Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Brian Rafalski replacement theory #2: the Red Wings could lean on Brendan Smith

Okay, we heard the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau argue that the Red Wings need not replace Brian Rafalski’s offensive contributions this afternoon, and while Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji believes that the Wings will probably go the free agency and/or trade route, she also offers the theory that the Wings could simply rely upon Brendan Smith coming up from Grand Rapids and contributing as a regular roster player. Chris Chelios, now the Wings’ mentor to its defensive prospects (Chelios suggested that Doug Janik, Smith and Brian Lashoff are in the call-up mix while praising Jonathan Ericsson on the Sean, Terp and Killer Show last Friday), offered this take on Smith’s progress made with the Griffins:

“At points of the season in the American League there was no one better on the ice,” Chelios said. “Him and Derek Meech were a step above everybody. But then you look at Brendan some games and he looks his age and plays his age. Detroit’s known for bringing guys along slowly to the Wings. Can he play in the NHL? I think he’s got all the tools and skills. It’s just a matter of now with this spot opening up with Rafi, depending on who they try and replace him with, he might get the opportunity now. It’s a big hole to fill. Eventually I think they’re looking at a guy like Brendan Smith. He’s a power play, penalty kill guy, a 25-minute-a-game guy. So maybe this might wake him up a little bit this summer, he’ll work a little harder.”

General manager Ken Holland said no roster spots will be awarded automatically.

“Is Jakub Kindl ready for a bigger role? Is Brendan Smith ready to play in the NHL?” Holland said after Rafalski’s news conference. “These are things we’re going to have to find out.”

Of course, the first thing the Wings have to find out is whether captain Nick Lidstrom will return for another season. Holland said Lidstrom told him he would make his decision before the NHL Entry Draft, which takes place June 24-25 in Minnesota.

Currently Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, Kindl and veteran Doug Janik are the only defensemen under contract for next season.

The other important date is July 1, when teams can sign available free agents. Jonathan Ericsson, Ruslan Salei and Lidstrom are the Wings free agent defensemen.

It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Wings.

What Wakiji said.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink
 

Comments

Avatar

So the proposal is to completely jettison the “defense first” strategy that Holland has had in place forever and to the team defense in the hands of a guy who has thoroughly underwhelmed in his time with the Red Wings, a guy who played about half a season and wasn’t trusted enough to play at all in the playoffs and a kid who has had one year of AHL experience?

And do what with Rafi’s cap space, send an offer sheet to Parise?

I’m hoping that Ken Holland hasn’t recently fallen down and hit his head with enough force to make him think that’s a good idea..

Posted by Garth on 05/26/11 at 10:59 PM ET

Avatar

First I had to swallow the woefully transparent “oh golly gee whiz what does the free agent list for defensemen look like this year, somebody send it to me” (as if someone who translates articles on 18 year old 5th round draft picks from Finland doesn’t know the 2011 UFA d-man list) along with the “next year’s crop is better than this year crop” line (but you ARE an expert on NEXT YEARs list).

Now you are going to float this headline/paragraph????

These takes may be theoretically convenient soundbytes for Kenny and his leverage but they aren’t going to fly in a forum like Kuklas.

You are dealing with a much more hockey intelligent audience here than you were at m-live George.  I suggest you start showing it some respect.

Cheers.

Posted by deanwerner on 05/26/11 at 11:11 PM ET

SK77's avatar

Posted by Garth on 05/26/11 at 09:59 PM ET

Deep breath dude, it’s Kenny. Start second-guessing and panicking AFTER something illogical has been done. Right now it’s all useless BS.

Posted by deanwerner on 05/26/11 at 10:11 PM ET

A) The key word in the headline is “theory”.

B) The key word for you, sir, is “*#$%@&”.

Posted by SK77 on 05/26/11 at 11:23 PM ET

SK77's avatar

Posted by some kid on 05/26/11 at 10:23 PM ET

For the record, I said assholė—not *#$%@&—thank you very much.

Posted by SK77 on 05/26/11 at 11:25 PM ET

Avatar

Deep breath dude, it’s Kenny.

Oh, I know.  I’m not second guessing him, I’m wondering who these reporters are that think he would, for a second, consider the theory to be a valid consideration…

Posted by Garth on 05/26/11 at 11:30 PM ET

Hockeytown Wax's avatar

Lean on Smith .... hmmmm ... yanno ... i had that very same idea rumbling around in my head but quickly dismissed it because its not a Red Wing management characteristic. But then i started to think ... when was the last time a Red Wing team was in this situation ??

Relying on a rookie to step up and play 20 mins. a game right out of the AHL ... like jumping from the frying pan into the fire .... maybe Yzerman was the last player they had to do that with just because they absolutely knew he was that good.

It would be nice if Fox Sports Detroit would do a delayed broadcast of maybe one Griffins game a week (@2am maybe) so we could get a better idea of how these kids are developing, but thats asking a lot because it involves money ... LOL.

