Zenon Konopka, member of Minnesota Wild in the NHL and Captain of the USA invitational team.
Get in quick and purchase your tickets through Ticketek to watch USA battle it out with Canada in this fast-paced, physical sport that will have you on your feet screaming. With tickets starting from $79, don’t miss out on this opportunity to see some of the greatest players in the sport showcase their agility and skill on the ice right before your eyes.
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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.