The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/11/13 at 05:09 PM ET
Okay, somewhere in between the morning's session of skill drills at the second day of the Red Wings' development camp, speaking with various the announcement of Tyler Wright's naming as the Red Wings' director of amateur scouting (with Jeff Finley to serve as director of scouting) and wandering back and forth from my laptop to "scrums," I promised myself that I'd watch Team Lidstrom like a frickin' hawk.
Not so much.
It turns out that Tyler Wright was incredibly accommodating, and I spoke with him about his experience as the Blue Jackets' director of player development and then its director of amateur scouting for a total of eight years (he ran three drafts), what he brings to the table, how he expects to fit in with the Wings' way of doing things (Wright both noted that he's not going to "replace" Jim Nill and that he may be able to find some players that have elements that the Wings are missing), why he chose to leave a place he'd spent 13 years of his life to work for "Mr. Holland" in Detroit, the scouting season and other topics for about nine minutes.
Wright made it absolutely clear that he's not planning on trying to change the way the system works per se, and he made sure to state that "Hakan knows what he's doing" regarding Mr. Hakan Andersson having free rein over the European scouts...
But mostly he talked about hard work, about the fact that he's going to head to the Team Canada World Junior Evaluation camp at the end of this month, the U.S. World Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid in early August, and then the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in the Czech Republic, and his first comment was telling as telling can be:
Before stating that he understood that there's an enormous amount of unglamorous work involving worldwide travel and inordinate amounts of time making what are essentially educated guesses that kick-start the player development process, he said that he was going to do all in his power to make sure the Wings were "ready for Philadelphia"--as in next year's draft. He had a mission statement of sorts ready to go, and that was pretty cool.
I also took part in a scrum with coach Mike Babcock. Babcock did not want to do individual interviews as he's up here in Traverse City on an informal basis, but he touched upon the development camp, the Griffins' playoff run and the contributions of DeKeyser, Nyquist and Andersson, his son's presence at the development camp, the Wings' free agent acquisitions and seeing Tomas Holmstrom on the ice as a coach:
I wish I could've gotten a one-on-one, but that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes.
I also spent...Twenty minutes...Is that right? Yeah, twenty minutes both interviewing Ken Holland and letting Ken Holland talk, along with Hooked on Hockey Magazine's Kevin Sporka. We spent significant portions of time discussing the purpose of the camp, whether he evaluates players over what is essentially a "getting to know you" introduction to and/or reinforcement of the on and off-ice expectations the players face (answer: not really, save tomorrow's scrimmage at 5 PM), the Griffins' playoff run as it relates to the development of the Wings' top prospects, what losing Jim Nill and Joe McDonnell means to the team--and Holland made sure to repeat the fact that he'd offered McDonnell a contract and talked about what his future with the organization might be, but that McDonnell left...
And we talked about the free agent signings, especially Stephen Weiss...
And, perhaps most importantly to those of you who are interested in the RFA's, Holland said that he was neither worried about re-signing Gustav Nyquist or Joakim Andersson, nor that Brendan Smith filing for arbitration was a big deal. He felt that he would be able to work out a deal with Smith's agent, Anton Thun, but even if it goes to a hearing, they'll get a two-way deal taken care of by early August and Smith will be in a Wings uniform, whether by negotiating hook or arbitrator's crook. He didn't seem upset by the filing at all:
When I was able to get into the locker rooms, I spoke with Tyler Bertuzzi for a short period of time as a) he wanted to shower and b) he seemed a little bit jittery about being interviewed. I did not speak about his uncle's relationship--I wanted to know about Tyler, not Todd:
In a bizarre twist of irony, I went over to Nick Jensen next as he's always a pleasant young man to talk to, and Jensen had an ice bag and an electrical stimulator on his left shoulder because he injured it in the fight he and Bertuzzi engaged in on Wednesday.
Jensen was very disappointed that he won't be able to take part in the scrimmage, and he said that he didn't really feel the twinge until later.
He's hoping that he'll recover in time to take part in Sunday's practice (the team has a day off on Saturday to accommodate training camp ticket sales), but he's not sure whether that will happen, and he was very disappointed by the turn of events.
Thankfully he was more than willing to talk about his season with the Saint Cloud State University Huskies, which went all the way to the Frozen Four, his experiences with the Griffins as a "Black Ace," how practicing with the Griffins will help him "turn pro," what it meant to sign a deal with the Wings, how learning from a nutritionist helps a college kid learn how to eat better, and the fact that he'd attended four previous camps on his own ticket as an NCAA athlete, which was a big investment in himself (obviously worth it):
I more or less just met the guy, but I also talked with Wings draft pick Marc McNulty (who is incredibly tall and incredibly skinny) about his first impressions of the camp and the Wings organization:
After he left the locker room, I made sure to tell him that the Wings fan in me had been watching him develop and that many people were rooting for him, and were very proud of what he's done, and he was very happy to hear that.
And in a sort of serendipitous moment, I managed to talk to Tomas Holmstrom after Holmstrom actually engaged in some on-ice drills. Art Regner managed to coax some details regarding how Holmstrom worked with Wings video coach Keith McKittrick to whittle down his video presentation to the players--there were two, one for the morning group and one for the afternoon group--and Holmstrom suggested that being back on the ice had whetted his appetite to at least try his hand at being an informal consultant during the prospect tournament and maybe even the main camp.
Ideally, he'll be able to both help the Wings and coach his kids' hockey team, and that's a great balance for someone who seems to just plain old love being at the rink, loves teaching and just wants to find a creative way to bridge the gap between being a dad and missing his old job (though he says he did not need his knee braces to skate on the ice).
I even managed to talk to him about Nicklas Lidstrom's interview with Hockeysverige.se, and Homer was glad to hear news about his friend coming to Detroit more often in a non-lockout year. Holmstrom admitted that he knows more people in the U.S. than Sweden, that his wife and kids are happy here, and that he's still considering going back to Sweden in a year or two, but that he's very happy here.
I want to state for the record that the mayor of Novi is both incredibly passionate about passing on his craft to younger players--my goodness, is he ever a big believer that you need heart and grit to go to the front of the net and stay there, and that it is an essential skill that is simply not taught anywhere--and he's a plain old wonderful human being (we talked about his decision to use a white stick with white tape after all these years of black tape, black stick, too):
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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.