Not knowing just how good Smith really is, Id be uber hesitant to say yeah they could/should lean on him. Besides, I don’t have King Kong sized testicles needed to pull off a move like that.

Posted by Hockeytown Wax from West Bloomfield, Mi. on 05/26/11 at 11:34 PM ET

SK77's avatar

I’m wondering who these reporters are

Methinks they’re the same idiots we’ve known all along ...

Posted by SK77 on 05/26/11 at 11:34 PM ET

perfection's avatar

i think Smith was going to make the team regardless. Cheli’s making headlines now because of the retirement, but he was already lobbying hard for Smith to get a roster spot long before Rafi’s announcement including coming on the radio and saying there is nothing more Smith can learn in the AHL and he needs the growth year like Kindl got.

Smith is supposed to be a stud so OF COURSE Holland wants to see what he (and Kindl) are going to bring to the table. If Holland has in any way implied that these kids have a shot of having a bigger roll, it’s likely to motivate them. Because, the fact is Holland, while I’m sure he’s making several contingency plans, has no idea what he’s going to do because it all depends on whether Lids comes back first and foremost, and secondly, who is available at what price on July 1st. He’s already ruled out offer sheets which is sort of a ‘no duh?’ thing for me. If there’s someone to be had at the right price or a trade to be made that he feels comfortable with, I’m sure he’ll do what he needs to do.

This ‘speculation’, if you can even call it that, isn’t really saying much more than they already know. Not sure why folks are getting all frazzled about it at this point. Come July 2nd we’ll all be able to have a lengthy conversation about Holland’s plans for next season, but for now, there CAN’T be a plan yet. So who cares?

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 05/27/11 at 12:26 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

First of all, maybe “deanwerner” should prove his credentials before jumping all over George. Or maybe he should just take a remedial reading class so he understands the context in which George posted someone else’s opinion.

As for Kindl and Smith, I’ll offer my own opinion.

(1) Kindl proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he’s NHL-ready. The only reason he didn’t play in the playoffs, is because Babs lit a fire under Rusty’s ass and got him to play up to his veteran potential. Kindl is, at the very least, the Wing’s #6 defenseman next year. Period. End of story.

(2) Smith was a first-round selection four years ago. He’s been a Hobie Baker finalist and an AHL All-Star, so the idea that he’s not capable of stepping in and playing a significant role next year is just ludicrous. Lesser players have moved up far sooner than Brendan. But that’s only because of Detroit’s philosophy of “over-ripening” players in the AHL. If Nick comes back, you can count on Smith being his partner for a significant part of the season. He’ll learn from the best. And he’ll take his game to a whole new level. Period. End of story.

Now, on the other hand, if the Wings can get Atlanta/Winnipeg to take a first-round pick plus Happy and someone like Logan Pyett for Bogosian, then all bets are off. Smith will stay in G.R. until they need a call-up and Nick will mentor either Zach or Jakub next year.

But whatever happens with the defensive corps, the Wings will make the playoffs again. Period. End of story.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 05/27/11 at 01:12 AM ET

Avatar

Gotta say all this debate over whether this ‘theory” is right or wrong actually shows how little those debating it know about hockey, and in particular the Wings. Brendan Smith will get a tryout in training camp, and if he forces them to pick him for the team by playing well, he’ll make it. If not, back to the Griffs. If he makes it and plays well, then yes the Wings will ‘lean on him’, but this all has to do with him just making the team. Kenny has already made it perfectly clear he will fill the hole Raf has left via an acquisition, so why is there even a debate?

Posted by BrendonR on 05/27/11 at 01:33 AM ET

Avatar

Pfft.  George is just telling us what the media is reporting.  I don’t see how “Brian Rafalski Theory #2” is something misleading.  Rather than digging through 15 news outlets I trust George to give us summaries of what people are saying *and* provide analysis if needed.

Deanwerner mebbe read the mission statement of the blog.  If you don’t like it, go read McGuire’s column.

Posted by Chris on 05/27/11 at 02:14 AM ET

perfection's avatar

i thought Kindl was much better than Salei down the home stretch once their “competition” was made public. I think Salei played in the playoffs for his PK ability. Shutdown guys come in handy that time of year and Kindl definitely isn’t that.

