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The Malik Report

A pair of ‘odd duck’ Red Wings stories

Unlike Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is...Let's say, "Given to Malik Report-style rambling" on a consistent basis. The man's fascinating as all hell get out, but he's also extremely verbose, and sometimes his astute observations also involve some "out there" comments.

MLive's Brendan Savage received an unusual take on the Red Wings' struggles while speaking to Hitchcock earlier this afternoon, with Hitchcock insisting that the Wings' 4-2 loss to Columbus last Saturday and the team's 4-1 loss to Calgary on Tuesday were the direct result of having played Hitchcock's Blues--a game the Wings won--six days ago:

"The game in Detroit ... was the best hockey game we've played in," Hitchcock said. "The game was really well played by both teams. Both teams put a lot of energy into it. What's interesting to me is neither team recovered from that game physically. Detroit went into Columbus and got beat, looked tired. They looked a little bit tired still against Calgary. We looked really tired (in Tuesday's 3-0 loss to Nashville), even with two days off. I don't think the fans realize that was a Game 7 playoff game. That's exactly what it was. The players poured so much into that this early in the season that neither team had anything left for the next outing."

Mike Babcock, who'd attempted to recruit Hitcock as an assistant coach before he took the Blues' job, offered a Babcockian response...

"We haven't done anything since," Babcock admitted. "We got all these theories. I think the older we get, the more theories we have. At least that's what my kids tell me. We just haven't won yet."

The victory over the Blues avenged Detroit's 6-0 loss on opening night in St. Louis. That was one of the Red Wings' worst performances in years as they allowed three power-play goals and were outshot 36-14. In the first period alone, St. Louis had a 17-2 advantage in the shots department.

"They spanked us badly the first game," Babcock said. "We both gave up power-play goals and had bad stretches in the next game. We came away feeling better about ourselves. (Then) we went to Columbus and lost and lost (to Calgary) at home. So we haven't done much since. I imagine they're getting a little bit testy. They gave up six and then lost to us. So I don't imagine they're not in a good mood. It should be fun" tonight.

Savage also asked the Wings' players to talk about Blues captain David Backes, and one predatory hitter complimented the other...

"He's a force out there," said Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall. "He's a big guy. Pretty good hands, sees the ice. He's really physical. He presents a lot of problems for the opposing team."

Before Hitchcock suggested that Backes plays so very well when he's facing the Wings for a reason:

"He recognizes when he plays against Detroit he's going to spend most of the night without the puck," Hitchcock said. "He's gotten more and more comfortable knowing that's the way it is. I think what it does for him is it makes him play patient. When he plays patient, he's a better player. When he gets running around trying to make big hits, it kind of pulls him out of position. I think playing against Detroit scares you a little bit and it makes him play more patient."

And I don't know what to think about this quip from The Fan 590's Doug MacLean, a former assistant GM in Detroit, as noted by Sportsnet's Luke Fox:

Should the Edmonton Oilers consider trading defenceman Ryan Whitney to the Detroit Red Wings? That was the idea floated out by Hockey Central’s Doug MacLean, who said the Red Wings would be wise to jump on Whitney if he’s available.

Whitney’s current contract, which carries a $4 million annual cap hit and does include a no-trade clause, runs out at the end of this season.

“He is struggling. Healthy scratch (one night). And last night (Jaromir) Jagr takes him inside-out on the winning goal,” Doug MacLean said on Hockey Central @ Noon Thursday. “If you’re looking for defencemen, if you’re Detroit, would you take a run at Ryan Whitney if he’s available?”

Nick Kypreos suggested the Oilers would be better off waiting until Whitney strung a few good games together before shopping him.

“No, I would take Ryan Whitney right now if I’m Detroit,” MacLean said.

Edmonton, which has been considered a team in need of defence more than offence, has received a blue-line boost this season from rookie workhorse Justin Schultz.

Whitney is a team-worst minus-6 and ranks fifth among Oilers defencemen in minutes logged per game with 18:21. The 29-year-old has no goals and three assists in nine games this season. Unless he can turn things around, this will be the third consecutive season in which his production has fallen off.

For reference purposes, the Sports Forecaster lists Whitney at 6'3" and 206 pounds. He'll turn 30 on February 19th, and TSF describes his game as follows:

Assets:  Has excellent size and offensive instincts from the blueline position. Displays the ability to make a great breakout pass and handle power-play duties. Is also a very smooth skater.

