The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/10/14 at 05:33 PM ET
Updated 3x at 9:10 PM:
Dear Ken Holland,
On behalf of my fellow Wings fans, we've had it. We are fed up, we are fed up with you, and we are angry. Why?
Because the concept of loyalty to players and alumni has, in our eyes, clouded the Red Wings management's judgment.
Spending the kind of money that a statistically superior, younger and right-shooting defenseman in Anton Stralman got from the Tampa Bay Lightning to re-sign Kyle Quincey was bad enough to "compromise" with a "known quantity." But the Daniel Cleary signing (a one-way deal, no less)?
It's ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous.
I don't care about the fact that Cleary's sacrificed, on behalf of the team, feeling in parts of his mouth, his knees, his groin and so many other parts of his body that will not function like an average human being's after he is done playing. I don't care about the fact that, if the Free Press's Helene St. James is to be believed, Cleary left $6 million worth of Philadelphia Flyers money "on the table." I don't care about the fact that he's a "good guy in the room."
I care about the fact that Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Luke Glendening, and the player most likely to end up in Grand Rapids should Mr. $1.5 million one-way contract and $1 million in bonuses make the team--Tomas Jurco--TOOK CLEARY'S JOB, and those of Mikael Samuelsson, Jordin Tootoo, Todd Bertuzzi and Cory Emmerton, last year based upon their play on the ice in comparison to Cleary's when he was healthy. Those players earned their spots on the team, and they may end up spending time in the press box for Cleary's sake.
Cleary's now your 14th forward. If you bring Daniel Alfredsson back, your team will have 15 forwards, and as such...
Tomas Jurco may be certain to be "Nyquist'd" after you take care of re-signing players who actually contributed to the team in the aforementioned Tatar and Danny DeKeyser due to cap issues--and if you recall, Mr. Holland, a certain Gustav Nyquist, who ended up leading the team in goal-scoring, was sent to Grand Rapids despite earning a spot on the team in training camp, for Daniel Cleary's sake--and because the still-waiver-exempt Jurco can, like Nyquist, be demoted without clearing waivers.
Landon Ferraro and Mitchell Callahan may very well have no chance whatsoever to make the team now, and you may lose Ferraro, a speedy 3rd or 4th-line winger with offensive upside, and Callahan, a heart-and-soul player who's gritty and superb defensively--because you'll probably have to waive them to make sure that Daniel Cleary has a spot on the opening-night roster.
[quick edit: OH YEAH AND WHAT THE FACK ABOUT THAT ANTHONY MANTHA KID? GRAND RAPIDS IT IS, WOO! /end edit]
Red Wings fans can understand why you're hoping to hold open some money for Daniel Alfredsson. Despite his status as a 41-year-old who had some chronic groin and back issues last year, he co-led the team in scoring while being a "good guy in the room," a member of the leadership group and a leader on the ice and on the bench. Alfredsson had 18 goals, 31 assists and 49 points in 68 games played.
Cleary played in 52 games. He registered 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, and a team-second-worst -11.
Over the past two seasons and 100 regular-season games, Cleary has posted a total of 23 points and finished at -17.
Last season, Riley Sheahan, a rookie, had 9 goals, 15 assists and 24 points in 42 games, finishing a +8 in his rookie season.
Last season, Tomas Tatar, who began the season watching Cleary, Samuelsson, Tootoo, Emmerton and Bertuzzi play, posted 19 goals, 20 assists and 39 points in 73 games, finishing at +12 in his first full season with the team. That's pretty dang close to the 20-goal threshold that you say is so very important in terms of finding players who can score at an essential level.
Last season, Tomas Jurco had 8 goals, 7 assists and 15 points in 36 games, finishing even in his rookie season.
Those three players had an incredibly difficult playoff run against Boston, but the Red Wings wouldn't have made the playoffs without the contributions of "Riley and the Slovaks."
Last season, Luke Glendening, whose waiver-exemption your coach chose to exhaust, had 1 goal, 6 assists and 7 points in 56 games, finishing at -8 as a rookie. Glendening took 52 games to score his first goal, but he nearly out-produced Cleary, and he was far more valuable to the team.
Three years ago, you told your "special assistant," Kris Draper, that he would have to accept a two-way contract and essentially try out for the team if he wanted to continue playing hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, after Draper had given the team 1,137 games of NHL service.
Four years ago, you told Kirk Maltby, who played 908 games for your team, the same circumstances would apply.
Why is Cleary a special case? Why couldn't he be told to earn spot on the team like Ferraro, Callahan, Jurco, or Maltby or Draper before him?
This summer, after having struck out on Dan Boyle, Matt Niskanen, Stralman and Tom Gilbert, you've given Kyle Quincey 2 years and $8.5 million...
And this summer, you've given what will be a total of $2.5 million to Daniel Cleary for loyalty's sake when there are 28 free agent forwards available who posted more than Cleary's 8 points--excluding Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Alfredsson, who make it a total of 30 available players who out-scored Cleary.
Cleary's given his heart and soul to the team, and he's sacrificed his body repeatedly, but Cleary's simply not been a useful player over the past two seasons. He hasn't earned his spot on the team based upon his play on the ice.