But I for sure agree that he will have the 6th spot and that we probably don’t resign Salei because of it. Even IF we somehow pulled off a Bogosian trade, we still have a 7th defensemen spot and this is the spot Chielios argued should belong to Smith. After working with the black aces extensively, he said Smith is roughly where Kindl was last year and has really peaked as an AHL player. In his words, the veterans surrounding him are “career AHL’ers for a reason.” He seems to believe strongly that Smith needs to be up with the big squad day in and day out, learning what it takes to be an NHL pro (from NICK ideally!!) and getting his toes wet with some games here and there. Cheli says he’s learned all he can learn in the AHL and it’s well worth the reduced minutes for him to take the next step… as he believes Kindl did this past year. While I realize Cheli ISN’T Ken Holland, it seems the club definitely has higher expectations for Kindl this year and at the same time has consistently tempered Smith’s expectations. But I really think that he probably makes the team this year regardless and I highly highly doubt he ever plays top 4 min at any point this coming season for any reason. I’m not claiming to know, but I tend to agree with the fact that there isn’t really a debate over whether Holland is going to sign SOMEBODY. The questions is can he pull of a Bogosian-type miracle or does he settle for someone in the $3-4mil range (which lets be honest, is actually what Rafalski was and is these days). I think they probably will resign Ericsson in the end unless he’s a mega-bitch. I’ve just been seeing too much public praise being heaped upon him lately by the team management.

re. a potential blockbuster trade, I don’t think Hudler has nearly the league-wide value to help much here. it would take that first rounder plus a Filppula or a Tatar. I would probably trade Filps but only for someone of Bogosian’s age and pedigree but I don’t know about Tatar. We’ll be needing some star forwards around the time he is peaking.

I mean, would anybody here be down with including Smith in a trade for Bogosian? I could see them wanting a solid defensive replacement in return. We could maybe trade Smith and Hudler or Smith and a first, but I think it’s going to take a hefty bid to win an auction for a player like him (or Doughty or Webber). I actually think the odds are we don’t land a number one guy like that this year precisely because the price will be too high.

I want Bieksa personally. He’s so won me over both in this playoff and the amazing article posted yesterday about him getting signed by Brian Burke because he beat the crap out of Fedor Federov at a restaurant. I wonder how big of a raise teams are going to be throwing at him though? I think hometown boy James Wisniewski is starting to look like the best player we can get that’s also a realistic acquisition. I feel like whenever you’re discussing Red Wings player moves you have to always remember that Ken Holland does not overpay players money and does not overpay other teams in trades.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 05/27/11 at 03:18 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

First of all, maybe “deanwerner” should prove his credentials before jumping all over George. Or maybe he should just take a remedial reading class so he understands the context in which George posted someone else’s opinion.

Posted by OlderThanChelios on 05/27/11 at 12:12 AM ET

Thank you for this.  You saved me (and everyone here) from the rant I was about to write.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 05/27/11 at 08:37 AM ET

w2j2's avatar

“At points of the season in the American League there was no one better on the ice,” Chelios said. “Him and Derek Meech were a step above everybody.

Now that Rafi retired, maybe Meech stays?

Posted by w2j2 on 05/27/11 at 08:39 AM ET

SnLO's avatar

Now that Rafi retired, maybe Meech stays?
Posted by w2j2 on 05/27/11 at 07:39 AM ET

Meech has already stated that he doesn’t plan to resign with the team. He wants to explore other options, including playing in Europe.

Posted by SnLO from beyond the M-1 on 05/27/11 at 10:21 AM ET

Avatar

He’s so won me over both in this playoff and the amazing article posted yesterday about him getting signed by Brian Burke because he beat the crap out of Fedor Federov at a restaurant. I wonder how big of a raise teams are going to be throwing at him though?

I’m not sure how much I wasnt a) a guy that Brian Burke really likes or b) a guy who gets into fights with his teammates.  Not arguments, fistfights,

He wants to explore other options, including playing in Europe.

I hope he gets a chance in the NHL or, failing that, can do some sort of Hudler deal in Europe.

Posted by Garth on 05/27/11 at 11:37 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

i thought Kindl was much better than Salei down the home stretch once their “competition” was made public. I think Salei played in the playoffs for his PK ability. Shutdown guys come in handy that time of year and Kindl definitely isn’t that.

Their “competition” consisted of four games.  Kindl was given the marshmallow matchups while Salei was given the playoff teams.

Kindl
March 30 vs. STL (10-3L) 18:42 TOI 0 p 0 PIM 0 SOG (-2 rating)
March 26 vs. TOR (4-2W) 15:09 TOI 0 P 2 PIM 1 SOG (-1 rating)

Salei
March 28 vs. CHI (3-2 OTL) 13:49 TOI 0 p 0 PIM 0 SOG (-1 rating)
March 23 vs. VAN (2-1L) 15:00 TOI 0 P 0 PIM 1SOG (even rating)

By pure numbers, Salei outperformed Kindl in their “competition”, even against tougher opponents.

However, I will caveat that with the idea that the entire team played better in those two losses to playoff teams than they overall did in the games against Toronto and St. Louis.  I will also say that I felt Kindl was playing with more confidence late in the season and was doing a much better job of making decisions.

I just don’t think that Kindl necessarily outplayed Salei when Babcock pulled his Jedi Mind Trick trying to get Rusty mentally prepared for the playoffs (since I don’t believe he was actually ever intent on giving Kindl much of a shot at earning that last D-Man spot unless Kindl turned into playoff Jonathan Ericson from 2008-09)

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/27/11 at 12:01 PM ET

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.

Smileys

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Feed

Most Recent Blog Posts

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.