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Babcock hopes the Red Wings will make some significant changes (and Worlds news)

Updated 4x with tons of free agency talk at 11:13 PM, enough that this is now an “evening report”: As news is rolling in via Twitter that Jiri Hudler and Jakub Kindl (per Matt Saler) will play at the World Championship for the Czech Republic, and that Jonathan Ericsson will join Henrik Zetterberg in playing for Sweden (per Matias Strozyk), Red Wings coach Mike Babcock spoke to the Associated Press’s Larry Lage about his hopes for the Wings in terms of off-season moves, and they’re simple (link from RedWingsFeed, which confirmed that Tomas Tatar’s headed to the Worlds to play for Slovakia):

“We have tons of money and if we can use our cap space to get high-end free agents, we have a shot to get right back on top,” Babcock said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, two days after Nashville eliminated Detroit. “If we’re fortunate in free agency, we won’t have to look at going in another direction.“The standard here has always been to chase the Stanley Cup, so as a coach, I’m hoping the free-agent market helps us continue to have those goals.”

The Red Wings led the NHL in points a couple months ago, but injuries to several players led to them slipping enough to be the fifth-seeded team in the Western Conference playoffs with a tough matchup against the fourth-seeded Predators.

“We never recovered,” Babcock said. “We never really got Darren Helm back and that hurt the balance we had on our third and fourth lines. Teams could check Z (Henrik Zetterberg) and Pav (Pavel Datsyuk) like crazy and get away with it.”

Detroit didn’t have enough depth up front and had too many miscues on the back end against the Predators.

“When you make defensive mistakes and you don’t score your problems are magnified,” Babcock said.

If you want to revisit Babcock’s comments regarding what Darren Helm’s injury meant to the Wings, MLive’s Brendan Savage will oblige you:

“I sure thought prior to our injuries we had a good group,” Babcock said. “We were playing hard and playing well. But I don’t think we ever scored again after we lost Darren Helm. We lost at a ton of guys at that time but Helmer gave us … we won a lot of games because our third line was flat out better and wore down the other team and kept coming. He’s a huge part of our team.”

Helm had barely returned to the lineup in Game 1 of the opening-round playoffs series vs. Nashville when he was sidelined again while throwing another check.

Helm was killing a penalty with a little more than six minutes left in the first period of Game 1 when he checked Nashville’s Alexander Radulov. As Radulov fell to the ice, his legs flew into the air and his skate caught Helm on the right arm, lacerating tendons that required surgery and ended his season. Helm played just six shifts for a total of 3:08 of ice time as Nashville posted a 3-2 victory in Game 1 before going on to win the series in five games.

“I didn’t think we had enough up front and it showed in our scoring,” Babcock said. “We thought we had Helmer and when we didn’t have him back we didn’t match up as good in that hole. I thought with energy and work ethic we masked that for a little while but when you lose 4-1 in a series, you can talk about all of the games being a one-goal game. To me, that’s not close; 4-1 is not close.”

Also; I’m not even touching the Red Wings “Eulogy” posted on Puck Daddy. It’s a gigantic cheap shot at the Wings and especially their fans.

Update: At the other end of the ice, the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff ofers an appropriately-titled entry describing how the “lack of offense” the Wings could produce doomed them:

Against a defence-first team such as the Predators, even a few goals might have been enough to get the job done. “If we could have scored two or three goals a game, we probably would have won the series,” Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “Maybe we didn’t do enough changes in the way we played. I think when you start losing games, you try to make changes, but maybe we didn’t do enough with them, or find a way to get quality chances, but in the playoffs, it’s tough to get those quality chances.”

Detroit scored a paltry eight goals in the five games, an average of 1.6 goals per game, but that wasn’t far off the level at which they’d put the puck in the net during the stretch drive of the regular season.

Over the final 17 regular-season games, Detroit scored 38 goals, for an average of 2.24 goals per game. The Wings scored two or fewer goals in 13 of those 17 games, and scored three or more times in just four games – seven versus Columbus, five versus Carolina, four against Washington and three on Los Angeles. Including playoffs, the Wings were held to two goals or less in 17 of their last 22 games. “That’s disappointing,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock blamed the offensive letdown on a combination of the play of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, and the lack of finish among his forward group. “I though their goaltender was outstanding,” Babcock said. “I thought their depth up front was better than our depth up front, especially our third and fourth lines.