Flaws:  Is prone to occasional mental breakdowns in the defensive zone. Doesn't make enough good use of his imposing frame. Doesn't shoot the puck nearly enough. Is also a bit fragile.

Career Potential:  Solid puck-moving, big-minute defenseman.

Whitney's struggled with health issues and on-ice consistency since the Pittsburgh Penguins traded him to the Anaheim Ducks during the 08-09 season, but he has posted 30 or more points 4 times over the course of his 8 NHL seasons. There is no doubt, however, that he is a reclamation project and a half...

And there is no doubt that a) there will be better defensemen available closer to the trade deadline and b) MacLean was spouting off because the Wings and Oilers play on Saturday, thus producing an easily imagined trade scenario.

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Chet's avatar

i don’t like any of those options.

when are people going to start talking honestly about detroit’s so-called brain trust’s failures over the past few years? i’m not even that upset that they missed out on a guy like suter (parise another story). but:

they were clearly unprepared for the retirements of lidstrom and rafalski, and should have seen the writing on the wall re: those two and that they wouldn’t be able to re-sign stuart.

their idea of a solution? dump a reasonable first-rounder for worthless kyle quincey and let every reasonable young d-man in the system sit around way too long in the A instead of learning the NHL game. i guess they had to take their time with kindl (how’s that going?), but this idea of “over-ripening” prospects is obviously outdated in today’s NHL. and if i hear one more time how they “like our team” i’m going to puke. nobody likes this team. i’m not saying make a trade for a trade’s sake but for god’s sake, can we update our thinking?

other teams—even those with low draft picks like detroit—find ways to get their young talent contributing much earlier. what does detroit have going on in the 25-or-under dept. at the NHL level? abdelkader (whose game i still don’t much like), emmerton (same), mursak, smith, lashoff, tatar, nyquist. how good, really, are they, and/or how much have they been allowed to learn or contribute so far? (also, it’s scary that our best forward prospects are all shorter than me and weigh 185 tops!) why are cleary, samuelsson, and bert on this roster—maybe even miller as well? you want to talk over-ripe? there it is.

now here we sit with a laughable d corps and a bunch of “young” forwards who may or may not pan out. let’s just be honest: the management of this team over the past 2-3 years has been well below par. riding 13, 40, and 5 into the playoffs just to underachieve and ignoring the rest of the organization’s development has finally come home to roost. holland and co. should take some responsibility.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 02/07/13 at 09:14 PM ET

Chet's avatar

(lol. just as cleary gets his first of the season…)

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 02/07/13 at 09:20 PM ET

Chet's avatar

It’s been a constant in just about every single thread actually.

i still see quite a bit of apologizing for it. it’s pretty clear they were caught with their pants down in a few different areas.

maybe what i should’ve said is “when are people going to accept that detroit’s so-called brain trust’s has made some big systemic errors over the past few years?”

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 02/07/13 at 09:23 PM ET

Chet's avatar

no, i think he weighs more than me.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 02/07/13 at 09:23 PM ET

statelouis26's avatar

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 02/07/13 at 08:14 PM ET

I think your comment is well reasoned and agree with everything except the over-ripening part.  This is how the RW operate and have done business for the past 2 decades.  During that time, the wings have made the playoffs every year.  Obviously, this proves that the way they bring prospects along and do business works.  There has never been a prospect to have been ruined by staying in the minors too long, especially with the RW.  Maybe it decreases what the wings can squeeze out of the youngins from earlier in their careers but in the long run it ensures they are better players and better adapted to the NHL.  There are ample examples of bringing prospects along too early before they are fully prepared….Andrew Raycroft, Steve Mason and Gilbert Brule come to mind (funny how they are mostly BJ’s!).  Just because the Red Wings are not having the greatest of years 10 games into a lockout shortened season is not a good reason to jump ship and clean house.

Posted by statelouis26 from Detroit, MI on 02/07/13 at 09:31 PM ET

statelouis26's avatar

Oh, and I really agree with you on the issue of Cleary but I think that is more of a Babs thing than upper mgmt. Cleary has done absolutely nothing with the ice time (almost 16 minutes per) he has been given this year.  He’s played on the penalty kill, powerplay and everywhere in between but has, drum roll please, one goal this season.  Cleary is also -1 on the season with a goose egg in the assist column.  Babs is quite fond of clears for no reason.

Posted by statelouis26 from Detroit, MI on 02/07/13 at 09:36 PM 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.