But he's been given a contract based upon money the Philadelphia Flyers may or may not have offered him--if you are not aware, there are several reports that the Flyers were in fact only willing to give Cleary a pro try-out contract, and nothing more, and those reports came from journalists who know much more about the inner workings of the Flyers than anyone in Detroit does--and he will probably be given a spot on the roster by your coach because "he's a good team guy."
Probably over Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening, Landon Ferraro or Mitchell Callahan, even if they've earned their spots on the team.
How does this signing send any sort of message to the team's young players that you are in fact committed to the "youth movement" or "the kids?"
Does it instead send a message that, on a team where we're supposed to believe that the best players earn playing time, that some players are in fact more equal than others, even if they haven't done anything to earn their spot?
How does this signing send any sort of message to the team's fans that you are in fact concerned with availing yourself of the best personnel available instead of playing favorites?
How does this signings end any sort of message to the rest of the league that the Detroit Red Wings want to avail themselves of the best personnel available to them, or that the team is committed to recruiting the best players outside of Detroit to come here and play for the coach that at least one player agent says no one wants to play for because he's, "An *#$%@& behind the bench"?
What happens if Daniel Cleary doesn't make the team? What happens if your line about not wanting to sign players that you have to get rid of in November turns out to be true for Cleary, and you have to send him to Grand Rapids. Will you send him to Grand Rapids? Will you understand that you'll have to still carry $575,000 of Cleary's contract on your cap figure?
What will that money do to the team's roster flexibility in terms of being able to add what whoever the "team sources" are have insisted is an absolutely essential player in a top-four defenseman with strong scoring abilities?
Daniel Cleary did nothing this past season to earn a spot on the 2014-2015 Red Wings roster, but you've given him a contract that ensures you're going to be paying him for two more years.
"He's worked hard in the gym, done things to get himself back," general manager Ken Holland said. "We're hoping Dan Cleary can bounce back. He'll be good insurance. He'll have to beat people out to be in the lineup."
The Red Wings now have 14 forwards, including Tomas Jurco, the only one of the group who is exempt from waivers and can be assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Holland said they will start the season with 14 forwards. They will decide before training camp whether to re-sign Daniel Alfredsson. Both sides are waiting to see how the 41-year-old's troublesome back holds up later this summer.
Cleary, 35, had just four goals and eight points in 52 games last season, after signing a one-year, $1.75 million contract on the eve of training camp. He didn't play after Jan. 28 due to a knee issue.
When Cleary signed his previous deal in September, Holland promised him he'd be taken care of at the end of the season. Holland is keeping his word.
"Unfortunately he had a tough year," Holland said. "He's a guy the coaching staff likes, his teammates like. He's a leader in the room. He can play left wing/right wing, can go on the power play."
But how are we supposed to believe you? Especially after we heard Mike Babcock insist that veterans win roster battles over youngsters--namely Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco and Luke Glendening--"by default" this past season?
You and your coach have said one thing, but your management group has acted in a completely different manner.
With Alexey Marchenko, Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet and Mattias Backman supposedly nearly ready to play in the NHL, you chose to respond to your inability to sign a top-four, right-shooting defenseman by bringing back a left-shooting, 4/5/6 defensive defenseman because you're familiar with him.
Now, with four youngsters having "stolen jobs" over the past season and Landon Ferraro and Mitchell Callahan out of waiver options this upcoming season, you've given a one-way contract and a two-year pay-out to player who didn't contribute to the cause last season, and wasn't particularly useful the season before.
How have things really changed if you keep going back to the "take care of alumni" well?
How have things really changed if "the youth movement" keeps on finding that, every July, the team either retains or seeks out older alumni for the sake of familiarity and "loyalty" (see also: Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Jason Williams)?
How can you explain the fact that the team's words and off-season actions aren't consistent?
How can you justify the abandonment of, "The kids are our future" philosophy for, "It's a men's league and the kids aren't the answer" every damn summer?
When your team may very well have an "image problem" in terms of attracting elite talent due to the outside perception of Metro Detroit, the outside perception of your rink (especially the visitors' facilities), the outside perception of your team's nearness to being within any sort of reasonable probability of winning a round in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division, or the outside perception of that "*#$%@& behind the bench?"
How has any of what you've done since July 1st helped your team's cause?
And why are we supposed to believe anything you tell us any more?
Maybe completely losing credibility with the fans who pay so much money to attend games, purchase team merchandise and follow your organization is more important than you perceive it to be.
Maybe we deserve some answers, some honest ones, and some answers that we can believe in, and at this point, we're not sure that you're willing to afford us an explanation as to why you've made moves that have done nothing less than infuriate your paying fans.
I wish I could have talked to you at the summer development camp, but you ducked out, and I was told that I could speak to you in September.
Between now and then, don't be too surprised if you lose some season ticket-holders and lose some fans (and I mean that very sincerely) based upon your free agency track record and your "loyalty" to players who simply cannot be afforded preferential treatment in the "cap era."
At least Quincey was decent during the second half. Cleary was injured and when he wasn't, he wasn't very good, but here he is, and Wings fans don't understand why you'd do something they believe is utterly nonsensical.
It's ridiculous. And you should expect to be ridiculed, and your competency as a general manager questioned, as a result.
Update: Submitted for your inspection...
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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.