“I thought Zetterberg was fantastic in the series, but when you go through and look at our group of forwards, I didn’t think we had enough up front and it showed in our scoring, because I thought we had lots of pressure at times.”

If you care about what the Predators are saying today, the AP’s Teresa M. Walker will provide for your needs.

Update #2: From the QMI News Agency:

Neither Zach Parise nor Martin Brodeur had much of an interest in peering into a crystal ball Sunday afternoon.

During a conference call with reporters, the New Jersey Devils captain and goaltender were asked about their respective futures.

Parise is slated to be the best forward available on the free agency market this summer, and speculation already has the Detroit Red Wings at the head of the pack in line to sign the talented 27-year-old.

If the Devils lose Game 6 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the Florida Panthers Tuesday, their season is over.

“It’s blocked out,” Parise said of what his hockey future might hold if the Devils are eliminated. “I don’t think about it and I really don’t want to talk about it.”

Update #3: This is turning into an “evening report,” and that’s fine by me—as it turns out, the Wings won’t clean their lockers out until Tuesday, so we’ve got time to burn here, and there’s no point in saving stuff for “overnight reports.”  If you want to “go big or go home” in terms of summertime moves, Fox Sports Detroit’s Art Regner agrees with you...

After scoring a grand total of nine goals in five games against Nashville, expect the Wings to offer Parise an open checkbook. Suter, along with Nik Kronwall, will ultimately be Lidstrom’s replacement. He’s an all-around talent that logs a lot of ice time and doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff. Like Parise, Suter would thrive playing in the Wings’ system and would be a great mentor for top prospect Brendan Smith. 

Speculation is that Suter might stay in Nashville if the Predators go far in the playoffs. He’s close with defensive partner Shea Weber and could give the Predators a hometown discount to keep their core group together. On the flip side, sources have indicated that Suter’s best friend in all of hockey is Parise. They have been teammates on several US national teams, beginning in 2001-02, when they were members of the World Junior under-18 team. The same sources have also indicated that Suter and Parise developed a tight bond during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and that Suter was told by the NHLPA that he must become a free agent on July 1, regardless of any intentions to re-sign with the Predators.

It’s a bit tricky trying to piece together what Suter will ultimately decide to do. There are dozens of stories circulating about his future.  If Parise, does sign with the Wings, perhaps Suter takes his lead and also heads to Detroit.
Don’t be surprise if the Wings shop around a few of their core players. Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen are at the top of the list because they’re the only two core forwards the Wings would receive anything of value for in a trade. Jiri Hudler is gone if he gets any substantial offer when he becomes a free agent. 

If Detroit adds Suter, Parise, trades for another veteran scoring forward (Jarome Iginla?) and acquires one or two big bodies to fill out its third and fourth lines, it will certainly maintain its status as an elite franchise.

But the Windsor Star’s Dave Waddell, who suggests that the Wings are at the kind of, “We could very well find ourselves contending for a Cup again if only we make the right changes” crossroads they were after losing to the Kings in the first round in 2001, offers some more realistic potential changes:

Whether Lidstrom packs it in now or next season, the Wings have two glaring needs. Detroit has to find a goal scorer and someone to help fill the vacuum left by Lidstrom’s eventual departure.  After the difficulty scoring goals in the past two playoffs, the Wings will certainly go hard after New Jersey’s Zach Parise.  Other potential forwards who could be free agents are Washington’s Alex Semin, Ryan Smyth, Shane Doan and Teemu Selanne, but it would seem unlikely the final three would leave their longtime homes in Edmonton, Phoenix and Anaheim, respectively Beyond that you have Calgary’s Olli Jokinen, Florida’s Mikael Samuelsson and Philadelphia’s Jaromir Jagr.

Among defenceman, Nashville’s Ryan Suter is clearly the potential prize catch. Other defenders scheduled to enter the market are Ottawa’s Filip Kuba, Florida’s Jason Garrison, Washington’s Dennis Wideman, St. Louis’s Barrett Jackman, Dallas’ Sheldon Souray and Phoenix’s Michal Rozsival.

However, the key to this summer’s free-agent market are Parise and Suter. If they don’t re-sign with their respective teams, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them both land on the same team. The two are very tight friends and it’s well known in league circles they’d love to play together.  Parise was given the third degree when the Devils visited Detroit late in the regular season and was effusive in his admiration for how the Wings play. 

“I think they (Detroit) play the right way,” Parise said. “They play hard. The puck possession is great.  They play a great style of hockey.”  He also stated Datsyuk was “his most favourite player to watch.” 

At the NHL All-Star Game in January, Parise also quizzed Datsyuk thoroughly on the Detroit organization.
The Wings may also be able to get involved in what is expected to be a very active trade market at the NHL draft in June in finding a forward. Columbus’s Rick Nash and Calgary’s Jarome Iginla could well be dealt at that time.  While there’s no chance Columbus would trade Rick Nash to a Central Division rival, the dominoes falling in such a deal might shake loose some other players.

The third area of improvement needing attention involves adding more size and sand paper to the lineup. The Montreal Canadiens’ Travis Moen, whom the Wings inquired about several times the trade deadline, would fill that need nicely and he’s also less than 30 years of age.

Depending on the state of Joey MacDonald’s sore back, the Wings might also have to add a backup netminder.  There are plenty of those available including Florida’s Scott Clemmensen, the New York Rangers’ Marty Biron, Winnipeg’s Chris Mason, Minnesota’s Josh Harding and Columbus’s Curtis Sanford.

I’ll give you a topic: consider the above suggestions while understanding that Franzen, Filppula, Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary, Kyle Quincey and Jonathan Ericsson aren’t going anywhere. Discuss.

Update #4: Via RedWingsFeed again, here’s USA Today’s Kevin Allen’s take on what the Wings need to do:

Red Wings: They are expected to be among the most active participaints in the free agent and trade markets. They will be looking for a premium forward and defenseman. They will have the salary-cap space to go after Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, who will be unrestricted free agents.

The Red Wings first will have to find out whether defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, 41, will return. He probably will decide in three or four weeks.

The Red Wings also are expected to lose Brad Stuart because he wants to play on the West Coast to be closer to his family. Tomas Holmstrom and Jiri Hudler are also unrestricted free agents.

Holmstrom is Lidstrom’s closest friend on the team. If Lidstrom returns, Holmstrom probably would also be back. The Red Wings will look to improve their scoring and find a No. 2 goalie. Expect Brendan Smith to play regularly on Detroit’s defense. He’s a Jack Johnson-style defenseman.

I think that the Wings do indeed want to add a back-up with a little more reliability than MacDonald can provide, and that’s going to be a very interesting subplot this summer.

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the bottom line is he was still able to play at a very high level, like many players who have various surgeries.  “he had surgery, dump him” defies logic and reality.

Is it really that difficult to understand that Yzerman and Cleary are very different players?  Yzerman after knee surgery was still THE leader of the team and was only asked to play bottom six minutes.  Cleary is not starting off as a guy who scored 160 points in a season and is deteriorating.  He’s starting off in a similar way as Yzerman ENDED his career, and he’s becoming less effective.

I have no problem with Cleary playing bottom six minutes,

Yet you ignore the fact that he’s being asked to play top six minutes.  I don’t object to him being a role player.  I’ll say it one more time for the cheap seats: I object to him being one of too many bottom-six players.  And again, if given the choice of Cleary or any of Helm, Abdelkader, Miller or a healthy Patrick Eaves -all of who as much heart-and-soul players as anyone on the team- I would not choose Cleary.  Not including Todd Bertuzzi who is another bottom-six forward being asked to play top-six minutes or Nyquist who mostly played bottom-six minutes but should’ve played top-six minutes, the Red Wings dressed NINE bottom six forwards.  That’s too many, and when you’ve got the likes of Helm, Abdelkader, Conner, etc who are of Cleary’s ilk but YOUNG and HEALTHY, then it’s not even a decision.

Posted by Garth on 04/24/12 at 01:08 AM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

Yet you ignore the fact that he’s being asked to play top six minutes.

I didn’t ignore it.  he was asked to do that because of injuries to Helm and Eaves.

I said I have no problem with him playing bottom six and rotating with younger guys.  he’s too valuable energy-wise, experience-wise, and locker-room-wise to ignore those things.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/24/12 at 02:09 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.